There are years that I hook and land my first fish, there are years that I don't. There are years I lose three or four before I land one.
Not this year..........
I started off with a bang hooking two fish in the very first pool I fished this year, both hooked in a total of about twenty casts. Lost them both, one to an epic tail walking and pool leaving heart attack series of events that left me shaken and shattered. Didn't bother me in the least. The early fish can beat you up and that's fine by me.
Then hook up number three, four and five came and were gone as fast, I was still trying to get my hand on one. No biggie I say and I really can't complain, all five fish were pistol hot and bigger than average. I try and convince myself that I did everything right, fought the fish well, didn't screw anything up. But the thoughts creep in, I shoulda done this, I shoulda done that.
Six, seven and eight danced with me awhile and were gone, all hot fish, all doing what a wild North Umpqua fish does best.......... kicking your butt!
Now again I can't complain, I'm raising fish, I'm hooking fish, it's all good. But.......
I'm really wondering about everything now, rethinking hook choices and styles, lines and leaders even though I know that's not the problem. I have not broken one fish off, all have just come unpinned.
I start thinking about rod angles and fighting techniques that are so ingrained in my brain. Basically I start overthinking it all and begin to question everything I have ever heard or read about fighting and landing a fish. I fight fish pretty hard and pretty quick, I don't mess around. Have I lost my touch? Do I even know what to do? Am I going too easy on these fish? Could I fight them harder and quicker? Am I over playing them in hopes of landing one? Should I let them tire more before I try to get them in? And on and on........
These thoughts and more, they linger in the back of my head, taunting me. The voices of the fish say "You're getting old, you are loosing your edge" " It's the last hurrah for you" "You've had your fun on this river for thirty years and now, we the fish are gonna win" " You don't have the mental game to compete at this level anymore" "You can't take the pressure" "Were gonna break you"
And not to be out done, the river currents, ripples and tail outs, chuckle and laugh as they splash off the rocks knowing they are in cahoots with the fish to make my job of landing a fish harder. They say things like " We stand with the fish" " My flow will give the fish an easy escape" " We will help them leave the pool" "Your tackle will not stand up to my amazing current speed" "These fish cannot be contained when they work with us"
The rocks, brush and trees all join in and say " We will do what we can to hinder your efforts" " If we can tangle your line, break you off, help the fish in any way we will do it!''
As I sit on a riverside rock waiting for a tail out to shade, these thoughts are racing through my brain. I surprise myself by saying out loud STOP!!!
Man, I think I read about people with voices in their head....... never fish and river voices though. I could be loosing it!
The light fades off the water and I start in at the head of the run, a smooth glassy tail out. I settle into a fine rhythm and begin covering water, fly skittering across the surface. Just as I am about to strip in for another cast number nine smashes the fly with reckless abandon, quickly showing me how fast a Hardy can spin. The fish jumps twice and comes straight at me and I desperately try to get tight while stripping in line like a madman. Two seconds later, the fish is at the bottom of the tail out cartwheeling around like a circus clown. Line screams off the reel again and the next thing I know the fish is 30 yards above me going upstream, pulling my whole fly line and more with him as he tries to free himself of the hook.
I still have my rod high from the initial mad stripping as this has all happened in about 10 seconds. The voice of the trees that I had heard earlier comes into play as the tip of my rod is somehow wrapped in an alder above my head. The line is jammed on a small twig and I valiantly try to free it without breaking the rod. The fish had slacked the line so badly on the upstream run that he wasn't even pulling on the rod yet, still going upstream dragging a fly line with a belly that had not caught up yet.
By the time I got my rod loose the line was just starting to come tight as the fish continued his freight train run upstream. I think to myself, " I still have a chance at this one." Almost as those thoughts came to mind the fish was off and I was left reeling in the line of shame. The fish-less fly dangles in the current far below me now. What had been so alive and enticing to a steelhead just moments before was now just a lame bit of deer hair spun on a hook.
Stupid fly, stupid fish! Why do I do this anyway?!!! Why do they torment me so?!!!!!
Frustrated to a point I rarely get to, I take stock of everything and realize I can't beat myself up anymore.
It will happen when it happens. "Stick to your guns kid" I say to myself quietly as the summer sun drops below the line of fir and cedar down river.
The sound of the Bougle is deafening in the silence of the aftermath of number 9 as I slowly wind in my fly line.I look at the bright side, which is awfully bright. In a fairly limited time fishing this season I've hooked nine wild steelhead and risen countless others. I'm having great fishing just bad luck landing them, and its mostly the fishes fault I think, way too hot to handle! Good problems to have!
The morning dawned crisp for August and I had a little time to play around on my own. After hitting a few of the usual runs with no luck, I ventured to a seldom fished run. I haven't really seen any fish in the area but I like the water and enjoy fishing it. I chose a small wet fly, natural and orange in color, probably one of the many flies that find their way into my box from friends, clients etc. Not sure if it even has a name......
I was feeling pretty good, and mostly over the bad luck on the landing deal and back to fishing with confidence. The law of averages was on my side now, I have to land one soon. Don't I?
I was comfortably fishing 70 ft line and due to current speed, watching the fly rise to the surface and skate slightly during the last thirty feet of the swing into the bank. It was mid morning and the river was quiet.
An almost imperceptible sip on the surface was all that I saw before the line got tight. A steelhead had eaten the fly on one of those occasions when the fly was just starting to skate. I knew what it was and I knew this one was coming to daddy! The fish used all the tricks in the book trying to get away, going around rocks, and a stick, and getting into the faster water. I wasn't playing with him. I put the wood to him and had him by the tail in less than 5 minutes.
Number Ten was right at 10 lbs in my estimation. Just a stunner of a fish, solid and bright.
Ten! Oh how I love you number TEN!
Then it was quiet and the river voices stopped, for now........
Ten is seen as a number of completion and perfection in the Bible.
I have a long way to go to perfection or completion in fishing or in my christian life. I walk by faith and not by sight in both. It's not easy in either one but it's good!
Phil 3:12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.