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Steelhead Insomniac

By Greg Senyo


Originally Published in Country Anglin' Outdoor Guide



Itís Midnight now and I still have not been able to hit the sack for some much needed rest. I keep telling myself that in a mere five hours I will be walking through the dark woods along my favorite Great Lakes Tributary searching for silver. I find it extremely comforting that I still get the same excitement and anticipation to go fishing today as I did as a young boy  trout fishing with my father for the very first time; I didnít sleep a wink those nights either. I decide to sit in my favorite recliner and prop my feet on the warm wood stove and read one of my favorite steelhead novels to pass time. The book I have chosen is Steelhead dreams, which I have read from front to back many times over, and still the author is able to capture my imagination and fill my soul with the same passion, respect, and admiration for such an amazing creature. Some time later while Thumbing through the pages of fly patterns I realized I better double check my fly boxes, I only have a couple hours left and you can never have to many flies right?


I walked over to my tying station and opened my sling pack to remove my boxes. I always felt that the organization of a fly fishermanís box was a reflection of not only his character, but a reflection of his sickness and love for fly fishing and the fish we sought after. My boxes were sharp and I always got great stream side comments on the perfectly straight row after row of nymphs, streamers, and eggs. One thing I always noticed about tying flies is that there was always room for a few more patterns in my box. I was running low on my Steely blue wiggle stones and I know I was definitely going to need them today, especially while searching some of the deeper pools and runs. .


Itís now four in the morning and the moon is brightly reflected off the dusting of snow we had just received a few hours earlier. I can hear the small brown winter sparrows starting to chirp in the bushes beside the kitchen window and I knew it was time to leave. It was very cold outside about thirty four degrees and while watching the eleven oí clock news last night it wasnít going to get any warmer.  In my opinion you couldnít ask for a better day to spend on the river. I couldnít help not Laughing out loud to myself knowing the fair weather guys were gone for the season, and surely they would be posting pictures of themselves with pretty girls and goofy looking fish in the online chat rooms from some where in Mexico or Florida; Smiling I thought Oh well their loss.


As I predicted there wasnít even a fresh pair of tire tracks leading down the road next to the river. I had plenty of parking spaces today and first choice of pools this morning. The water was up a little and running smooth with a glassy emerald green color incased in a steady rise of steam off her surface. For those of us that search for steelhead in the chill of winter this is what we call prime steelhead water. I wasnít going to be picky at all today there was no reason too. I walk over to the river and slide down the bank in front of the first shale wall. Looking up for fifty feet at the wall it was completely covered with monstrous ice cycles spanning the shaleís entire surface. The hemlock trees that grow out of the wall and help hold the shale together were bent toward the river holding on with everything they have under the shear weight of the ice.  History here shows that the majority of the time the trees will prevail even under such odds, its truly an amazing sight and show of natures power.


Finally I am here in front of a good steelhead pool, the reason why I have not been able to sleep at all the past few days. I decided to take a day off of swinging large marabou spey flies and concentrate on providing the every-day, tiny morsels to which the river hold-over steelhead have become accustomed. I tied on a tandem rig of two size fourteen wiggle stones in peacock and steely blue. I set my indicators depth at around six feet and started striping line from my reel to begin casting. I begin by drifting from head to tail out of the pool, mending my line and work the flies closer to myself on each other cast until every inch of the hole is covered and then repeating the process. I never rush in the winter and you can never cast or cover a pool in the winter enough times. Basically itís when you give up and become totally satisfied you have given the pool everything you have then you move on.


I know its closer to the afternoon by now, and I have given a half dozen pools a great work out with out a single pull of the line. My second wind is long gone and my energy is all but faded away. The temperature on the river has dropped and snow is steadily falling. My ears and fingers are numb to the touch, and my mustache is completely covered with tiny ice cycles. I just found out that my new waders have a small leak in the left foot which is making the wading extremely unpleasant, but I can still see another good looking pool just ahead and I am not even close to ready to leave the water yet. I refuse to give up that easily!



As I reach the next pool I begin the same routine over again casting and drifting from front to back. The silence on a river that is totally barren of human presence is completely eerie yet extremely calming at the same time. It still astonishes me what types of surrounds we see when you are restless, as you can see know I am getting pretty spacey and what I really need to do is just watch my drift.  A few Moments later my indicator falls from the surface and slowly sinks into the pools depths. I finally get a decent hook set and know I have a good fish because I can feel his muscular head shaking and pulling my line where ever he pleases.  He stays deep for the longest time refusing to come up and show himself. I thank god that the water is very cold because if this was a fresh out of the lake fish, and if the water was a few degrees warmer I would be in serious trouble considering the amount of tree debris in and around the pool.



He is starting to wear out now, and I have gained a ton of line on him. I had him close enough to see his dark shadow just under the surface and he definitely was no slouch. His Olive and crimsoned red head finally breaks the rivers surface and I am able to slowly direct him into the shallows. He was a beautiful buck around ten pounds and full of the entire color spectrum, I was proud to have met him today. I reach down and gently remove the blue wiggle stone from his massive kype, and gently turned him head first toward his home pool. It was only a moment he waited at my hand before leaving, soaking me with ice cold water with a single thrash of his tail. I smiled briefly at the good bye display while I  stood their cleaning off my glasses. I decided to call it a day after all that excitement; besides itís almost dinner time and I have got my appetite back. Since I am wide awake again maybe after dinner I will start getting things ready for tomorrow and read a few more chapters in my favorite steelhead book. I know my family and work will understand because I am always sick come November and December, and there is only one cure for what I have!!!       

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