As we lined up to fill our plates at the only chinese smorgasbord in town, it marked the end of a long day spent working the cold waters for winter run steelhead. I was just grabbing a plate when I heard a voice say: "does he know that he has got a fly stuck to his back?" I turned to catch the gaze of the orator. It was our friend Brendan, a guide from Campbell River who was presently trying to wrestle a sweet an sour chicken ball into his yap with a pair of chopsticks. I made my way into the mens room to investigate the situation and sure enough there was the large pink fly that I thought I had lost earlier that day embedded deep into the wool fabric of my Stanfield sweater. "Huh, I said to myself, I was wondering where that went." I could hear the other two party members Big E and Paul howling back at the table.
It was my first time with the Spey rod and needless to say I spent more time in the trees than a monkey would in a day. I successfully hooked my self in the shoulder, back and ass. Halfway through the day I had a really good grasp on how to hook myself but figuring out how to hook a fish was another story. To a bystander, I am sure I must have looked more like a drunken trick roper than a fisherman but that didn't matter to me because I was fishing. Joined by friends, participating in an activity that allows me to express my connection with the incredible surrounding environment.
The trees leaning over the river bank, marking the edge of the riparian zone, appeared as though they had been dusted gently with frosting and the thin layer of snow covering the ground gave everything that clean crisp winter look. It was cold, the kind of cold that renders your fingers useless. Fortunately, changing tackle wasn't something that we would be doing often; a large pink fly is all you need when trying to hook a winter steelhead. That and the means to get it in front of the fish. A means that I didn't quite have just yet. However, it wasnt too long before Brendan made it apparent that his technique was more than adequate enough to entice a strike out of one of these winsome fish.
I was fishing upstream, struggling with my "perry poke" when I heard my long time fishing partner Big E shout: "Brendan's got one." Not wanting to miss out on any of the action, I tossed my rod into the toolies and sprinted downstream to where Brendan was standing, rod tip up, at the end of the tail-out with a nice looking steelie thrashing in front of him.
My heart rate picked up as this fish got ready for landing. Brendan took a step back into the slower moving shallow water and in came this spectacular 14 pound buck with a flash of red down his side, indicating that he has probably been in the system for a while. Brendan tailed it, popped the hook out, Paul snapped a photo, and away the fish went back into the cold waters from which he came, kind of like a magic trick.
High fives were exchanged and then it was back to business. The remainder of the 3 day trip saw one more chrome Steelie landed by Big E at the same pool 2 days later.
I went 3 long days without a bite although it wasn't for a lack of effort. At the end of the last day, I finally started to figure out my "d-loops" and pick up on some of the concepts behind spey casting. I have been single hand fly fishing for 18 years now and can "double haul" and "roll cast" my fly through most waters. Despite all my efforts with the single hand, casting a Spey rod for the first time was quite the humbling experience.
You may think that the painful hours spent in a tangled mess freezing my beans off, only to catch a large skunk in the end, would be enough of an experience to leave a bitter taste in my mouth. Never picking up a spey rod again may seem like the sensible thing to do, but it has been quite the opposite. After that fishing trip I've discovered a new found love for the sport and a new world though which I can learn and explore. I am excited at the prospect of figuring out how to spey cast well. I have since purchased the instructional video "Skagit Masters" to help me along the way. To be honest I don't care how many days I spend fishing without a "strike" as long as I am outside with good friends and the prospect of catching a fish is in the air.
After all, it is the "fishing" part of fishing that keeps anglers coming back for more. Although I can't speak for everyone, the fish that I remember landing the most are the ones that I have worked the hardest for. Its like everything in life, the harder you work for it the more you appreciate it when it comes. It is in this light that I recommend to everyone the challenges that come with stepping out of your comfort zone, away from what is familiar and into the realm of trying new things for the first time like spey casting. I hope it opens up a new world from which you can learn and explore like it has done for me.
until next time keep on adventuring,