I had a chance to get to Erie for steelhead earlier than usual. It wasn’t a banner day by any means but going 3 for 5 on Saturday got my juices pumping and excited about this years season.
When the indicator goes under you rear back with more than a wrist set. You hold on tight like holding onto the roller coaster safety rail in front of you. From the second you set the hook and feel the tension you have no idea how long the excitement will last. Maybe it will be a quick break and you’re left with a cheap thrill. Maybe he’ll fight long enough that you think you got control but somehow he disconnects and the land line falls silent. You don’t know whether to be happy that you at least got the feel of a fight or depressed because you didn’t land him.
I’m not talking about steelhead that has been in the creeks for months that lost most of their forceful fight and stamina. I’m talking chrome, fresh steelhead right from the lake within days. The chrome fish with powerful thrusts, whip lashing head thwarts and stamina that never seems to exhaust.
The second I lifted the rod to set the hook and felt resistance I knew I had fresh chrome. I could feel his shaking thrusts before he bolted away. As I gripped the cork handle tighter and the reel started to scream I was excited. Than, upstream, the sight of the steelhead burst upward out of the water. Water splashed from its body and his chrome sides shimmered in wetness from the rays of sunshine. He reentered the water only to quickly propel himself skyward again. It was if he was showboating when he whipped his twisting body around before the splash down. The line tightened again as the rod flexed down creek this time with the speeding run. Once again the steelhead exited the water surface. I was afraid this would be the last I seen of him. I noticed the orange, golden sucker spawn imitation, my top fly of my tandem set up, vibrating while following the air born fish. He fell back into the water with a barreling splash and continued to struggle down creek. With 5x fluorocarbon, that’s around 4.8 pound test, I didn’t want to overstress the tippet strength. Since the fresh steelhead didn’t want to give up just yet I got out of the water and followed him down stream. I got to where I was able to put more side pressure on him. He turned towards the far side where logs jammed along the bank. I gripped the rod tightly and leveled it to the water tugging upstream. He subsided and started to reluctantly fight towards me. Nearer me he desperately tried to make a run for it but his stamina was exhausting. The acrobatic chromer was the 2nd of three I landed thus far.
The last strike and hook set was nearer to me. He raised from the bottom of the tinted water enough I was able to see him. I watched as he forcefully whiplashes his body trying to release the stonefly attached to the side of his mouth. I needn’t call out ‘fish on’ as the subsurface struggle created a sounding turbulence upon the water that all turned to see the commotion. The thick steelhead than cut through the water away from me and propelled his body up through the surface. With a big splash the chromer reentered the water and shot up creek.
“Coming right” I called out alerting those fishing up creek.
The rod flexed more and my arm muscles tightened as I clinched the cigar tighter between my teeth. I tried to hold the rod high trying to keep as much line out of the water as possible. Palming the reel he slowed and turned down creek towards my direction. In the shallow water, in front of me, we played challenging games. The closer I got him to the bank; time and again he’d turn, thrusting his silvery body away from me. I kept the line taunt and rod bent trying to turn him each time. It took patience but I finally got him within my grasp and lifted him to shore.
After that it was time to meet up with my friends and fish the lake.
We didn’t catch any at the lake but the steelhead I caught earlier made my September sample of fresh chrome satisfying.
Around 2:00 in the morning I awoke with aching arthritic fingers. My right shoulder was sore from casting buggers into the wind at the lake. The inside of my right elbow was sore as well as my arm muscles. The fighting of fresh chrome had taken its toll. I took two pain relief tablets and laid there conjuring up the fighting of each steelhead before falling back asleep.