Wednesday 19th November, 2008
This time itís the East Side. The dry side. Where the interior desert canyons have been the home to summer steelhead for, well, forever.
I know this particular river well. We have a long history. I can picture it when I close my eyes. Many of the lies that hold summer steelhead are like old friends now. Now, in the dark, I casually and deftly avoid the boulders that used to catch me off guard and send me in for a soaking.
Two hours before dawn, and the hike in is lit by moonlight. A nice change of pace from the headlamp.
Now, rod rigged for greased lining, and sitting on a familiar rock, I watch the building dawn paint first the sky, then the canyon walls, with every shade of pink, orange, gold, purple, and blue. Itís cold, but the colors are anything but. Iíve seen this show repeat itself maybe a hundred times now, and it never gets old.
Iím tired, and my legs are sore, so it must be the fourth straight day out here. I canít remember the last fish, either because itís 5am or because itís been 3 days since the last one. Iím not sure which.
Finally, the songbirds star moving around in the bushes behind me. I get up and wade into position, my eyes fixed on a proven steelhead lie just above a row of submerged basalt boulders that disrupt the smooth surface of the run.
Just like I did yesterday morning, and the morning before that.
But today is different.
Ten casts into the day, I see a fish move at the surface right about where I think my fly should be, and a second or two later I feel the grab as the fish takes my swung offering solidly on the second try. The loop goes out slowly, smoothly. I pinch it off, wait for the tension to build, and set. Fish on. Itís all classic stuff from there on out. A couple of sweet runs, a moment of slack, then fear, then tension regained. Eventually a perfect wild steelhead comes to hand. The small fly, pinned right in the corner of his jaw, is easy to remove and heís on his way unharmed.
Fifteen minutes later it happens again, nearly the same way.
And again, seven more times before the sunset paints the colors on the canyon and sky again. Every single fish takes solidly, perfectly, many with a visible rush just under the surface. And I land them all - every one a wild fish.
The last of the day takes like a bolt of lightning well out in the run, at the very top of the swing. The loop is gone in a blink and there is no time to react and make a mistake. She takes a blistering run well to the backing then is in the air three times. Line is regained, and then two more long backing shots, the last on a straight upstream run, just to prove that sheís the ONE, on a day filled with special fish.
I finally hold the flawless, bright nine pound, beauty and the barbless fly falls away on its own. It only takes a moment to revive her. She bursts out of my shaking hands as the last light fades, and Iím thinking, ďThis has to be a dream.Ē
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