A Private Steelhead Room

Again, it’s the kind of water that calls you to it. The river is a deep, mysterious milky green, that seems to glow in the early morning light. This is water where big, silvery fish can move about hidden in the greenish shadows, true ghosts of the river. Everything seems to move here. The river hums along with some urgency. A hurried electricity fills the air. My heart rate won’t slow down. A fish rolls in the deep slot and, again, I spend too much time trying to swing a fly down deep when I should be walking to the broader swing waters below. I finally yield the water to a drift boat coming down. It’s as good of a motivation as any. Later, on my hike out, they float by me and inform me that they had gotten five fish out of that hole. They thank me again for letting them fish though.

The first fish comes as if it were some logical extension of the morning – just a continuation of the electricity that hangs in the air. The channel splits with half the river tracing slots along each bank – take your pick. The fish sits along a bedrock knob that juts out of the channel. The green water just seems to intensify and a sustained heart rate seems to hasten things along, not helping a festering impatience. Every cast is deliberate, each heart beat felt, with the morning becoming one long, wicked moment teetering between craving and satisfaction.

Further down river, I break a fish off on a bad knot – actually an old knot that I should have retied before even rigging up. Lesson learned for the 63rd time. A couple taps doing the long swing through the tail out then down to the long run where the valley walls pinch the river close. Here the river briefly turns to the northeast with the sun barely peeking over the hills. Water sounds echo off the valley walls making for a full and sustained hiss and a dripping seep on the far bank keeps the beat. This is like having a private steelhead room. Sheltered, dimly lit, and 150 yards of textbook swing water set in a rapturous chorus of moving water that never stops. My heart rate settles down. A rhythm is established. Home on a mid-winter river.

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