You get two kinds of steelhead reports.
The first is celebratory. The bite was on, the hookups plentiful, and the giddy recollections make you wish it was you who had written them. Such reports are usually accompanied by multiple grip-and-grins, or artistic renderings of gleaming flanks, spotted tails, and hook-and-Estaz neatly secured in mouth.
The second focuses on the friends you fished with, or the solitude you basked in, but most of all the glory of just being there. Umm, the fishing was slow. What else is there to write about?
No matter which end of the spectrum your trip falls into, the truth always lies somewhere between the two. Yes, there is no other rush in fishing that compares to the knowledge that the bellicose, cartwheeling silver machine you’ve been dancing with is going to be in your hands in a matter of moments. And yes, it is glorious just to be there. (You cannot, after all, catch a steelhead in Connecticut.)
Here’s my somewhere-in-the-middle from Friday.
Morning. I had planned to fish one of the nearby creeks, but the water was falling too fast for my liking. So I explored some of the diversions below Altmar. Friends, I covered water to the point of excessive thoroughness. I moved around. I gave the steelhead a choice. Nothing. Whatever was there, it wasn’t eating what I was throwing. I spent the first three hours picking ice out of my guides and trying to coax my fingertips into a functional setting. At least I had my pick of spots. By 11am, though, I’d had enough.
Afternoon. From the start, I viewed this as a bonus trip. After my wildly successful November, I was playing with house money. So I decided to head downriver, instead of up to where the heavier concentrations of steelhead (and anglers) would likely be. If I had to do it over again, I probably would have chosen both.
I learned that some of the places I can cross the river at 1,000cfs are far more challenging at 1,400cfs — even with a wading staff — and still others are plain impassable. That limited my choices here. Run A was a blank. Run B produced my only steelhead action of the day. I kicked it. Asleep at the switch. By the time I realized the bottom was a steelhead, it was swimming indifferently downstream, never to be seen again. (I am working on an algebraic proof that states: after the 499 good drifts you make, eyes keenly focused on the indicator, reaction potential equal to a cobra’s, looking for an excuse to set the hook, the one take you get will come on the 500th when your senses are taking a nap.)
Run C was dark and deep and surely held a few fish fresh from the lake. Or not. Run D was formed by a perilous conglomeration of deadfall. I waded out between logs, stripping out line, trying to decide where to cast. I was already a little annoyed by the missed opportunity (and lack of others). So when my fly got snagged on one of the submerged logs before I could even make a cast, I angrily tried to snatch it back. Thrummm! Asleep at the switch again, only this time the fish was hooked. Not a steelhead — that was abundantly clear from the non-hysterical headshakes. Good thing, too, because with all the barriers and overhangs, there was zero chance of landing something chrome. But I will take a 20″ brown trout over the skunk any time.
Run E appeared to have potential, but after 45 minutes it remained unrealized. So I went back to the dropped steelhead location well, in hopes of a repeat. Hopes were dashed. At 3:15pm, with over eight hours of hard fishing in the books and lake-effect sleet bouncing off my hood, I began the hike back to the truck.
I tell you, it was really great just being there.