A few days ago I had a steelhead trip on the Salmon River for two people whom had never been steelhead fishing before. Often people show up with false expectations, though we do everything to try to paint a realistic picture of what chasing these magnificent fish is all about. It isn’t like trout or bass fishing, where hot fishing sometimes means a fish on every other cast or nearly so. Nope. Steelhead fishing is a test of endurance and patience.
Apparently we are not great painters on the canvas of reality, based on some of the experiences we have on the river with people who show up entertaining wild thoughts or having delusions of grandeur. Or possibly many folks really don’t listen that well, or only hear what they want to hear. At any rate, steelhead fishing can mean a few hours between bites, or none at all, on a really poor day of pounding water and harassing holes. However, when contact is made and a steelhead grabs our offerings, all hell breaks loose. Any semblance of calmness or rational behavior fly out the window. Emotions explode, just like the fish as it dances across the top of the water kissing sky and ripping line.
On the other end of the line is a human reduced to jelly, trying to keep their wits in order, and shattered nerves under control. It can even happen to those with lots of fishing experience. So on both ends of the line are two opposite forces acting out against each other. Which will win? There-in is where all the fun takes place and experiences are made. It is undiluted excitement in raw, brute form. A part of that consequence of adrenalin surge, is the host of self-defeating behaviors that are birthed in the process. Unplanned mis-steps, tangled lines, missed nettings, fish rolls, people tripping over each other, fish seeking safety under the boat. The list is endless of the number of obstacles that surface to hinder getting a steelhead in the boat and reduced to possession. In fact, sometimes the fish wins, and endless regrets surface with the wisdom of recollected hindsight replayed over and over again afterwards.
But, the real beauty is that fish, caught or not, becomes a memory scorched into the mind, leaving a scarred brain forever. Luckily it is a good scar to have and badge of honor to share with any willing human ear ready to listen. It is what makes a fish story a fish story. And it is the story that I really like, because it is always exciting to hear and re-hear, embellished ever more with each telling.
The big fun for me when taking first timers, is that the level of excitement generated by a virgin experience is hard to beat. That high level of enthusiasm is easily transferred to the observer, too. Do you remember your first time at anything? The unknown holds great mystery and is a never-ending source for anticipation. Like waiting for Santa to come when you were a kid, the anxiety is as good as the final unwrapping of the gift.
I have to chuckle sometimes, as I reverberate scenes of comedic errors across my cerebral theater. If someone from afar could view some of the antics that have happened over the years, they would think they were watching some past episode of The Three Stooges or Little Rascals. Like the time on a trip two days ago, when one fishermen jumped up to grab his buddies rod that was bouncing down wildly as a fish was trying to beat my boat to Riggins. The other fishermen had another rod in her hands, so ended up with a deer in the headlights look, trying to register the full gravity of the sudden flurry of activity exploding all around her.
The price of her hesitancy was that she became another casualty of the old saying, if you snooze, you lose. But at least the fish was caught, and when the dust settled, and we got a great laugh out of it all. Such is the rewards of self entertainment.
Oh, how I love my job. Natures joys are forever endless. It only requires stepping out into it. Like fishing. If you don’t put a line in the water, you won’t be catching any fish for certain. One must go to know. Fish to potentially catch.