A touch of winter

I realized this afternoon the contrasts that fly fishing for steelhead can present. One moment is the easy sound of water slipping through partially sunken willow stems. The water curls though a mass of green wands just now beginning to show a hint of early spring. Here the water is soft and lulling in its demeanor. Down the way, a cluster of deeper shoots gently waves in the air. The afternoon wind is just now sending greetings upriver and the ripples in the flatwater of the pool below suggest that this quiet time will soon pass as I hunker down into my jacket, pull up my collar and snug up my waders. Contemplation time is over and the work begins. Across the slicks and boils of the run, a few blue wing olives struggle on the surface, harbingers of mid-day’s arrival and perhaps the time when the river comes to life.

The fly comes tight on the swing… dropping into the slicks on the far side to swim across green water speckled with small boulders faintly visible in the green water. And the grab is deliberate and solid with the fish whisking away into the backing as I grab what seems like my first breath. The immense splash and tail well above where my line arcs out and across the stream indicates a fish gone berserk. It turns back down throwing a god awful loop of slack line on the water and is seemingly gone on that one turn. But I manage to come tight again as the fish wallows across the surface far across and down. Once again, the fish turns down and my finger touches the taut backing, now like a bandsaw. Finally, the fish comes in. With racing heartbeat I remember the quiet moments of just a few minutes ago, now like another place and time. Looking around as the fish darts off, the willow stems shudder and vibrate in the currents now. Everything seems to move here.

Note the submerged willow stems.

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