Archive for May, 2007


A Better Picture

May 30, 2007

I copied this text from my blogspot page dated June 5th, 2006. I found this picture when I was cleaning up my 2007 Situk River photos. I didn’t even know what it was until I zoomed in tight. Every steelhead I’ve ever caught did this. Note the S shape of the fish from tail to nose and the size of the fish’s head. For scale, the fish was 34 inches long. Click on photo for graphic detail.

Any other steelhead anglers ever notice the same?

“Never did a caudal appendage beat the sea with such violence.”
-Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

A tired steelhead will bend its body into an S. Then the current takes up the fight. The fisherman pulls, but the fish stays curved while the force of the water moves against its opponent. The powerful tail is set against the massive shoulders. All the fisherman can do is hold on tight and wait for the fish to relax. The fish knows that the river will not readily relinquish her most beautiful possessions. The fish knows that a man can not stop the river. But sometimes the fish does relax. It’s humbling and almost embarrassing that the battle ends only when the fish decides to let the river stop fighting.

Learning from his quarry: the contagious riverine form passes between the species.


Small Stream Success

May 24, 2007


Offer the old lady who lives at the stream’s access point a ride home from work one day. Tell her how much you’d like to fish that section of the stream. Accept her offer to let you use her yard to launch your raft any time you like. Launch your raft. Express surprise and excitement at the high number of salmon smolt migrating down stream. Marvel at how skinny the stream gets and how the overhanging brush makes it nearly impossible to row. Hop out of your raft when the river gets too narrow to pass. Almost break your fishing pole on a tree. Thank the Good Lord that nobody is around to witness your struggle (you really look like you don’t know what you’re doing). Do you drag the boat back to the old lady’s house, or do you try to figure out a way over the unmovable old board that must have hung up in the trees during last year’s flood? Observe flashing and darting of silvery forms under tannin stained water. Forget the boat. Tie on a smolt pattern. Wiggle the fly like your palsied old eighth grade keyboarding instructor who just figured out what you typed with her typewriter. Hook a small dolly varden. Lose it in the brush. Hook another. Lose it. Grumble lightly but don’t lose your cool. There are lots of fish in there. Was that a big one? Hook and land your next fish: a small dolly*. The trick is keeping the fish in the middle of the current. Land a few more. This many small fish in one spot can mean only one thing: this is not the best spot to grab outmigrating smolt. It’s close, but it’s not here. The small fish always take the second best spot to hunt. The big dollies are nearby. Magically move your boat through the smallest part of the stream (also the deepest and the fastest). Observe that the fish are larger downstream of the old board. Hook a significantly larger fish. About fourteen inches. Try to ignore the river otter who looks as surprised as you are. Land the dolly, release him, and keep fishing. Exclaim out loud, “O wow,” as a massive dolly smacks your unraveling fly. Hook him and then worry about the choked stream. Too much underwater brush for a fish this size. 20 inches? No. This guy is two feet long. The creek is only four feet wide and two feet deep right here. In a couple of months, the creek will be teeming with salmon, a few of which will top thirty pounds. Right now, this ocean run char runs the river. He gets a half wrap around a black, rotten stick. He’s still on the line, but you have a choice. Grab the fish, or grab the stick. You grab the stick. Wrong choice. The line breaks with the stick, and the tired fish slides under the cut bank.

That’s basically how it’s done.

Now, break down your rod, and enjoy the float downriver to where the creek meets the sea.

*Now would be a good time for your camera battery to expire.


Steelhead Variations, Part Last

May 18, 2007

“Let’s drink to fishing,” Bill said.
“All right,” Nick said. “Gentlemen, I give you fishing.”
“All fishing,” Bill said. “Everywhere.”
“Fishing,” Nick said. “That’s what we drink to.”
-Ernest Hemingway, The Three Day Blow

We came a long way for this fish.

It’s not that she tailed out in one of the prettiest sections of one of the prettiest rivers we’ve fished. It’s not that we could see our faces in her skin. It’s not that she danced across the water on her tail. It’s not even that she was three feet long.

It’s because she was BV’s first steelhead.

You should have seen his face. Actually, I think the grin’s still there.

I caught a lot of fish two weekends ago, but I’m proudest of this one.

She’s what we call a Trip Fish. She’s the reason we made the trip, then she in turn made the trip.

Nick Adams would drink to that.


Steelhead Variations, Part IV

May 17, 2007

“The world he rests in, world he knows,
Perpetual curving…”
Rupert Brooke, The Fish

He was a dark form under water. He was the heart pounding in my ears. He was bent graphite. He was water and sky. He was upriver and down. He was perpetual curving. He was exhaustion and admiration.

Then he was gone.


Steelhead Variations Part III

May 16, 2007

“…with stubborn patience as with triple steel…”
-John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book I

They focus on the red cheek. For the hens, it’s an amulet. For the bucks, it’s a target.

For me, it’s both.


Steelhead Variations Part II

May 15, 2007

“…I remember feeling that the river had sensed our need…”
-David James Duncan, The Brothers K

It is not easy to drift a fly into the shadow beneath the tree. But the sun above and the fish below make us fall upon the shadow like lemmings to the edge. We stand in the icy water and tangle and cast and curse and cast until we can no longer feel our feet. But the chance for a fish is an independent source of heat. Numb feet can only mean that the magical thousandth cast is nearing.

The Situk is a cold but generous provider.


Steelhead Variations

May 14, 2007

“…The steelhead
is a Burmese spy, a hired gun
from Crete.”
-Richard Hugo, Plunking the Skagit

All men strive to possess that thing they find most beautiful. To touch it. To sweat and bleed for it. To look at it and say, “Mine.”

For some it is a lawn. For others it’s a Porsche.

Too bad for them.


The Face of Love

May 13, 2007

“It was when I was happiest that I longed most…The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing…to find the place where all the beauty came from.”
-C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

I’ve seen the face before.

You were a mother months
before our baby was born.
I watched and loved your face of love
For a child you could only feel.

Two years on,
and she can make you make the face
with a kiss, a crayon, a song.

Two years on,
And your face of love beams just as bright
For a child you can only feel.


Still Impressed

May 12, 2007

Ah, from a little child,
Thou knowest, Soul, how to me all sounds became music;
My mother’s voice, in lullaby or hymn…
-Walt Whitman, Proud Music of The Storm

We knelt together before I was old enough for school and planted marigolds and baby’s tears. I remember thinking, “How could she know so much?” I wonder if Sophia wonders the same thing.

So many years later, I’m still wondering, still loving, still impressed. And I’m guessing there’s more to come.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom.


At River’s Edge

May 8, 2007

“Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever.”
-Herman Melville, Moby Dick

It was a long weekend on the water. The river slipped by quietly.

For every hour we fished, we spent an hour watching the Situk awaken its world. We discussed it all at river’s edge on mossy logs and heavy snow.

The river made us cold. The fish made us crazy. The sun made me a liar.

We made a legend.

Fish shots pending.