The End of (Steelhead) Days

Ok, so I’ve finally conceded; I’ve succumb to the fact that my spring steelheading is over. It happens every

year so it really shouldn’t be a surprise but every year it takes me some time to give in to reality. When I finally do I end up suffering a little depression. That depression kicked in a few days ago when I landed my last steelhead of the season and realized that moment was the beginning of the longest stretch of steelheadless fishing; that seemingly endless time between the last fish of the spring and the first of the fall. It’s this moment that feels like the end of days. I’ll push through the summer months chasing anything else that swims, but steelhead always take up a good chunk of real estate in the back of my mind. The fact that I’m already looking forward to the fall is going to make for a long summer.

The short season didn’t help and even though I crammed as much fishing in as I could, I’m left with a void, the feeling that it just wasn’t enough. I talk to so many on the river that are ecstatic about the fact that there were fish in the rivers through May. For me the disappointment comes at the start of the spring where a harsh, cold winter locked the rivers up solid and with ice that lasted near the end of March my steelheading was two to three months shorter than a normal year. A normal year means fishable water somewhere for the majority of the winter. Not possible this year.

IMG_1876Even with the disappointment of the shortened season I have to admit that it was a successful one. I’ve matured enough of the last few years that I’ve outgrown the ‘numbers’ game. I don’t base a successful day on numbers, however I also haven’t spent thousands of dollars on gear to only gaze at the scenery. The serenity, peacefulness and beauty of my surroundings are all added bonuses to the one thing I am out to accomplish; catching fish. I managed to catch fish on every occasion this season, and that is not an easy feat when chasing steelhead. There were days when my arms hurt from fighting fish and days when my legs hurt from walking miles trying to find them but with all factors considered, every day was a success.

A successful season makes it much harder to let go. I’ve had those times when no matter what I do it seems as if nothing can go right. Those are the kind of seasons that are a little easier to walk away from, to turn focus on something that may be a little more willing to bite. I sit here now, however, sure that there are still rivers holding on to some dropback fish despite the summer like temperatures. Ten years ago I would be out chasing those last remaining fish but the respect that I have gained for these fish over the years tells me that they are under enough stress in the warm water without having me trying to hook them. That little voice in the back of my head, telling me there must still be fish around, makes it tough to move on.

IMG_0988Maybe this shortened season was a blessing. Less time on the water means less chance of failure, right? Maybe I over prepared knowing very well that I had little time to waste. Or maybe as I get older I start caring less and less. Like I said before, years ago I was hung up on numbers, now it’s more about the quality of the catch. Who knows, maybe a few years down the road the catch won’t even matter; it will be all about the experience and every season will be the best I’ve ever had.

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