Since I live right in the middle of lots of fishing opportunities, this didn’t take a lot of effort. My first trip of the year was to a tiny stream within a couple of miles of my hometown of Astoria, Oregon. The river I had been fishing for steelhead, with very little luck, was a nice mid-sized piece of water some 60 feet wide. My new conquest was much smaller, rarely more that 20 feet from bank to bank. I had heard some good reports of early fish and collected my gear for the change.
I had been using a couple of rods 9 to 10 feet in length, suitable for covering the whole width of the bigger river, and with lots of play for fast-moving waters. My new stream was pretty brushy, so I grabbed a little six-foot spinning rod, coupled it with a Christmas-fresh spinning reel, grabbed my vest, and headed for the stream.
As I wove my way through the blackberries, I was pretty happy that I had chosen the shorter rod. A long rod works great in open waters, but this stream had a lot of overhanging branches as well as a lot of brush streamside, and the smaller version was much easier to keep out of the clutches of salmonberry, alder and vinemaple. It was easier to walk along the trails to the stream, and much better for casting under trees and bushes.
The night’s rains had put a lot of energy into the little waterway, filling the banks and muddying up the waters, but the weather was starting to clear a bit, offering a foot and a half of visibility. Hopefully the steelheads working their way to the spawning gravels would be able to see my pink corkie, dressed with a touch of orange yarn. I passed a half- dozen anglers, and none reported any action, but the clearing waters might bring a little window of opportunity. I fished a couple of small runs, fast water working under an overhanging bank. I managed to snag a few times on the rocks and roots; I’d forgotten how much gear I used to lose on this stream!
Hiking downstream, I cast my offerings into a bigger hole. I tried to get my little lure down near the bottom. The boiling waters made it a challenge to work a lure down near the fish, so I switched to the smoother run created as the water left the hole for the rapids below. On my third or fourth cast, a scaly critter picked up my corkie and yarn, the rod tip dipped, and I set the hook. The fish swirled and headed downstream. I followed, stumbling on the moss-slickened rocks.
The fish paused for a moment, then shook its head and took off downstream. In that moment of panic, I wondered if my drag was set light enough. The new reel had just been filled with fresh line and I was not so sure that I had checked to see if it was loose enough to readily feed out line.
I reached for the drag just as my little rod bent double. Too late! I felt the tension go out of my rod and my line went slack. Reeling in, I saw that my line had parted just below the swivel; my eight-pound test had proven too light to resist the fleeing steelie. What an idiot I was! I hate losing fish, especially when it’s my fault.
I had gotten used to the longer rods being able to take the stress of a fleeing fish. With the shorter pole, I needed to set the drag much lighter. It was a new reel, new line and a new stream, and I looking for every excuse in the book!! Unfortunately the reason the fish was swimming away instead of going on my stringer was angler error. Second on my list of resolutions, right behind the one that resolved to try new waters, was the commitment to be more careful with my tackle! A couple of months ago, I told you about my trip to the Loomis factory to load up on new rods. Well even those jewels won’t save you if you don’t take the time to check all the parts of your outfit to make sure they work well together!
After another hour or so of effort, I finally called it a day and headed back toward the truck. As I took off my hip boots and put away my gear, a couple of fishermen walked by.
“Not much chance of getting a steelhead today, was there?” one of them offered.
“Not the way I fish,” I mumbled sheepishly.
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Bob Ellsberg’s column, Fishin’, appears monthly in RV Life and rvlife.comResearch Campgrounds, Plan RV Safe Routes & Turn your phone into an RV GPS.
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