Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Last Grab

Collin Schadrach pulling into Frontier Farwest signaled the end of one part of my fall steelheading junket and the beginning of another.  My companions who I shared an incredible week of steelheading with had just departed for home the lodge transitioning methodically to quiet chaos in preparation for its new arrivals.  Before moving on to the Mother River rains on our final days returned memories of the two previous years floods, yet this breif freshet was not quite as bad.  We woke from camp that final morning deep in the secluded canyons to a rising river, colored, yet not in full spate.  As the day lingered the rivers steelhead green faded to brown; never a promising change when one hopes to have reasonable success swinging flies.

The last fish I touched left me appropriately with another fleeting opportunity that was more mirage than reality. The grab came with half a belly of line out the end of the rod early into the head of a small piece of water.  It was soft, the steelhead briefly mouthing the fly, letting go before my fingers could pinch the cork.  After such an incredible week, the grab was almost an afterthought and interruption to an incredibly pleasant day.  Yet in that instance the days nonchalance surged into a tense awareness. I paused, gathered myself and presented the fly a second time. The pause and tension this time as the fish  lick the fly as it passed even less perceptible. It's tail broke the chopped surface as it rose to take the greased line fly;a cocky wave of gamesmanship,one that I didn't have the upper hand in. Before the third swing I slowly changed flies the game in full progression   Had I smoked I probably would have rolled one to rest the fish even longer.  Again I cast. Again the steelhead sniffed the offering, yet oh so softly the hook never finding its mark. That was it, game over. I hung my head, breathed a sigh knowing that given the days deteriorating conditions that would probably be it for the day.

For those who swing flies for these illusive travelers such moments are about perspective.  That's the beauty in steelheading; there's plenty of time to ponder the moment, the day, the sense of it all, these incredible fish and the rivers they call home.  For all the fish I brought to hand on this trip I'll remember this encounter with comparable appreciation knowing I could have just as easily gone without, my flies simply an illusion swinging unperturbed in the turbid water. Such has been the case many a days when fishing for these fish. It's what makes you appreciate such moments and the opportunity to wander the worlds rivers where steelhead live.

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