There must be fifty ways …

to lose your steelhead. Today, I only got to try three of them.

Moseyed out of the house around 9am or so to the brisk east wind, and by brisk I mean brutal. Yeah, I know that if it really bothered me I could move but I’ve taken to viewing it as another form of extreme weather and enjoying it for the spectacle it is. I wasn’t too very surprised to find Oxbow closed (likely for downed trees) so I quickly headed for Plan B.

Soon I was suited up and headed for the water. I was pretty slow and methodical about everything I was doing, with the notable exception of one thing which we’ll get to in a moment. I broke out the drift rod, which I’ve historically been pretty lousy with. Most of the time I go for the jig rod and only swing the drifter a few times to give my shoulder a rest. But I figure if you never fish it you’ll never get any good at it. I tied in a small gob of eggs and went to work.

As often happens, I got a little extra line in the cast. Not quite a backlash, but a loop or two. I was busy getting that out when the first bite happened. It took me by surprise and I wasn’t even sure I was bit until the fish started to move a bit. Well, as luck would have it I’d forgotten to tighten up my drag and what could have been a fish to the bank became a small bit of cursing under my breath. So much for my first cast of the day.

A short time later and I’m still working the drift rig. I’d noted a slight nick in the leader but didn’t think it was bad enough to warrant changing. I grabbed the line on each side and gave it a good tug and everything seemed fine. Sure enough, same spot I hook up and about when I was going to put the screws to him the leader parted. More cursing under my breath.

Tied up a fresh rig and hit it with scent and into the river it goes. Same spot, there he is! I put the screws to him and he put ’em right back. I followed him down the bank a bit and finally got him landed down at the end of the run where it tailed out in a bank of sand. Cookie cutter brat with a bit of color. Normally I could point the head of the fish up the bank and push from the tail to work the fish up away from the water.  Not so at this location as there was a sharp lip in the sandy bank.  At first I tried to subdue him with my needle nosed pliers, which didn’t really work out; I kept pressure on him with my rod as I searched around and found an appropriate stick nearby with which to get the job done.

With that, I carried my fish back to my stuff, showed it to the nearby fishermen and handled the administrative part of fishing. I dug into my pack and found a shoelace to tie the fish off in the water and tied the other end around a rock for safe keeping. I then resumed fishing, quite proud to have tagged the first fish of the year.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, the fish that had been cross eyed is now in the downward gaze that indicates consciousness. Not only that, but the gills are working and the tail looks suspiciously like it’s trying to swim. This is a situation that needs to be dealt with post haste. I put down the rod and find another whacking stick and head back to my fish. As I’m pulling on the line to bring the fish up, his tail splashes and off he goes! Well, he’s tied to the rock so oh wait he’s not tied to the rock anymore and whoa what the heck there he goes. Suddenly I spring into action, simultaneously alternately kicking at the fish and trying to step on that shoelace he’s tied to. I finally manage to once again subdue my fish and that’s when I remembered that I’d forgotten to bleed the fish out. D’oh!

Got the fish squared away, a bit more securely this time, and resumed fishing. By then the light was really starting to get on the water and the bite died off. I continued fishing hoping there’d be a stupid one hiding out there somewhere but no such luck.

So here I am back in Gresham. I’d love to be able to grill my catch but I’m not about to do anything out in that wind if I can help it. Pan fried will have to do this time.