Friday, November 11, 2011

Steelhead Success on Salmon River

This steelhead's my 9-pound, 3-ounce wonder.

What a trout! My son, Matt's first steelhead at 5 pounds, 7 ounces, 25 3/8th inches. This fish, fought on five-pound test, headed straight down the Salmon River at top speed, and had gained more than a hundred yards, we estimated, before we saw it break water and then stop. I was surprised how soon Matt got it boatside by pumping the rod and reeling in the tension relief. Without the 10-foot noodle rods to absorb shock and give flex power, line of low breaking strength would have little, if any, chance on these fish.
Once I had the knack, Eric Geary, our SWAT (Salmon, Walleyes, and Trout) Fishing guide, taught me--keeping that line tight against the float as it drifted, and setting the hook quick--I had my first steelhead of the trip, 5 pounds, 1 ounce. Matt was into another, much larger, soon after my struggle had weakened my right arm considerably; I'm not making that up. We knew it was big because we saw it twist at the surface with the sort of deliberateness you see giant snakes exercise on their prey.

He played it for several minutes, the hook pulled, and he reported that he never saw the float disappear with this fish. It simply struck like a lion runs over its kill with accelerating power. Those may seem dramatic words for an eight or nine-pound trout taking a 10-mm bead with a small hook two inches below it, but they typically take these simple lures, which resemble the salmon eggs they feed on, take them firmly. If they eject the offering just as quick, having chomped upon hard plastic, they also sometimes swallow from the advantage of a powerful rush.
All three of my hook-ups using a bead came quicker than conscious intention. When I hooked my 9 pound, 3 ounce trout, 30 3/8th-inches, I reacted as soon as the float went down, without that lag of consciously judging it had. Zen. You have to be instantaneous unless the trout just ploughs into the hook. Most times you see the float go down, it's too late. I missed at least 20 hits. Besides two I caught, and another about 17 inches quickly released, I caught one of about five-and-a-half pounds on a jointed Rapala, also quickly put back. We're allowed one fish per man.
I'm pretty sure I fought my big one a full 15 minutes or more on that five-pound test. The fight felt greater than largest king salmon last year of 20 pounds, 12 ounces on 12-pound test. The steelhead took a couple of strong runs, but never high tailed it downriver as Matt's smaller trout did. It held it's own in mid river, very difficult to pump in and finally have netted. Eric, who has done this for 30 years, made, I think, five netting attempts before we finally had the fish. I breathed relief. Every time that fish got away from the net, I knew it added to the stakes and drama. I was grateful for the catch.
Once our photo taking was over and things settled down, Eric told me the hook attached to that fish "by the skin of the teeth."
"If you had relaxed the tension on that fish, it would have been gone."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Seaside Park K Street Striper Pursuit and Some Mysteries at Ocean's Edge

Cold front conditions persisted today, although temperatures rose into the 50's. I arrived at Seaside Park K Street at 2:30 to find the surf rough with waves breaking far out, beyond casting reach, as high tide approached. It didn't feel right at all. Within minutes I got the scoop from an elder angler who seemed to have got it from everyone else a half mile down the beach--no fish at all. I fished until 5:19 after sunset, had no hits, nor did anyone else in sight.

Fished an Ava 17 with teaser fairly persistently, but not as hard as I would have if I suspected fish would move in. I set up my bait rod--an 11 foot heavy duty outfit--right at the edge of the bar and the inside sluice. Most of my casting the fish finder rig and five ounce pyramid sinker was short and directly to that deep sluice into which the beach banks sharply. I couldn't cast over the furthest breakers with either bait or the Ava. Had I got five yards further into the surf wading, I still wouldn't have the reach to whip weight over them, and I didn't try--especially avoided where the beach slopes sharply--since my right knee is still very bad and threatened to give out with unstable sand underfoot and jarring heaves of surf wash.

The most fun was snapping about 50 photos. But the contemplative moods I visited along the way for those three hours satisfied the most. I wish I had the time to upload my memories of them and share them with you. I do recall recognizing at one point that even when grand ranges of ideation are present in mind, the reality is subtle, and it's difficult to retain a grasp of what had been thought. This is because such thinking is primarily intuitive and almost subliminal--you're always aware of a great deal that does not quite cross the threshold into consciousness. And that's the beauty of it, not that you are a computer that doesn't function well enough, but that you can become aware in ways a computer can never even approximate--it can only store and organize information--and best of all the mysteries seem to have a life of their own and do not throw themselves upon you. But they are related to you. They will return some other time, and you may become more clear about something in your life than ever before.