Tuesday, December 2, 2014

In The Cages

Some time ago, Dr. Steelegood and I, after an encounter-less day on the Salmon River in upstate New York, came up with an analogy for swinging flies for steelhead.  It goes, swinging flies for steelhead is like being in a batting cage trying to get a hit, but you're blindfolded and also the pitching machine doesn't actually throw balls every pitch.

That's the glass-half-empty take on the whole endeavor, and exceptions certainly exist, but there are some valid comparisons in there:  both the batter and steelheader take 'swings' in attempts to achieve their ultimate goals; a fundamentally sound cut with the bat and the picture-perfect cast may be, and often are, unrewarded; the batter and the angler are all alone in their areas of work - the batter's box and the river. 

Of course we can debate what the "ultimate goal" is.  I'm pretty sure any big leagues hitter loves seeing the ball fly over the fence, but I bet they also love the sound of the crowd as they near the box, the feel of the dirt under their spikes and the intensity of staring into a pitcher's eyes.  Thankfully my own contract doesn't depend on the number of steelhead I tail each season. 

With so much going on in the river and in my mind, I sometimes over-analyze the situation when I'm "in the cages."  For sure, confidence catches fish, so a restless mind must be quieted.  I have asked myself, Just what exactly are we doing out here?  Sometimes answers to the simple questions can help quiet the bigger ones. 

A couple months ago, I took a steelheading trip.  Before I made my first cast, our guide gave us his expectations for our fishing.  He had answered my question before I could put it into words.  It's nice to know what you're doing out there.

Self-explanatory, perhaps.  Good to know, surely.  Easier said than done, oftentimes.
It'd be hard to envision a better trip.  The river was prime, the scenery stunning, the camp-life superb, company top-notch, the fishing awesome and the catching even better.  Between four of us, over four days, we touched 30. 

Getcha fish on, fisha.

Sun goin' down.  This spot is known as Chukar Flats.  It was the last hole for us that day and the bait would be a Waller Waker.  Cast after cast I watched that helpless, black bug skate and skip around that run, into and out of currents, speeding up and slowing down.  I saw her take it the first time, but it didn't stick.  Two casts later I only heard it, then she was off running. 
I get by with a little help from my friends.

I get high with a little help from my friends.


I can't recall the name of this spot, but I hooked two here.  My guide was just finishing the sentence, "Right about there is where it happens," when I got yanked.  I lost that fish, after which he said he had never had a second encounter in the hole.  Five casts later I got grabbed again.  I wonder if he was lying?

Willa, boat dog.


Feast in there.

Fish dat.
At the end of the whole thing, we broke the gear down and prepared for our run of The Narrows.  Aptly titled.  Only on a steelhead river will you find such a spot.  1000 CFS crammed into an 8' wide chute.

Swing, batter, batter, swing...


Keith said...

I catch fish on skated dries too, panfish.

Hell of a trip and some great scenery! Let me know next time you go. I'd fly west for that any day. A lot cheaper then the BC trip for those kinds of numbers swinging!

Jasper Walsh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jasper Walsh said...

Another beautiful place to wash off your waders JLR, thank you for sharing it with us. Keith, I'm in.

Lucas "Horm" Young said...

Well played, Brother Jesse. Very well played...

Clark Winchell said...

You've got my attention Jess, all of it...