Part 2 - So You're Sayin' There's a Chance
Friday morning we rolled out of bed at the crack of 9:30. An unexplained alarm clock malfunction was on the list of several possible excuses for our Four-Hour-Late start. A quick look out the window for confirmation. Yep, still windy. Early morning, we're told, is the best chance to catch a Steelhead. That ship had sailed. Since we were this late already, we didn't feel the need to hurry up now. We leisurely geared up, then headed for McD's hoping they were still serving breakfast.
After a coffee and a mocha-berry-sugar-milk (for Bayes), we again had fish on our finally-awakened minds. Steelhead in particular, but we'd be more than happy with a Looper at this point. We arrived at the parking lot to find it less crowded than the night before. There were a handful of fishermen down there, but still plenty of room. Once on the water, we slowly fished our way upstream. Maintaining a concentrated stare at the point where our line entered the water.
It didn't take long before Bayes was hooked up. Looking to my left, I see his fly rod severely bent over. I immediately reeled up my line and tucked my rod under my arm. I had the net. But it was attached to the pack on my back, and I couldn't seem to get it un-clipped. I ended up taking the whole pack off, net still attached, all while trying to keep that rod under my arm. We saw right away it was a Kamloops. It was ready to surrender to my net, if I could just figure out how it was going to fit. This was my typical trout net, never used on fish this large (although the tape measure along the bottom of the net goes to nearly 28 inches). First, I tried to net it from behind the tail, scooping forward to cradle the head. No way that was working. Next, I tried head first. I got about half the fish in the net before it flopped out. Desperately, I tried centering the net directly below the fish and lifting straight up. It's head stuck out well beyond the front of the net, and it's tail well out the back. Instead of folding inside, it rolled off the top of the net. Giving up on the net altogether, Bayes worked it towards the shallows and was able to beach it.
I'm sure anyone fortunate enough to watch that spectacle unfold probably laughed uncontrollably for several minutes. It was that good.
The adrenaline rush that goes along with being a part of something like that made the brutal cold go away, at least for awhile. We noticed a few fish starting to roll in the river. This was a good sign there was a run of new fish coming up from the lake. I was still regretting not swapping out my fly line as I watched Bayes hook into another fish. This one came off after 4 or 5 seconds. But the show it put on in that short time made it clear to us that it had to be a Steelhead. We went on for another hour like this. Both missing strikes, or hooking into fish temporarily before losing them. I'm sure I was hooked into my first Steelhead for what seemed like the longest 5 seconds of any fish battle I can remember. In no time at all the fish went from the center of the run, downstream, across to the other side, then back downstream before the line finally broke. I smacked my rod tip down on the water when it was over and looked downstream to my right. The look on the face of the kid who had just moved downstream of me said it all. His eyes were wide open, along with his mouth, and he was stuck in that position seconds after the fish was gone.
Not long after getting back to the business at hand, Bayes was at it again. I heard him mumble something, so I looked upstream just in time to see this big chrome fish leap out of the water. I'm guessing it was close to two feet in the air, and pulled off several full body shakes reminiscent of a tarpon, before it splashed down. Steelhead fight on! Bayes tried in vain to keep the fish contained in the slow pool his was fishing. Fat chance. That fish wanted no part of it. Fortunately for us, it took off downstream instead of upstream. There was a bend in the river upstream and no way to follow the fish that way. So we chased it down. We were probably 70 yards downstream when Bayes had the opportunity to guide it towards another tapered shoreline. No net this time. The gloves came right off. And as soon as that thing was within 2 feet of shore, I two-hand scooped it up onto the bank!
Now this was it. This was what we came for. I just wished I'd spooled on some mono! Bayes was definitely getting around 3 hook-ups to my one. Fortunately for the fish, the hook-up to landing ratio was closer to 4:1. Finally I got my chance. I hooked into a solid fish and managed to keep it on my line for more than a few seconds. Turns out it was a Looper, but it still took me downstream. As I pulled it near shore, Bayes was able to beach-assist this dark-colored hen.
The fish monkeys were off our backs. Our goal for the trip of one nice fish apiece had been achieved. Anything after this would be icing on the frozen cake. The bite went cold as the afternoon progressed. We stuck it out until dark without seeing or feeling another fish.
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