Last fall was frustrating. The fishing wasn’t great (for me anyway) and it seemed increasingly harder to find some peace on the water. Combat fishing. Not my idea of fun. I took a couple of day trips, drifting the river in a pontoon, which helped and in retrospect I should have done it more. The more I fished, the more frustrated I became, and the more I yearned for winter. The peace, the quiet, the river to myself, how I wished it was February.
Winter has always been my favorite time to be on the river. But this winter only added to the frustration. Snow came early and heavy, making many access points no longer accessible. The cold wasn’t far behind and soon after the first snow, the river locked up solid. Winter steelheading had come to an abrupt stop before it had even started.
A steelheader not being able to go steelheading. Stuck indoors, dreaming of what could have been, the days couldn’t have passed any slower. Stuck in my own head it was only a matter of time before I started going through withdrawals and in turn a bit of depression.
Eventually I simply gave up. Surprising, I know, but I really did give up and when the time came that I was able to get back on the water, I had to force myself to so. Never in my life have I had to force myself to go steelheading. Not a good feeling.
I forced myself out of the warm comfort of the house and onto the frigid bank. But things didn’t get any better. The fishing, once again, wasn’t great and the cold hurt more than I remembered. The peacefulness associated with winter was stolen away by crowds of people looking for the same thing I was. The fact that I had forced myself to get out, only to end up enduring the same thing I had in previous months, was, to say the least, discouraging.
So, for good reason I’ve spent the last couple of weeks dreading my days on the water. A feeling that I am completely unfamiliar with and it’s not something I’m very fond of. To someone who has devoted countless hours to an obsession with these fish, it felt like the end. Like it was time to sell the gear and take up golf. Yep, rock bottom.
Yet I continued to don my gear, thinking things would be different each time I did. They weren’t, and the more I ran into much of the same thing, the more discouraging it became. As much as I felt like throwing in the towel, I didn’t. I mentally prepared to be let down, and made my way out, again and again. If insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, then I was ready for the nut house.
I battle and I fight, push and shove my way through the crowds until eventually I find a spot I can call my own, although calling it my own would be a relative term as I can almost touch the next guy with my rod. I watched the water. I watched the guy next to me. I’m not overly impressed with the water, but I hold my ground and start fishing. I don’t know who was more shocked, me or the kid downstream from me, when my float dropped and a fresh chrome hen came shooting out of the water.
Then it happened again. And then again. I almost couldn’t believe it. For the first time in months I was catching fish. The next few days continued in similar fashion. Lot’s of people, little space to fish, but fish to be had. What had recently plagued me no longer mattered. My long drought was over and suddenly the crowds around me were irrelevant; the last few months were irrelevant. My faith had been restored in the wonderful thing I call steelheading.
As the days go by this spring, the crowds have begun to thin out and I’m finding a lot more water I can call my own. Some days I get into fish, some days I don’t, but the frustration and aggravation has disappeared, leaving me in the mental state that make steelheading so great. Fish or no fish, being able to take in the simple things and enjoy the moment is what it’s all about.