Snow covers the landscape on this wintry morn. I lip balm the fly line and guides for the early freeze though the weatherman promises high 30’s for noon time. It is a bit enjoyable hearing birds chirping this morn instead of just the wind howling in the dead of winter. I start down the path and hardened snow footprints cover the trail to the creek from days before. I stop momentarily to look over the ledge and the steel are lazily holding in the current, just as I left them the night before. I continue down the trail and cross the rocky shallow water to the far snow covered bank. I cautiously make my way upstream as my cleated wading boots keep me from sliding on the shale and stony creek bottom. On the other side of the deadfall I lay my sling pack on the bank. From the bugger barn fly box I take out a selection of Triple Threats and hook them onto my wool fly patch. I select a scantly tied Ghost Pattern and knot this to a lengthy piece of 5x fluorocarbon. After attaching an indicator 15” to 18” above the streamer I look around and enjoy the scenery before my first cast.
On my second cast the indicator stops as my fly line continues on in a bigger curve. I lift gently but the indicator doesn’t move towards me, so I yank and set the hook. This is when the surface water erupts like an underwater geyser of escaping pressure. The morning silence is broken when a silver head breaks the surface and the water churns like a blender full of ice and Pina Colada mix on high speed. I tighten my grip on the bent fly rod and hold on as if holding the reins of a bucking bronco. The steel shakes its head and twists like trying to throw a rider off its back. After it bucks some more it takes off up creek. I can feel its head tugging at the rod pressure as it swims. I move the rod with the direction of the fish as I stand in the shin deep water. As the rod flexes deeper I let tensioned line slip through my cold fingers and it slowly peels off the spool. My right wrist tightens trying to keep the rod tip up, under the pressure, to keep as much line off the water as possible. She turns with a swoop towards the far bank and then heads down creek. I let more line out before reaching down and turning the drag knob a little tighter. She holds down creek facing into the current and gives a few sharp jerks. With both hands I move the rod down creek at an angle and pull towards my side of the bank. She follows grudgingly and I reel in some line. Now with her below I arc the rod upstream and she gives a few head shakes before hesitantly following the pressure. Tightening the drag a bit more I let her battle beneath as her energy becomes exhausted enough to get her nearer to me. As she comes closer I back up to the stony bank. Pulling her to the bank is like pulling on a wet sunken tarp cover. Her sides gleam of chrome as I reach down to unhook her. In a fit of rage she swings around after I unhook her and gets herself upright in the shallow water. I watch as she escapes out into the deep.
After my hands warm I’m anxious for a rewarding smoke. I take out a Miraflor New Blend Habana, clip off a bit of the cap and light the end of the barrel. Under the sunshine I enjoy the fresh smooth smoke.
I’m beginning to wander if I should move down creek but decide to stay put. I have plenty of fish in front of me but they don’t seem to be too hungry. I recall someone saying ’goldfish’ are good bait. Though they are not allowed to be used for bait here in Pennsylvania a gold imitation might be something the fish haven’t seen and cause curiosity. After knotting on a gold/orange Triple Threat I begin to tease the ’herd’. One takes it and after the hook set, puts up a good head slashing, bronco bucking ride. I get her tame enough and bring her to shore for a good face and streamer picture!
Around 2:30pm I notice the fish are getting restless and are actively moving around. I notice a few fish move upstream from the shallows below. I put a little more movement on the Triple Threat, by twitching the rod tip, and am rewarded with a couple more hook ups.
As the sun starts to descend beyond the tree line the air becomes colder. I pull up my fleece collar and zippen up my heavy coat. I cup my hands and light up my last stogie, a Bahia short Churchill, my favorite everyday inexpensive stogie.
I decide to attach the indicator again and knot on an ‘Olive Back’ Triple Threat a foot and a half or so below. I move up creek, cast out and across, and let the ’Olive Back’ skirt the bottom. The indicator twitches momentarily so I pull up on the rod quickly and all hell breaks loose. The steelhead shoots up creek like a scared mustang, pauses with a few headshakes as If trying to loosen a bridle, and than continues on with power. The line peels off the spool as I palm the rim. I think maybe it’s a foul hooked fish but as it rises to the surface I see the line pulling from its mouth and the shiny chrome side tells me this is a fresher fish than the others. She darts down in front of me than torpedoes down creek in a direct straight course. I keep leverage on the rod with the butt in my stomach with my right hand holding the upper most part of the cork handle. My left fingers hold the tension until I feel too much strain and I have to let more line slip through them and in turn line peels off the spinning spool. The long length of fly line stretches out into the shallower water which lets me know the whereabouts of the chromer. She starts to swim towards my side of the creek and I quickly reel in some line. She holds up beneath the tree branches, as the other did, which gives me time to adjust the drag a bit firmer. With a tug of the rod tip section she reacts with a couple of side swiping tail slashes and heads out towards the middle and than pushes upstream again. Again line peels off the spool until she slows from the upper rod and drag pressure. The long length of yellow line, extending from my rod tip, looks like a thin clothes line that has fallen into the water beyond. I wade up creek and get her coming closer. She gives me a couple of last ’I’m not giving up yet’ escape attempts but soon succumbs to my persistence in getting her tamed and to the bank. The Triple Threat is hooked into her jaw so I nip the tippet and get the hook out as quick as possible.
All in all it’s been a good 2 and half days of steelhead fishing. I have no complaints breaking steel into tame Salmonoids.