Bird is the Word


As the sun broke the canyon rim once more I didn’t feel as though this episode would end any differently than all the others before it. Cast, mend, step. Repeat. Make no mistake , this is what I want to be doing. Here in this moment watching the sun illuminate the sky that was previously cloaked in headlight impenetrable darkness, casting a line in a spey style to fish that are unknown to the majority of anglers in the country, assuredly this is where I want to be. Now that the method and repetition have become common, I feel more comfortable than I ever have while doing this . I know that success is more than likely not in the cards in the sense of landing the creature that I desire so greatly but, now success is taking on a new form. I’m here, in this canyon, marveling at the high red walls and drooling over the canvas of color that is displayed as the sun makes it entrance. That is success to me now.Today though, things would be different, today I would get all of those things and the true desires of my angling heart. Today I would meet my first pacific run, wild steelhead.

They say that insanity is the continual repetition of similar action with the expectation of a dissimilar result. If this is the true definition of the word, then steelheaders are the embodiment of it. Since moving to the Pacific Northwest I have flown, driven,and walked over and around countless rivers wondering if the fish that would fulfill my desires was below me. This type of wonder and hope is what renders the thoughts of ones insanity null and void. It doesn’t seem to matter to a steelheader that the chances of catching and releasing a steelhead are woefully low, because the anticipation of the tug, the fight, and the chance to look into the gleam of a wild creature that has traversed thousands of mile to be there at that exact moment is overpowering.

This morning as the fly swung through the run and I took in the sights and sounds of the desert coming to life, I couldn’t help but think about the hours and intent that had been poured into this chase. The thought swung through my mind as the blue charm did simultaneously through the run below my feet that I had structured my life around these fish, ones I had never even caught. I had moved my young family across the country of course to experience this place that we have loved dearly for some time, but in my mind at least it was also in part to pursue this magical fish. The fish that has taken my heart from Canada to the Pacific NW to New York and Michigan. The fish that haunted my dreams literally, and kept me coming back for more punishment. The fish that made me go insane.

The bump was so slight that I almost wasn’t cognisant enough to recognize it. The monotony of swinging and stripping and casting had done its work on my concentration and that is typically when opportunities are lost. Thankfully the over injection of diesel coffee had me on my toes and the cold morning sting raised the senses to a heightened awareness. With a floating line and a hair wing I shouldn’t be touching anything I thought to myself. A half step down seemed to be the best approach. With the next ¬†nice long off shoulder snap T, my life changed. Those that are steelheaders know what I am talking about. Those that aren’t I apologize to. The running line crept from between my grip and the weight of 10,000 casts transferred from my soul to my rod. A slow lift as to not be overly excited in the moment and the world became silent as I danced with my soul fish for the first time. Cradling her there in the shallows my heart screamed for joy and my hands shook with child like exuberance. After we exchanged glances and a few images already frozen in my mind I sent her back away to do what she had come for.

The passion now has been personified in the scales of an anadromous fish and although I am now fulfilled and feeling less insane, in a way, it is almost more so to go on about this. To achieve is the resolution of the learning process and of the time invested in a pursuit but with us, with me, it is only the beginning. The tools and the knowledge are now a sharper weapon to use in the quest for steelhead glory but all of that time that was required…that probably wont change all that much. I may be insane to think that I can go again and replicate the feat that brings me to now write these thoughts down, but if that is what it takes then bring on the straight jacket.

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