One Brisk Day
By Greg Senyo
I woke up
early in the morning, stumbled out of bed and looked out the bedroom
window. Outside, nailed to the trunk of an old oak tree, there is an old,
rusty thermometer. I could see the gauge was reading thirty-two degrees.
There was little, if any, noticeable wind and the only sound disturbing
this otherwise silent and peaceful morning was that of my wife sleeping.
I decided to look over at the alarm clock; I knew it was only 4:15.
I didnít have to be at work and hadn't heard my wife mention and
"expected" chores for me to do the evening before, so it looked like a
good day to drive over to the river and fish a few deep pools on my
favorite steelhead stream.
have my gear packed and stowed in the truck, so it was only a matter of
sneaking around the house to quietly make a pot of coffee, grab a granola
bar and get dressed without being detected. I decided to leave a note
where I was going and to purposely forget my cell phone on the kitchen
table. I felt like I was a young kid again waking up hours earlier than
everyone else to open Christmas presents! As I stepped out the door, the
chilling morning air reminded me of our Cabin and the opening day of deer
season in the Allegany Forest of Pennsylvania. I'm always pretty
excited when I can sneak around and play hooky from everything and
As I drove
down the old road into the valley where my favorite steelhead haunt was,
the moon light and the bright reflection off the snow revealed several
deer and Canadian Geese feeding in a cut corn field Behind them was
the winding river that was still waiting below. What seemed like an
eternal drive finally came to an end at the bottom of the gorge. I pulled
off and parked next to the old and tattered wooden covered bridge, the
same bridge where my wife and I carved our names in the wall as love birds
in High school.
believe my eyes as I stretched the sleepiness from my limbs. Staring
through the dark and looking around in every direction I saw no one.
"I'm the only one here," I said to myself. What a beautiful morning!
And such a shame to have all this river in front of me! I smiled and
laughed to myself for the greedy thought I had just had, but then again
itís not my fault no one else was here.
With no one
else around I decided to take my time. I put my waders on and
finished my cold half-cup of coffee. I decided to listen to a few minutes
of News talk radio while I put a thin coat of Vaseline on my fly rod
guides, and at the end of my fly line to help keep them from freezing over
on the river. After a quick check of my chest pack and fly boxes, I was
ready. I decided to take the easy path through the woods to reach my
favorite stretch of water. The sun was not quite up yet, but you could see
it was trying to burst its way through the thick grayish black cloud
cover. While walking I looked down at the river, which had the perfect
steady flow and was that magical emerald green color steelhead anglerís
As I came
off the path and reach my pool I could only stand and stare in awe for a
moment, everything was absolutely perfect. The river bends into a forty
foot high shale wall creating a pool at its base the size of a cement
truck. The shale wall is littered with 25 foot long Ice cycles and
evergreen trees growing out of the wall, and over the river bending
upwards towards the heavens. Behind me is nothing but the darkened forest
and its secrets. I have found the solitude I long searched for, and in
doing so I realize and cherish the eerie feeling that I am truly alone.
to sit along the bank until dawn. Besides, no sense in crowding the pool
and screwing up the rotation! Every dedicated steelheader knows that
rivers in darkness are haunted by the ghosts of anglers past. They
deserved their time and their solitude, and if you are quite and patient
long enough you can see them casting, smiling, and walking away from the
river by their reflection off the water at first light. I really never
wanted to push my luck by fishing in darkness and I didnít want to be the
man that cut into their fishing time. To some this may sound crazy, but
most are in too much of a hurry to see things the way I can at this
At dawn I
gently waded out into the river, unhooked my leader and started stripping
spey line from my reel, anticipating and hoping for a perfect first cast.
I cast up stream and across the pool, mend the line and visualize what my
electric blue and purple marabou spey fly is doing, and where it will be
during the swing. As usual winter steelhead fishing is a patience game and
a time of personnel reflection and fly fishing perfection on every cast. I
knew I had the patience and the time, so I continued casting and worked
the pool on my own three steps down stream and cast rotation, starting at
the top and finishing at the tail out of the pool.
cold of the winter it was not uncommon to pull a skunk four out of five
days on the river. My pool had always been the rabbit in the hat for me
though and I knew that least one of my casts would inspire a take; I just
didnít have a clue when it would be. The snow has now started to fall and
become heavier by the minute. One moment everything was visible through
the falling snow, but now it was falling so hard and fast I felt like I
was being punished and sent to a corner to stare at a white wall until I
was told otherwise.
out of the pool was approaching as I took my last three steps down stream.
Nothing was going to stop me from finishing my rotation. I must have cast
100 times in the past couple of hours, and as I squinted to follow my line
everything came together. My line stopped and pulled taunt toward the
depths. I set the hook firmly and could feel the slow heavy but powerful
head shake just before the fish darted to the head of the pool. During the
next few minutes of utopia Ice shattered from the rods guides and water
misted off my line as the steelhead made powerful runs back and forth
through the pool.
have not been able to see this beautiful specimen, but I knew the fish was
big do to the fact I had a hard time gaining any line. The fish had
that bull dog mentality that makes them stay and feel secure in the pools
depths. The hard snow fall was starting to create slush on the water and I
new that this would probably be the end of my day unless the weather
changed. It was with relief I felt the chromer starting to tire, and
I was slowly starting to gain ground on.
was viciously trying to dislodge the fly with continued head shakes as it
eased closer to shallow water. Everything around me became silent; I
couldn't hear the sparrows chirping or the current as the fish came into
view for the first time. The river had granted me permission to see one of
its winter treasures. In front of me I saw the brilliant flash and
muscular shape of the male as I skated him to the shallow water at my
feet. He was a gorgeous mint silver buck with broad shoulders, healthy
layers of thick fat, and a massive jaw only a steelheader (or a hen
steelhead) could love. As I removed the spey fly from his mouth I couldn't
help but stare into his eye and wonder what he was thinking at that same
moment. I knew he was the king of the pool this winter, and as I held him
in the hand numbing water he swam away as if nothing had ever happened; as
if he allowed me to grace myself in his presence.
releasing and watching him disappear back into the pool, I stumbled over
to the shore reeled in my line and sat down on a rock over looking the
river. I could hear everything again, the waters current, sparrows and
crows, and the echoes of whining frozen trees longing for spring. I felt
refreshed and energized by the freezing air and the snow falling on the
back of my neck. I love steelhead fishing on a winterís day and the
memories it inspires. Iíve gone and spoiled myself once again! I realize
now its time to leave my chilly sanctuary and spent time with the most
important thing in life, my family.
As I walk
back to my truck the snow has stopped and the storm had passed on, its
like God completed my experience by ensuring I had a safe drive home.
During the long drive home I rest assured in knowing that the next
steelheader that walks that very path will have an opportunity to
experience things the same way I did, and to leave refreshed and remember
the things we cherish the most, yet often take for granted, every single day.