a couple weekends ago i made another trip to the OP to fish. Paul and James both came as well and we brought 7 rods between the three of us. i indicator fished for a couple hours one day but besides that we were swinging flies on two handers the whole time.
the amount of time i've spent casting a single handed rod far outnumbers the time i've spent with a two hander. it's fun to learn something new. sometimes frustrating. when i'm fishing with a two hander i find that my mind goes back and forth between focusing intently on the mechanics of my cast, or focusing on the swing, presentation and a grab from a fish, or something completely non-fishing related. when the latter happens, i'll eventually bomb a cast out there and snap out of my daydream, start thinking about my cast again and then it goes to shit.
just like fishing that pond in the Allagash on slow days, the level of excitement is up and down. sometimes i'm sure that the grab is going to happen in the next second. other times i forget i'm even fishing.
when swinging flies for winter steelhead, one "encounter" per day is considered success. i like this. it really puts things in perspective. it's not all about the fish. it still is a little bit, but when the fish does come to hand, it makes it that much more special. Paul went 1 for 2 and landed this beauty of a fish. a wild buck, fresh from the salt.
on the Peninsula, there are runs of hatchery fish. these fish were stocked in rivers at a young age, they travel out to sea and then come back to the rivers to spawn. hatchery fish have their adipose fins clipped, wild fish do not. wild fish are to be released, but the hatchery fish can be killed at a rate of three per angler per day. that's a lot of fish to eat. i'm not one to keep a lot of fish, but in this case, there is added motivation besides consumption to kill the hatchery fish: preservation of the species. every time a wild fish spawns with a hatchery fish, one might argue the gene pool of the wild steelhead is diminished. "food" for thought anyway.
after Paul had his encounter, i was fishing the same run when i had one of my own. my fly had all but finished its swing and i started to strip line in to cast again when i felt something. i raised the rod to set the hook, but it was too late and/or wasn't meant to be. the fish jumped once and that was that. an exciting "encounter" for sure. i had at least done something right with my fly. so my confidence was slowly building in that my casts were occasionally looking better, my fly was swinging decently, etc. later in the day, on what would be my last cast, i had a great grab and my first dolly varden/bull trout came to hand. a great end to the day. James got one earlier in the day. after a great weekend with lots of laughs and a few fish, i was as pumped as i've ever been for winter steelhead season. with a holiday party coming the following weekend, i wouldn't be able to get back to the Peninsula until Christmas weekend. but then a call at work on wednesday morning would have me fishing again on thursday! perfect.
and then there i was, standing at the top of the same run that had given Paul his fish and my lone encounter the weekend before. it just seemed scripted, and that's not the first time i've felt that was recently. i had confidence in the run and in the cast i needed to make. it was just too perfect. and then it happened. halfway through the run, halfway through a swing came the encounter: the grab, the explosion, the run, the fight and then the fish. my first pacific steelhead. a wild fish. on the swing. in camo waders. i'm spoiled.
we gave some hatchery rats the rock shampoo that day and had a steelhead feast the next night.
bring on the weekend.