Steelhead

I’m Back For Winter Steelhead!

Well, after several months of not blogging, I’m back…..at least for a little while!

I took what is supposed to be my last exam on Tuesday and life has been wonderful ever since. I do not get my score until mid-March and in an effort to “keep it real”, I feel very bad about how it went and I’ll likely be retaking it.

However, in another effort to live in the present, I am SOOOO glad to be back on here writing a blog!

This winter I have been out a few times and have put a few fish in the box! I don’t know if it’s just me, just the days I’ve fished, or if I’m completely off base, but we haven’t had a lot of stellar steelhead days and I haven’t heard of many from others. Normally, this is peak time and we’ve started seeing limits. I won’t lie, we had a phenomenal day on Sunday, but it was the first of the year that it was that we’ve encountered that many steelhead in one day. Hopefully it’s just me because I’ve been out of touch with the real world for a few months :)

We took Jeff’s coworker and his friend out. We’ve fished with both of them a couple of times but Shawn had never caught a steelhead before so we were really hoping to see him get his first. It started off with surprise snow and a little slow……so slow that we contemplated going somewhere else for the day but then Shawn missed a bite so we figured we’d stay a while and see if we can find another. Before I get going into the day, I’ll just share that I’m a bit superstitious and I wore a brand new hat that morning. I always bring a second in case I feel that something new is unlucky.

Jeff hooked up and put the first fish in the boat so now we’re getting excited and feeling good about what the day will bring. Less than an hour later, Jeff hooks up again! A feisty wild fish that was quickly released. Next up, Shawn! Finally! He is fighting his first steelhead and he successfully brings in a perfect hatchery hen.

Shawn did manage to get possibly the biggest steelhead I’ve ever seen though. I won’t pretend like it’s a state record, but I’ve never seen a 20lb steelhead in person and we’re guessing this is around there. It put up an incredible fight and Shawn fought it flawlessly in a really difficult spot and his second steelhead ever. He was a natural and I’m not sure that I would have been able to land this beast so HUGE kudos to him!

The rest of the day was so full of fish I can’t remember who got what and in what order. It was a great day of fishing to say the least. I was spending more time tying leaders than fishing so I swapped my hat for a trusted one and within 30 minutes, I was finally hooked up. I hooked 2 more (1 was native) before giving the new hat one more try.

I didn’t hook anymore fish once I switched back to the new hat but Jeff did. I think that I’ll retire that hat to the “grocery shopping” pile instead of fishing pile ;)

I had such a great time carelessly fishing and like usual, great company. In fact, Shawn probably hooked half of the fish hooked to the boat! I casted in more trees than he did and he fished all day. It was cold, snowed on and off all day, and the boat fished until dark. I have just 2 weeks left until my scores come out but I couldn’t have asked for a better day to start my break off. It truly was a day that goes into the history books.

AND…..I get to blog again for a while! Thanks to everyone for continuing to check my blog and for hounding me when I see you around the tackle shops and rivers about needing to blog. If it wasn’t for that, I probably wouldn’t have known how many people enjoy my blogs as much as I enjoy writing them :) <3

Valentine’s Day

This weekend was definitely one for the ladies!

We headed out with an old high school friend and her boyfriend who happens to be as fishy as us and had a great day!

Not only was it great to catch up with her and get to know her boyfriend, they treated us with so much wonderful food! ahahaha. They are welcome to join us anytime and Jeff has designated Jess the official cook anytime she comes fishing :)

It was a little bit tough deciding where to go because we have recently gotten a lot of rain. Even when we got to the river, we were very skeptical about whether or not we would catch anything. After about 2 hours, Jeff finally hooks a nice little buck! 30 minutes later, Jess is hooked up! She’s only been fishing for a little over a year, but she picked up really quickly, goes often, and ended up out-fishing the boys (of course). When we have new friends join us, I always am quick to jump on the bow with them and make sure they are fighting the fish correctly so we can get their fish to the boat. I was ready to take this approach and she actually didn’t need my help! Steve has clearly taught her well and she was able to bring her fish to the boat like a pro!

She got this nice super hen shortly after Jeff’s fish

From that point on, there seemed to be a hook up every 30 minutes after that! Jess got another nice hen, although it was wild. I also got 2 fish, and unfortunately, our new friend, Steve, could only get trout to bite his hook.

Our friend Kari and Derrick also got a couple fish, but more importantly, she got this great hatchery hen on a yarnie!

There was a little joke that we had in our boat regarding a very optimistic co-worker of mine. He seems to be the most positive person on the planet, and even after just 10 minutes of conversation with him, you walk away feeling good about yourself and life. We decided to adopt his positivity and while Jess and Jeff designated themselves to his team, the whole boat ended up having a great time full of fish, laughter, and positivity.

So Jess and Steve, I hope we can fish again soon! A trip like that is exactly what I needed to take my mind off my studies and work :) Thank you guys!

Cowlitz Lemonade

It seems as though I have let life get in the way of fishing again. And when I think about it like that, I tend to obviously think that life events take a precedence over fishing until I get to a burdened point in life and finally realize why. It’s not that fishing should remain more important that life events, but that fishing is my release for life’s lemons and I quickly forget how to make lemonade. Once I realize that the steps to making lemonade include fishing, my life seems to fall back into place.

