What an amazing Friday morning! If it wasn't for the crazy busy work day ahead and feeling a little stressed out, it would have been close to perfect. But spending a little time on the water before a day like this can help get me through...
I arrived about 7:30am and missed that special period of first light as the black skies begin to turn purple above the silhouette of the rugged cascades. But I felt confident, knowing the water would finally be cleared of the run-off from the clay banks during the high water early in the week. High water means fresh fish have moved in and catching the river on the drop like this is money.
I geared up headed down to my favorite run this season. The skies were clear and 30 degree fresh air felt crisp and refreshing as the anticipation built and I eyed the run â€“ forcing myself to start at the top and not just cut straight to the sweet spot.
The sun was still straining to peak over the snow covered mountains â€“ causing the few clouds and layers of misty fog to take on a pink rosy tone. As I approached the water I took a few minutes to soak it all in: the heavy fog clinging to the lower hills, the haunting mist that hovered over the magical Skykomish waters, the pair of bald eagles watching quietly from the tree tops, the noisy flock of geese flying over in a sloppy â€˜Vâ€™ formation.
I began working the top of the run where the water moved a little fast and was a little too shallow to be good holding and taking water, but I hate the idea of skipping over a fish that may be moving up and getting ready to tackle the fast riffle before resting again above it. I had my trusty 8wt and medalist reel loaded with my full floating line and a weighted purple with pink collar â€˜starlight leechâ€™ pattern.
I worked quickly down the run and within 10 minutes I was approaching the prime holding water â€“ a section about 50 to 75 feet long that got just a little deeper than the rest, a little slower, and still had plenty of basketball sized boulders that cause the surface to boil and dance just enough to offer cover and rest for migrating fish.
I had only made it about 5 or 10 feet into the good water, now slowing down my pace and really focusing. I cast out and across less than 30 feet, mended, and let the line straighten and begin its swing. No sooner did the line straighten and begin swinging, then the line came to an abrupt stop and suddenly tighten with the not so subtle weight of a solid and aggressive fish. I instinctively set the hook and felt the adrenaline surge as I watched the surface erupt and froth as the tail and very thick wrist of a pissed off steelhead exploded and thrashed. In the next instant the fish surged like no other steelhead this year. I was into my backing in seconds and started to get a little worried (the huge grin on my face wouldnâ€™t show it Iâ€™m sure).
Soon it stopped and I regained most of my line. It came in close and into the knee deep water I was standing in. I carefully lifted its head with my rod to get a good look and immediately saw the rugged kype of a nice buck steelhead. I led it a little and allowed it to turn so I could have a look at the adipose. Sure enough, the perfect little fin was standing tall and proud and my suspicions all along were confirmed â€“ my first native Skykomish steelhead of the season! At that moment, as I expected, it saw me and felt the shallow bottom below at it surged off again, peeling line from my trusty medalist. Then another time. But I put pressure on this special fish beyond what I may have done for a hatchery brat and stressed that 10lb Ultra Green tippet and my knots to their full potential. Soon I had it sliding into the shallows where I slipped the hook out of the buckâ€™s mouth. I admired the metallic rose colored cheeks and thick chrome body, and then carefully felt itâ€™s 15lb weight in my hands before watching as it disappeared back into those magical Skykomish waters to continue it journey and cycle of life.
I didnâ€™t have a camera or even my phone camera. I just have the memory etched in my mind. I was back in my truck a little after 8am and ready for all hell to break loose at work, but taking it all in stride.