Paying Dues

Paying Dues

Matt Klara | Sunday, 27 March 2016

Steelhead fishing is known as a pursuit where there are often long hours between contacts with a fish. Anglers will often happily go days between landing a steelhead. I know some folks that fished two or three seasons or more before they landed their first steelhead on fly. Dedicated steelheaders speak of “paying dues” like it is a n absolute requirement of the pursuit. “Steelhead Karma” is not taken lightly as a concept.

As such, it often comes a surprise when you hear of someone who is new to steelhead fishing finding immediate success and hooking and landing a steelhead on their first or second time out chasing them.  Among my own circle of angling friends, those who seem to meet with that relatively instant success are our wives, girlfriends, and significant others…  People who may or may not be devoted anglers themselves… People that, for the most part, were introduced unceremoniously to steelhead fishing by some sort of fate, rather than by absolute choice.

The struggle is real.  Each year at steelhead camp you will inevitably hear one of the regulars lamenting, half heartedly, after a tough day on the water, and perhaps multiple cocktails, “Why do our wives and girlfriends seem to find instant steelheading success when we had to work so hard and pay so much dues for our first fish?  It almost doesn’t seem fair!”

It appears at face value to be a reasonable comment.  Until you really start thinking about it.  There is, as they say, no free lunch.

The devoted and passionate steelheader pays their dues on the water and on the road in the form of hard hours, cold fingers, early mornings, and many nights sleeping in some cold, wet tent.  But those unfortunate souls who find themselves in committed relationships to steelheaders end up paying dues in different ways.  They pay in weekends (or weeks) spent alone every spring and autumn.  They pay every time an alarm clock goes off at 3AM on a weekend.  They pay in stinky waders hanging to dry in the house, and in driftboats taking up their parking spots in the garage.  They pay when they find bits of pink marabou and blue krystal flash stuck to their nice work clothes.  And they pay when they listen to us go on and on again about some fish, some river, some fly, or some dream that is, admittedly, completely absurd.  And yet, they still smile, love us, and welcome us home again.

Maybe the steelhead gods see all of this and make an exception to their normally stingy ways when one of those anglers who pays their dues off the water steps into the river and makes their first few casts.

Take care and fish on,