When I first started steelheading I was always hung up on numbers. The more fish I caught the better. It’s something I’ve grown out of. My success on the water is relative, based on several factors that make up the day. In fact steelheading, and fishing in general, has grown well beyond the numbers game and has become something much more challenging. I would be lying if I said that fishing was about more than catching fish because let’s face it, that really is what it’s all about (my mountains of gear can attest to that).
Steelhead can be elusive to say the least but that really is part of what makes them so special. There are days when these fish still leave me completely baffled; then there are days when I can do no wrong. I don’t like to say that catching steelhead becomes boring because every fish gives me the same feeling that my very first did. There are those times however that I feel the need to challenge myself. For instance, if I’m catching fish on roe all morning I may reach deep into the chest pack and see if I can get those fish on whatever it is that I pull out. Some might think I’m a little nuts. Why would I want to make an already difficult venture even more so? Maybe I am a little crazy to be giving up on a good thing but without challenging myself I would be completely oblivious to what are now some of my top producing baits and flies. It really is incredible what a steelhead will consider a meal.
My favorite challenge is new water for one reason: it forces me to pay attention. I’ve got a couple of local rivers that I consider home water; water that I know intimately; water that makes me lazy. Season after season I know exactly where the fish will be and I consistently pick them off. Sure the composition of the river changes from time to time but it’s never hard to adjust with the fish on water that is so well known. New water changes all that. It can force a person to sit down and actually pay attention to what they’re doing. I love standing back, observing the water, reading it and taking fish from it. The extra effort involved in putting a fish on the bank brings a much bigger sense of accomplishment.
At any given time Mother Nature can throw all sorts of goodies our way. Time and time again I hear the lack of fishing success being blamed on weather conditions. If there’s one thing I’m sure of steelhead it’s that if they’re in the river they can be caught, no matter what the conditions. It really comes down to preparedness and effort. Excuses are the easy way out. The most successful steelheaders are the most complete ones. There is always a solution to adverse conditions.
Nothing comes easy, nor should it, hard work gives us a better sense of appreciation. My reward for the day used to be the bragging rights that came with banking numbers of fish. Now I’m quite happy simply catching fish. Whether it’s ten fish a day or one, consistency, no matter what the challenge, is what makes a great steelheader. I challenge myself every day on the water. The word can’t is not in my steelhead vocabulary. The more I overcome the challenges thrown my way the closer I become to being amongst those elite that can call themselves true steelheaders.