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Mark Stangeland - NUFlyGuide
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Slam The Door!

Posted by Mark Monday, October 2, 2017

We had a wonderful gathering of the brothers this last weekend. A group of anglers that I am proud to call friends. No egos, no drama, just passionate fisherman bonded together with the glue of the anadromous fish that we chase.
Its almost maddening how polite everyone is when we get to a piece of water. No one wants to fish first. Everyone to a man thinking of the other person. " You fish first" " No, I'll follow you, go ahead" and on it goes. Reminds me of that chipmunk cartoon " after you my friend" " oh no I insist, you go...."
So Saturday night we had a great dinner and conversation and we were all talking about the topic of setting the hook or not setting the hook, and when its appropriate. Of course the fish on the dangle is the hardest fish to hook and usually requires some sort of action on the anglers part to seal the deal.
There are other times when instict or lack of instinct inspires a reaction from the angler that will hook the fish. Sometimes we react correctly other times we pull the fly out of the fishes mouth and are left questioning everything. Do nothing? Do something?
I was blessed to share some water time with Adrian Cortes for a couple days and I watched the progression of frustration and reactions that he had to fish that had moved to his fly.
First off I will say the guy is just an amazingly fishy dude. He moved more fish the last couple days than I can count. The thing that was happening this last weekend with him was he kept getting the super slow, almost single click at a time reel spinners...... in moving water. What to do? Always a struggle to know how, and when, and how firmly to try and set on these slow takes.
As steelheaders, for the most part we have become trained to let the fish do most of the work on pinning themselves. Sure there are always situations that can require a hook set but in my experience, 90 percent of the time the fish does the hard part and turns with the fly, hits the current and they are stuck.
I was fortanate enough to be close to and watch Adrain on at least a half dozen occasions, with almost every imaginable weird and slow take in the book. I'd hear his Hardy and started to tune into the way the fish were eating his flies. He fishes a very natural fly either a Greasliner or a Thompson River Caddis.
I truly feel, now that I have thought about it, that the fish were eating the fly as if it were a natural bug and not reacting to it out of territory or aggression as they hit some of the less natural type flies we fish. This was accounting for the slow and lazy way the fish were eating the fly. Just rolling over and grabbing it and swimming with it as if they just got a burger at the corner hamburger joint. No quick turn into the current, no frantic escape. They never turned on the fly and thus never felt the hook point and spooked. They were swimming with the fly, pulling a little line out slowy, then letting go of the fly as soon as they felt resistance.
At first Adrian did what all good steelheaders do.......wait for the line to get tight and start spinning the reel then lift on it and its on. I watched the first couple fish eat the fly and pull line off agonizingly slow. The first one was painful to watch as the line was coming off so slow. He keeps his hand down and rod pointed at the fish as he allows line to come straight off the reel with no resistance from the rod guides or bend in the rod. The fish pulls off line slowly, we were both ready for the fish to turn and be stuck and it never happens as the fish lets go of the fly.
Then after a couple of those types of takes, when he encountered another fish he still waited on the fish but tried slowly lifting the rod as the line was paying out. The look on his face after this had happened a few times was a mix of suprise and disapointment. He would look at me and shrug his shoulders and put both hands in the air like " What am I supposed to do with those"?
I could offer no easy soloution except the one we had talked about the night before. Slam the door on the next one, you can't do any worse than you are now. Although I never directly told Adrian what to do I knew the conversation from the night before would come to his mind eventually and it did.
He was fishing a fishy nugget line above me and I was watching. I hear his Hardy reel start the slow single click grind I had heard before, line paying out a couple clicks at a time, the Hardy growling in that slow steady way that happens when you slowly pull line off to string the rod. An RPM rate that is almost measured in clicks on the pawl rather than actual revoloutions of the reel. This time he lifts the rod a bit after a few seconds and the line gets tight briefly then goes slack. Again he looks at me with that tortured look, not knowing really what to do. He has caught many fish and has been going with what has always worked for him. He's been using that experienced steelheaders touch to do what he feels best with each situation. Clearly, with they way things are going something needs to change.
It's getting near the end of the day and we are all tired from a long weekend of fun but tough fishing. Fish were caught every day but man we worked our tails off to scratch them out. Its that time when focus starts to shift to Monday and all the pressures that this world has for us.
We are in our own world for now though, and for a few more hours and there is a always a chance for another encounter.
Adrian regains his composure and continues down the shelf, fishing into the fast water seam and letting it slide along the nuggets below. I kid you not, thirty or 40 feet below where he had his last encounter I hear that Hardy growling the slow mean growl that can only come from that reel. I'm looking right at Adrian, as he leans into the fish, hand down, reel paying out slowly once again.
After I swear, 10 seconds we lock eyes and I see the warrior come out. He lifts the rod sharply and SLAMS THE DOOR HARD on the fish and it is pinned solidly and I get to tail an absolute perfect speciman after a spirited battle. The fish is what we all dream about and is as beautiful as any we had ever seen. We marvel at the perfection that lies in the water before us.
It is not about numbers for any of us anymore. It is about the brotherhood and sharing the water together. It is about learning more about each other and these amazing fish every time we step in the water together.
I am truly blessed to have a band of brothers around me that values the things that I value and has my back through thick and thin. The steelhead brotherhood runs deep. I am renewed and invigorated every time we meet. It is truly good for the soul......
Lee Lashaway, Todd Hirano, Keith Tymchuk, Adrain Cortes, Matt Zilliox, Jeff Carr, Jake Crawford, James and Kait, it was a pleasure spending some time with you all this past weekend. I am a lucky man to have you all in my life. Thank you!!!!!!

Rev 3:20   Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.


  1. Thanks for the wonderful capture of the great time we spent together. Yep, that Adrian is one fishy guy! I've never seen steelhead takes like those before, I guess they don't always make savage attacks at the fly. They will always be a wonderful mystery. Thanks for hosting us, was great hanging with you brother!

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