Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Carly's First Steelhead

My phone rang and at the other end was Carly my good friend whom I worked with for several years. “Do you know where I can buy a fishing license” she asked. I didn’t even know you fished, I exclaimed. “I’m headed to the Sol Duc to go steelheading”. Wow, now I’m jealous. The Sol Duc has been enjoying a very healthy winter steelhead run this year. I knew she would be heading into some storied waters which were in their prime. She and Rocky were booked for a guided trip with Larry of Westside Guide Service. Rocky is an experienced steelheader and Larry had guided him on many successful trips over the years. So I knew Carly had an excellent shot at catching her first “Metal Head”. Now poor Carly has endured many hours of my endless fishing stories and even pretended to be interested. Bless her. So I was happy to see she was getting a chance to create some fish tales of her own.
                In the early morning hours of February 19th the chill and damp of this coastal river greeted Carly like a cold cup of coffee. No one is ever quite prepared for the rigors of winter steelheading , temperatures  just above freezing and wind that cuts through the best of raingear. The smells of damp moss covered fir trees and the sounds of hungry bald eagles let you know you’re on the river now. As they piled into the drift boat, I’m sure Carly must have wondered to herself why people get so excited about this. I could still be warm in my bed, sound asleep. Carly had spent many years growing up in Alaska so I’m sure she was used to the cold. However this environment can have a challenge all its own.  Larry prepared the rods and probably gave the “how to behave in a drift boat speech” that most first timers get. So off into the morning fog and swirling current they went.
                I walked through the snow to my mailbox and gazed to the west at the snow covered Olympic Mountains. I knew Carly and Rocky were fishing the Sol Duc that flows off those peaks to the ocean. The fishing must be great. All the conditions are right, clear water, recent rains and reports of many fish in the river. They must be side drifting salmon eggs down some of those great stretches of the lower river. Indeed they were. Rocky was catching the first of his two fish, a handsome buck. He is skilled in the subtle difference between bouncing over the rocks and the bite of a hungry steely. Carly was just trying to maintain some feelings in her fingers and her legs. One would guess she had several bites but couldn’t quite feel them. Rocky would later lend her some warmer pants that I’m sure were welcomed with a smile.
                After a great lunch and rest Carly was warmed, revived and ready for a fish she could call her own. Soon, at the end of her rod she would feel the signature tap, tap, and tap. Then that increase in heart rate which follows. With a yank and a tug she set the hook and the fight was on.  Now it was time to get some instructions on how to land the darn thing. “Let it take line, no reel in, keep your rod up, reel-reel-reel”.  Her heart must have been racing and any thoughts of cold most certainly melted away. They netted a beautiful hen and it was off to the beach for a victory photo with Carly, guide and her first steelhead. “Let’s go get another one”, she eagerly said.
Carly my friend and that is why people endure those conditions and most of us long for it. There is the feel of that thump on the end of your rod, that unforgettable sound of line peeling off the reel, that first view of chrome. You’re hooked now!

By: Doug Porter, (sparky1doug) >:"":>

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