As a kid, the night before resulted in a serious lack of sleep. It was my Christmas Eve. The trout opener was just about as exciting as it got. The unofficial end to a long cold winter and the official start of open water fishing. Anticipation wasn’t only for the day to come but the season that awaited.
Up well before dawn we’d haul the aluminum boat the few short minutes down the road to the local ‘lake’ (really nothing more than an extension of the river that steelhead had no choice but to pass through on their way to their spawning grounds). My dad, uncle and I would row around the lake, a lake that did not permit the use of motors of any kind, trolling spoons and spinners for hours. I lucked out, being too young to row the fourteen footer all of my time was spent fishing. For the most part we were successful but even when we weren’t it didn’t matter, we were fishing.
Somewhere along the line, I’m not really sure where, we made the transition from rowing around the small lake to walking the local river. Generally our tactics remained the same; spinners, spoons and small cranks for aggressive, hungry spring steelhead. Again we were successful, perhaps more so than before. At a young age I had a few steelhead under my belt but it was the time spent on those muddy banks that began to shape my love affair with the magnificent fish.
I’m lucky enough now to be able to chase steelhead for close to ten months out of the year, but it doesn’t make the opener any less special. It’s more nostalgic than anything else. I can pick and choose when to go steelheading; the opener is not a day I miss. It takes me back to my youth and reminds me what fishing is all about; something I lose sight of at times.
Change is inevitable and there has been a lot of it both good and bad over my last twenty five plus years of steelheading. Amongst the change there remained one constant: the opener. Sentimentalism plays a major role in the enjoyment of the day but along with that is nothing more than a desire to be on the water. It’s a desire that the opener helps to satisfy.