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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Brief Encounter

Got out to a favorite summer river with fellow dry line steelhead enthusiast Terry Robinson a couple weeks ago.  I hadn't fished with Terry in quite a while so it was great to catch up as we took turns fishing through runs.  We came to a run perfectly made for the surface fly.  After coming through some rapids, the river breaks into a pool where the flow pushes towards the far shore with a perfect seam forming where the main flow softens on the near side.  I started at the head of this run, beginning with short casts and lengthening line until I was throwing my Ambush head and about 7 strips of running line.  I would cast several feet into the choppy main flow and gently twitch my green butt skater during the swing until it settled into the soft water below me.  On each cast, my anticipation would build as I'd watch my skater coming out of the choppy flow and swinging through the seam that formed the transition between the main flow the the slower inside water.

As I got through about a third of the way through this run, as my skater was coming through that fishy seam, a steelhead came up with a slashing rise to the skater and missed the fly.  I kept twitching the fly until it settled at the hang down and closely watched my fly for any follow up attack by the steelie.  Terry was standing about even with me on shore as he waited to get in behind me as I worked further down the run.  I told Terry that I just raised a steelhead.  Terry and I watched my fly closely after I made the same cast.  As my skater came through the zone that stirred my anticipation, the steelhead came back up and erupted at the fly.  A broad flash of silver with a hint of pink was seen as my fly disappeared in the showy rise.  I felt the initial pull and gently raised my rod to remove slack and to check if the steelhead was hooked.  The steelhead gave me a couple head shakes and as I was bracing to hear a screaming Hardy Perfect on the steelhead's first run, the line snapped back into my face in a tangled mess.  As I sorted things out, I realized that my fly was missing from the end of my tippet.  I noted a small curl about where I had tied the loop knot on my skater.  I wondered if I had tightened down too hard when tying the loop knot or maybe I had a wind knot on my tippet??  I was puzzled over the quick loss of the steelhead which looked to be a broad shouldered specimen in the 12lb range.  It didn't seem that this steelhead was yet pulling hard enough to break even a weakened knot at the fly.  Perhaps it just got the right kind of leverage and flopped it's body against the tippet just after the hookup to cause the break - no matter, my questions would not bring it back.

I was so glad to be able to share in the excitement of that brief hookup with Terry as he was able to watch the whole thing unfold as I made a comeback cast to that steelhead.  Terry was at a slightly higher vantage point and he was actually able to see that the steelhead had "nosed" at the fly a couple times in the choppy flow before attacking the fly in the softer seam where it come up initially.

This brief steelhead encounter left a burning image in both mine and Terry's memories that will last at least until our next surface steelhead encounters!


  1. A great way to relive a great memory. Thanks for the post.

  2. I have to agree, those surface steelhead encounters are always memorable! Again, glad that you got to share that one with me. Let's fish again sometime.

    1. Finally registered(my days of lurking are over)! Awesome account of that surface take. Bravo!

  3. Glad to have you on here Adrian! Thanks for your comment, hope to seek surface steelhead encounters with you soon.

  4. Todd ...
    After our years of correspondence it has been with both surprise and honor to realize that a series of articles that I wrote so many years ago resulted in your finding this doorway to nature through rivers and steelhead. What is evident from the experiences that you have conveyed in this blog is that you have come to be a master in your own right -- as a tyer of patterns that fit the methods, and in the development of the mental tenacity to stick with something long enough to experience its fulfillment of spirit and its joy of experience on the more successful days. This is what sets you apart, as well as your giving of yourself and your favorite waters in honor of your friendships. Thank you for including me in your blog, and will look forward in following it progress over the months and years. Friend Bill

  5. Thanks Bill for your kind words. Your inspiration to me actually began through your articles in Dry Line Steelhead, but continues through this day by the character you role model - your kind, generous spirit, humility, and unwavering dedication to scientific study and advocacy for our wild salmonids. I have been blessed beyond measure by our ongoing correspondence and friendship as not many are able to access their most highly regarded mentors.

    I'm so glad to have you on here Bill, will look forward hearing from you any time!

    Long live the Skagit and may it continue to recover with the wonderful protection, advocacy, and support of you as a riverkeeper.

    Best Regards,