Steelhead Report 12/5/14: Neither here nor there

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.

It wasn’t cold by Pulaski standards, but it was cold enough to make crystal lily pads. IMG_2619

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.

Lousy picture. Decent brown. Incredible luck. IMG_2642

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.

Christmas tree, Pulaski style. IMG_2628

4 comments on “Steelhead Report 12/5/14: Neither here nor there

  1. ray hamilton says:

    Steve, I hate to say this to you but it made me feel a little more normal to realize that I am not the only person who has a day like you related and you are a great fisherman. Sometimes being out there is the reward. Keep telling us your stories.

    • Steve Culton says:

      Ray, I think you’re being generous (although I thank you for the sentiment). There are no steelhead experts. We all put our waders on one leg at a time. Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, and I’m delighted the story resonated with you.

  2. Carl says:

    Steve, Joel and I were able to sneak up the Saturday after Thanksgiving we fished hard and covered a lot of water from sun up to sundown, with only 2 brief hookups and one small Brown that Joel lost at the net. Fished 4 hours Sunday morning before heading home and neither one of us had a hookup. Did we have fun? You bet we did ! Just being there was great. 🙂
    Carl

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