Steelheading is a lot like trout fishing, as it should be. They’re just really big trout after all. Steelheading is a lot like trout fishing, except it’s nothing like trout fishing. The steelhead were holding underneath and in really fast moving water. Hard water. They’d find a place out of the current like any other trout to wait for food, except that out of the current meant a slightly easier current than what it was surrounded by, not exactly an easy current.
The same thing played out over and over for the next half hour or so. A good cast, a good drift, a rise and inspection, and a refusal by a dumb nine inch stocked brown trout. I looked closely at the small caddis imitation between my thumb and index finger several times. Each time I thought to myself that it looked real enough to me, that it should look even better to a dumb animal, and that neither one really mattered since it was the only one I had.
Back at the camp site I started a little fire at the back of the Jeep, but I wasn’t really sure why. A granola bar for dinner didn’t actually require a fire, and while I did have a folding camp stool, the black flies were so bad that I didn’t see myself sitting out for more than a few minutes before going insane. I guess I was lighting a fire because that’s just what you do when you’re camping. It’s an expected routine thing. You’ve always done it, so whether you need one or not it just seems the thing to do. It passes time anyhow.
The stream’s last defense was the thick alders that lined it, so thick that I doubt thorn bushes could have done much better at all to keep us out. The Lost Boys had told me no waders, you’ll destroy them in there in two minutes. I left my waders behind but questioned it of course, but now I could see, I could confirm. Pushing though the undergrowth, I felt a stinging on the back of my left calf, and then the same on my right thigh as alder branches that were intertwined better than the fibers in a rope held me back as I tried to push through. They grabbed fly rods, slashed at faces, pulled hats from heads, but in the end the will of the fly fishermen was more than they could hold back, and we stood at the water’s edge.
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At some point it becomes about you and the water, and everything else just falls into place. Fish only matter when they’re caught, but don’t ruin a day when they’re not, and life balances out for those brief times in between all other life.