The pre-Thanksgiving Salmon River steelhead float trip is traditionally for myself and my middle son, Cam. But Cam was away at school. Gordo had school and hockey. Yup. Solo road trip! Coming off my Everglades experience, I was mentally prepared (but still dreading) the inclement weather I was sure to encounter. So, armed with my trusty Ken Abrames Salmo Sax #3, neoprene waders, and a pile of hand warmers, I headed northwest.
It has nothing to do with the current public health crisis. It has nothing to do with planning (I go when I’m able to). It’s simply this: the days I go will be the wrong days. Period. Bad luck? We’re talking gargantuan, steaming piles of elephant dung luck. At least that’s the way it’s been the last few trips.
For ten minutes in early November, I was warm. (Yes, it was as cold as it looks.)
To wit: last November. Good conditions. People are catching. I arrive the moment a major cold front comes through and witness the bite stop in its tracks. The next day, blank. And miserably cold. The next day, one steelhead. Even colder. Big picture: the cold front turns into a long-lasting pattern. It not only kills the bite but the entire migration. So when I go later in the month, I feel like king of the world when I manage one steelhead over two days.
Which brings us to my trip last week with Gordo.
What a shock! We started the trip as a high pressure cold front settled in. Ice in the guides until 1pm. We floated from Altmar to Pineville and saw five fish landed all day. (We had three of them.) I suppose that’s reason to smile. My steelhead came on an old Salmon River favorite, the Copperhead Stone.
Day two: crik stompin’. The fish were there. They just didn’t want to eat. Not even egg sacks. Gordo and Jim each hooked and quickly dropped a few — that’s how subtle and non-committal the takes were. I managed one lonely domestic rainbow. Did I mention that it was cold and wet and miserable? (Sigh…) Big moment: this was Gordo’s first time in waders walking a stream. He did a tremendous job.
Today we are thankful for right-of-ways.
We finished up at a very mysterious deep hole with only room for one. So Gordo bounced his implements of destruction along the bottom of the maelstrom. Even though he’s using a spinning rod, the technique is very tight-line nymphing. Again, there were a few takes, but sadly no firm commitments.
So, two cold days of terrible action. Or maybe this: I got to go steelheading with my son. I wasn’t working. I had my first cigars since Christmas. I landed a steelhead. We were outside and free and fishing.
Pretty lucky, Steve.
Amidst some usual suspects (Clyde Murray’s Spider, left, and simple flashback stones, right/rear) a few midge/buzzer experiments. We’ll see how the steelhead respond.
Every once is a while, the steelhead gods remind you that they really aren’t out to get you. Planets align, good karma rules, and all is right with the chrome world. This year’s birthday steelhead trip was such moment. Sure, one day of skunk, but bookended by a great day on the creeks and an even better one — my birthday — on the Salmon. Not a bad thing to wish for when you’re blowing out the candles.
Skunk’s off early on day one. Brilliant even in the pale light of a cloudy dawn.
The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades. Whoops! Then it rained, and the next day was a cold, wet blank. Not worry. Good times coming.
Every dog has his day. I’d rather be lucky than good. Whatever the bromide, it’s some kind of wonderful when you’re the guy in the pool who’s making everyone else wonder what he did to deserve hooking steelhead after steelhead. One of my best days ever on the Salmon, and thanks again to everyone who lent a landing net hand and so kindly shared water.
…the ones you have the most confidence in.
Here’s a batch of such steelhead flies, along with a few new ones to place into the rotation. I love the ritual of fly box replenishment. So much potential glory stuck into wine corks.
All that’s needed now are some waiting and willing mouths.