Thursday, January 29, 2015

Steelhead Mania

Sandy River Winter Steelhead Run
I was winter Steelhead fishing below Gordon Creek on Oregon’s Sandy River. It was a typically cold January day, and if you wanted to get a prime location, you had to hike in a few hundred yards in the dark. My dad and I were in luck one morning and managed to get a good drift to fish. Just as it broke daylight, my dad hooked a heavy fish and fought it for almost 10 minutes. Finally, he played it out and beached an 18 or 20 pound Chinook salmon. However, it was a dark fish so he quickly released it.

Suddenly, we heard someone yell above us, but heavy brush obstructed our view. Then the shouts got closer. I waded out a short distance and saw a good sized Steelhead jump, but I couldn’t see anyone on the bank playing it. I was somewhat curious until I saw an angler floating down the river with a fish on. Incredibly, he was thrashing in the water and reeling madly trying to get control of it.

My dad was concerned and yelled, “Hey fella, swim over to the bank so we can help you.”

As he floated past us, the guy was totally immersed in his quest and he shouted back, “How big is it? I know it’s gotta be at least 20 pounds!”

My dad just shook his head and said, “It’s amazing what some guys will do to try to catch a fish." For the record, this angler eventually lost the fish and fortunately didn’t drown.

A similar situation occurred on the Deschutes River. An avid fisherman had hooked a Steelhead that got hung up on a rock. After repeatedly trying to unhook the fish, he handed his rod to a friend, stripped down to his skivvies, and swam out to try and free it. The river’s current was too strong, so he swam back in to collect his wits. He was staunchly resolute, so he made another attempt. This time he successfully untangled the snag and swam back with the fish. Both the fish and this persistent angler were totally played out.

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