Sunday, October 11, 2009

The steelhead bum diaries

The steelhead bum diaries

“Hi folks! Brad here for trustafarian productions on location in BC on the X river. Chad is in the river demonstrating his Skagit technique. Whoa Chad! What a hookup! Look at that chrome missle jump! It doesn’t get any better than this, folks! Baked lobster for lunch, and chrome fever all day. Say Chad, that’s about a twenty pounder, don’t ya think?”
“Yup, twenty-five maybe, Brad.”

We interrupt the current program to bring you the following excerpt from reality, sponsored by the classical angler…

Cut to a river somewhere in the PNW.

River journal… day one.

Got up before dawn. Morning temps in the thirties. Wading boots frozen. Ate a granola bar and drank instant coffee that tastes like cat pee. Drove to run and arrived first. Suited up and crawled down loose scree to enter river. Twisted ankle in process. Made several casts and boiled one fish before jet boat roared into run and began pulling plugs and chucking roe. Crawled back up scree and boulders to car. Had to choose path with least poison ivy and snakes.

Went to second run. Wind coming from upstream and howling. Casting difficult at best. Went to run on other side of river to allow for correct casting, but wind changed directions and is now blowing upstream. Tried to get to another run, but car won’t start. Got towed to little car place in town run by a guy full of tattoos. $600.00 later I am sitting in my tent shivering and drinking a can of local beer that makes PBR taste like mana in comparison.

Day two.

Got up at O’ dark thirty and drove to nice piece of water. Made two casts before waders began to leak. Repaired them temporally with candy bar wrapper and chewing gum. Hit a fish half way through run. Fish took out drag and came off. Fell in river and soaked camera. Watch died too. Wind is now howling directly at me. Went back to camp to wait out the wind.

2 PM. Wind subsiding. Raining now. Will fish the glory hole in a few minutes.

4 PM.  Blanked at Glory Hole. Dropped fly box in water and must dry it out.

6 PM. Last light. Rolled huge steelhead in glassy tailout on a hitched wet. Could not get it back. Will try again tomorrow. Ate cold soup from the can for dinner.

Day three.

Got one small 23” steelhead on a muddler. Where are the big fish?

Day four.

Pressure increasing. Hundreds of anglers descending on river. Dozens of drift boats floating today. Lost a nice fish this afternoon. Changed flies and got second pull, then nothing. This is a lot of work. Camp host went nuts last night and kicked me out. Thought I was a heretic. Now sleeping in my car. Got low-holed by a guy in the last run. Went to confront him, but thought better of it when I saw his bib overalls and crossed eyes. Caught one squawfish.

Day five.

Finally hooked and landed a nice 32” wild hen. Beautiful fish. Got so excited I fell in the river again. Waders leaking at seams. Skin drying out and cracking and bleeding. Sunburn on face peeling. Ate cold ravioli from can for dinner. Staying in car at side of runs. Freezing at night.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program…

“Hey Chad, nice shades dude! Let’s get the glory shot with that fish! Hold it out toward me and cock your hat. That’s it! Hold it out more. Perfect. What a nice fish. We are kicking some ass in BC, I tell ya! Let’s cut filming for an hour and hit the lunch wagon. Pierre has grilled tenderloin for us, and a set of dry waders. Cigars all around, dude!”


I would like to remind readers out there that although this diary is somewhat fictional, the fact is that for every glory shot, we have to go through sacrifices and put in time on the water. Large production videos with entire support teams don’t exist for most of us. Cold soup out of the can anyone? All that hard work makes that electric grab all the more of a religious experience. I would not have it any other way…
Except perhaps the car breakdown, the dead camera and watch, the blown out waders, the new wading boots that the laces died on, the snakes and poison ivy, the wind, etc. etc. etc.

Nah… It is all good.

This is what steelheading really is. Tough hard work. Hitting six or seven runs a day from dawn to dusk hoping for that magic hookup. Living in primitive conditions, constantly cold, hot, or wet, and subsisting on a diet of gas station goo and terrible coffee. I would love to see a video of this.


  1. I wish I could fish how some of you guys do! I would give all this up to fish in hoping for the one hook up a week !

  2. Gribble.
    That expectation and appreciation of the one well earned fish a week is what it all about. All the hotshot anglers if they told you the whole truth would admit that they got blanked more than they scored.
    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Love it Erik! I don't fish for big fish, but even fishing for little natives you get that sense of accomplishment when your trips are filled with all the grit and heartache. They certainly are memory makers.

    And this: "...thought better of it when I saw his bib overalls and crossed eyes..." I'm sure is brother to the guy I ran into a few weeks ago who jumped in upriver of the stretch I was working my way through.

  4. Holy !@##$%,
    that was my life in a nutshell .just today I parked my car to go fishing ,weather report was for rain so river was supposed to come up .Jethrow pulled in next to me and said "whats times sunrise " walked through the dark and rain only to find river low as hell .Warned Jethrow not to low hole me !Yes im angery about it .rain stopped warm and sunny getting crowded by anglers drove to new hole ,check engine light came on (stinking cars)got snagged at top of run lost skagit tip and sinking tip . drove to fly shop to tell all and take ribbing .This is only one day of my eternal nightmare of waiting for the grab .Lets talk about all the practice with a two hander and what hell goes into learning that .I keep doing it because im either retarted or just crazy ,but i love it .

  5. so when do you get to the hard part??LOL

  6. Scott,
    There are entire cities out west that are populated by people who would be perfect for extras in the film 'Deliverance.' Driving out of Rapid city I passed literally miles upon miles of trailer parks, all with the requisite car with three wheels and the appliances in the yard. Yikes.


    Sounds like you got a dose of my karma which ran over your dogma. Low-holed, dead car, rain that never comes... Sounds like the Midwest.

    The hardest part by far is getting back to the Midwest and trying to make the transition from wild rivers to drainage ditches populated by guys flipping glo-bugs for salmon carcasses. Every year I have to take a mental time-out before I can deal with it. I love our rivers too, but sure wish they had some water in them. Yesterday I fell asleep during my swing.


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