My mind wanders to countless days of hanging out in the cold rain, watching the current slowly pass by my legs day after day. Maybe on one of those days I feel the tug of a fish, but chances are good I don’t. You might say that daydreaming about steelhead isn’t exactly exciting or normal. Definitely not what most people might consider a “vacation”.
When February comes around daydreams aren’t enough. It’s been three months since the last steelhead I touched on the Clearwater, and I am now fully convinced that steelhead depression is clinical diagnosis. Luckily when everyone you work with has also been diagnosed with a serious fishing addiction, they understand that occasionally you need a week off to scratch the itch in the back of your head.
Off to the Oregon coast where five days and three rivers go by without a fish. Lost count of the beers drank on day two. Still haven’t touched the fish that I have spent dreaming daily about for months. Luckily I have watched the rest of the group hook two fish and land one. I am confident they are in here. Somewhere. At least I know where to find a cold beer or a hot toddy.
Day six, last run of the day before the boat ramp and the fourteen hour drive home. Easily over a thousand casts without the line going tight and it happens…fish on! The fish feels weak, and it doesn’t take long to realize it’s a sea run Cutthroat. It still feels good to touch a fish, but it is like beans and rice when you want the whole enchilada.
A few casts later and the swing is nearing the end of the tailout, where the water becomes white and too fast to swing. The line comes tight again, and my brain assumes another cutty, until I hear the sound of my new click pawl reel hissing. This is the dream come true I have been searching for. Fish in hand. Breathe a sigh of relief, a sigh of dignification, if that’s even a word. The crown jewel is more special: the adipose fin is intact and silver as could be. It was likely avoiding hungry seals in the ocean that morning. Curious where this fish spent its last year? I wonder if it got to see Japan?
The fish was released an hour ago and the boat is on the trailer but the indescribable feeling of holding a wild steelhead remains. Fourteen hours later, a short night’s sleep, and I’m back at Gallatin River Guides already daydreaming about my next trip, when Pat chimes-in with a request to get something done right-away.
Luckily April in Big Sky has some of the best trout fishing in the world, because being a steelhead junkie in Montana isn’t easy.