Wednesday 14th January, 2009
If winter steelheading can be considered an addiction, then it's most like gambling.
An early success, even if it was dumb luck, can get you hooked and keep you coming back for more. Hoping, no, knowing that this time your number will hit again despite repeated failures since your last win and clearly stated and defined odds that aren't in your favor.
Not even a little bit.
A text message at 2am followed by a phone call four hours later is all it takes and I pack my gear bag and go off to meet my buddies. No time for breakfast at home. You'll grab some pizza sticks at a gas station on the way through the next town.
On the heels of a massive winter storm that brought near record floods to the region along with widespread landslides, the rivers are sure to be out of shape. Deeply off color at best. But Andy's caught them in the mud before. He's caught them in water so muddy that, when hooked, they can't see well enough to make that trademark downstream reel screaming run. So there is always a chance.
The first river is blown. Almost out of its banks and the color of chocolate milk.
The second river is the same.
Anticipation builds as we drive up a dirt road to check a trib that usually clears faster, but our dreams are dashed again when we round the bend and see the color of the water. At least the level is fishable. And besides, Andy's caught them in the mud before. So we rig up, the only ones on the water. A couple hours of that and we decide to move on.
River number four is also blown, so we decide to switch states. Across the bridge, we find food, and eventually a fishing license.
And another high and muddy creek.
Our last chance is a very small stream and it's in shape, but running faster than we like. Still, it's fishable. We give it a shot and someone says they had a bump, so we check another spot on the same creek. Noone hooks up, and we drive home in the rain.
Like the song says, "you've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run."
We probably should have folded sometime around 6:30 am while we were still back in Portland.
But it's been a long winter so far with not many opportunities to fish. Inconsistent weather, even for the Pacific Northwest. Bad river conditions. But you never know when your luck will turn, and we were willing to go all in just to get out of the house this weekend.
The song also says, "every hand's a winner, and every hand's a loser."
Today’s hand certainly was. No steelhead (again), but we got outside, saw some country, and a last second wager put us into a pile of steaming Chinese dumplings for less than the cost of half a dozen of those funny looking steelhead flies.
Until next time, keep chasing the dream,
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