I’ve gone out here and there over the past month, but my heart was heavy, fishing felt like a chore and I couldn’t take my mind off the things going on at home, and I wasn’t catching which probably contributed to the slump that I was in. I go through this process about 2 times a year and thankful to say that I’m over this one and I was anxious and eager to hit the river bright and early Saturday morning.

We’re in springer mode although the thought of actually putting fish in the boat is always at the top of the list so we hit the Cowlitz to target a bit of springers, but get some blood in the box by targeting steelhead as well. I got out of slump hooked up for about 5 seconds only to be left with a bare hook and a happy steelhead that got away. I did manage to land one which I was quite excited about!

Brothers Jerry and Jason also got into some nice ones!

Sunday I was feeling even better and even more excited. We headed to Blue Creek and first pass, Zack gets a fish on! Second pass, my turn! Well this was a good way to start the day! Shall we try 3 for 3 passes? We unfortunately weren’t so fortunate, but we ended up with 4 in just a couple of short hours before it slowed way down.

Jeff always runs the boat and anyone that knows me, knows how much I hate running the sled. I’m terrified, I’ll row a drift boat all day but the sled creates so much anxiety through my veins, that I cry. It’s expensive, powerful, fast and I don’t want to be the reason something happens to it. Well, Jeff hooked up and when it’s an average or small fish, he stays on the motor and fights the fish, but this time, it was a big, hot steelhead and he immediately ran to the front of boat which left me with the motor. As I try to remain calm, I’m delegating the others on the boat and trying my best to keep the boat around the fish and make it as easy as possible to get this fish in the net so Jeff can regain control of the boat.

Of course it’s not that easy. It was several minutes of shear torture (but no tears this time) as we drifted slowly towards the next corner which had a few ripples which means I might have to actually maneuver around them or lift the motor up. I’m warning Jeff that he better hurry up because I can’t do this and he just wants to patiently land this fish.

Finally! It’s in the net and I immediately go for his rod so he can get the motor. It was a very nice hen full of glorious eggs that will become the next batch of steelhead bait, but I needed a beer after that. It was entirely too much.

My life is still a little bit hectic, but much like running the boat, I’m getting better and better at the things that make me uncomfortable and are unexpected. Once I realize that the ripples aren’t as bad as they look and that I can do this, I am able to remember how to make lemonade :)

The Sweet Release

I didn’t go fishing last weekend for a number of reasons, including a ton of rain, homework, and a very important meeting on the Chehalis basin. So this weekend, I was beyond excited to go fishing and release some stress! I put the homework away at 8 PM on Friday and turned on the TV. I hadn’t put homework away before 11 PM for the last 10 days and it felt so good!

We woke up Saturday and I was wide-eyed and ready to go. Like when we go out for our first springer trip of the year, neither of us sleep the night before and we both wake up before the alarm clock and don’t sleep on the way down there.

I was a  bit off my game and wasn’t paying very much attention at first. I’ll admit, all I could think about was how I needed to schedule my weekend and what homework I was going to accomplish before Monday morning. I was still having a good time, but I wasn’t relaxing like I should have been. Thankfully, the cards clearly knew how stressed I was and made it work for me anyways!

To be honest, I’ve never caught a steelie on a pink worm! EVER! I haven’t really fished them much and my confidence in them was a little low unless I was on the OP chasing wild steelhead. This year, I said I wanted to fish a worm until I caught one so Jeff tied up a bunch of worm leaders. Good thing about being busy, I get out of leader duty except while I’m on break :)

I was still being a bit lazy and absent minded and was trying to drink my energy drink when my float went down. Of course it happens at this very moment when I’m not looking and I only have one free hand. I throw down my water bottle and set the hook with just a tiny bit of force and feel very subtle headshakes. “That’s a fish”. Maybe a trout or sucker fish, but a fish for sure. It quickly came in continuing with the subtle headshakes enough for me to tell everyone else to stay in the water because this wasn’t keeper.

We only had about 2 ft of visibility so we had to get it all the way to the surface next to the boat to see what it was and as fast as we realized it was a big beautiful steelhead, it realized what was going on and went ape-shit crazy. It started bulldogging me like a king and doing quick, short runs. I kept my calm (which is rare) and so did the rest of the boat as we began working as a team getting rods out of the way, net ready, motor ready, and drag loosened. I was playing this baby to the finish. I wanted to savor every second of this fight and make sure I did everything I could to make sure I kept him on the hook. One big 20 yard run was enough for that feeling to go away. Drag tightened, and I’m laying down the wood. I won’t lose this fish.

 

We get it in the net and head to shore for a quick pic. The beautiful rose blushed buck was just what I needed to feel the sweet release of stress. This is what I live for and this is why I have sleepless nights during the week so I can get my homework done. What was I doing thinking about regular life stuff on the river?! How dare I bring that on the boat and bring that into Mother Nature’s world. This was not the time or place for that.

I took water in the boot and water up my sleeve and felt nothing but sheer, joyous release as we let the 14 lb wild buck go. I was done. That was all I needed all weekend.

 

Of course, I wanted to see more and went back out on Sunday to see if we could get some more but we were left empty handed. Jeff was really disappointed, but I was satisfied. In fact, I was grateful. I would have been happy with a 7 lb hatchery fish and I was blessed with a beautiful 14 lb native buck with the prettiest shade of pink on his cheeks. Bring it on work week!