This year, we again managed to find some relative solitude and enjoy some time with these matchless fish. We also got to give two friends their first taste of steel!
Unfortunately for the fish, in the middle of this huge rapid is a small waterfall where the river bottlenecks along with the fish. Lining both sides of the hole below the fall were dozens of anglers. I perched myself on a rock above the river and observed for quite a while. Every once in a while a fish would rocket out of the white water in an attempt to pass the falls, most of the time unsuccessfully. The fact that any fish were even making it to the base of the falls was almost mind blowing considering how many lures they had to pass to get there. Far more frequently than I would see a fish jump, I would see one of the fisherman drag a fish to shore and either toss it behind them or shake it free back into the water. Worse, in the short time I sat observing I saw several people yanking hooks out of the bellies of fish that they had foul hooked. Still worse, there were big spotlights set up so that they could continue ripping fish out of the hole through the night. I had never seen something that seemed less sporting in all my days of fishing.
After I had seen all that I could take, I continued to move upstream and found.....nothing... no one.... The pressure was so focused on that one hole, that no one had bothered to venture above it! Above the hole the fish were definitely more spread out, and harder to find, but persistence paid off and each of us was eventually rewarded with a fish.
I was fortunate enough to catch a solid, wild fish on each of the first two days, the first day a big colorful buck, and the second day a thick hen. My father in law had similar luck, and caught his first two steelhead in two days. Our friend Colter of Colter Compound Rods, on the other hand was feeling the pressure. It was his first time steelheading as well, and by the end of the second day, though he had been teased by a few fish, he had yet to connect. Finally as I sat watching from the other side of the river I saw him quickly set and watched the line go tight. It didn't take long for the fish to work its way into the strong current toward the middle of the river and head downstream for some rapids. I yelled for Josh to help net, and watched one of the best fish chases/battles I've ever seen as Colter scrambled over boulders downstream, chasing the fish through the rapids. Somehow, he successfully navigated the fish to the next run down where he landed his first steelhead.
Up until the final morning, Josh had only brought to hand one smaller, wild buck, but had had some devastatingly close encounters, losing solid fish right at the net. The last night it drizzled a light rain all through the night. When we got up in the morning the river had risen significantly, and turned from translucent green to chocolate. We fished for a while along several different stretches, but our mental game was affected by the conditions. At our last stop, minutes before we knew we had to leave, Josh, ever determined was thoroughly fishing some pockets he knew had to be holding fish, especially with the higher water. I was watching directly above him and saw him lift his rod. I realized it was a fish before he did, and by the time he had it on the reel to bring in, I had jumped down with the net. After a brief but nerve racking fight, a solid hen was in the net. A great note to end the trip on. We had found solitude on a beautiful river, and all managed to catch some fish. Colter and Van both got to feel addictive, powerful tug of their first steelhead, which inevitably leaves you wanting more. Which is why we'll probably be back, trying to find fish while avoiding people.