On Saturday I went to the North Pole and shot a polar bear. This is how my young son described my recent steelhead trip to Pulaski to his teacher, who felt the need to check with his mother, just to make sure. This theme is not going to percolate throughout or reappear at the end of this post. I just want to mention the effect that a visit to Cabelas, and a father's fishing trip, can have on a young mind.
The banks of the Salmon River in Pulaski are covered in shit. Balls of nylon, hooks everywhere, polystyrene cups, pink rubber worms. Most of the rocks on the riverbed are scarred not by ice or saltation, one of two terms (drumlins the other) I now recall from geography class, but by Corkers and carbide boot studs. You're as likely to get hung up on someone's lost rig as you are a rock. At some point this past weekend, Steve Z and I wandered into a conversation about what the fish must think of the riverbed littered with sinkers and other dense junk.
Sunday was a bust, but the fishing was nice. Zakur and I fished the runs behind the place, while Todd and the other Steve walked north. Fish weren't in the usual places and a man from Korea said that four week's ago you could walk across them. A bastard, that. Still, with a morning cigar to take away the taste of plastic breakfast, and Zakur's JetBoil for real coffee by the river, we were quite happy. That day I hooked two steelhead, one of which I fought for a while, and foul hooked a large brown. Across the party our numbers were very low, but the weather was warm.
Monday was a great day. We'd walked into the place where it all went right in 2010 and found it packed with anglers. But fish were said to be holding in the transition water, whatever that is, so we walked and found room at the top of Bob's Honey Hole. It was in the mid-60s and the fish began to bite late morning and kept our interest until dusk. I hooked 8 fish and was lucky to land two.
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Pulaski is the most beautiful place on earth and I want to live there. It has everything I need. The first steelhead went about 7 or 8 pounds. It jumped, ran, and pulled hard. I played it gently down the run and into the belly of the pool as other gentlemen stepped aside to let us pass. At some point I realized I was still connected to the fish (this hadn't happened last year), and I saw the top portion of its spotted tail emerge from the water a good distance behind my line. Z was the perfect partner with me all the way with the landing glove and camera on hand.
Among the other fish I hooked and lost that day I remember one. I hooked it at the top of a fast funnel of water and it turned downstream and took my whole fly line with it in no more than four seconds. It jumped twice and was big. I remember setting my drag tight but I'm coming to realize that the pull I give my line to test it just isn't enough. Many of the steelhead you hook on the Salmon are wonderfully un-catchable.
Later that day I landed a better fish that was going on 12 pounds, give or take. It was a carbon copy of the first, though I noticed I'd gotten better at playing them, adding side-strain and the like. Its tail was even further from the fly and my legs were shaking the way they do when you're in trouble. I also have a fond memory of two grown men trying to contain that fish in the shallows. And ultimately failing.
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The last day it was gray and 36 degrees. We got to the river at 6.30am; the same pool as the day before, obviously. Two men picked up their pace to ensure they beat us to the better runs. I hooked and landed a brown of about 3 or 4 pounds; an otherwise glass case specimen that I dragged in with little ceremony. The boys below reported slow going. At 10.15am some cigars and coffee were taken streamside. We would give it another 15 minutes then end the trip. We re-entered the water and on the first cast I hooked a fine steelhead, which I was able to play down once more to the belly of the pool, where Zakur gloved it. I wish it'd been his. It was around 6 or so pounds and quite the most perfect looking thing you’d ever dream to catch.
|Just another 15 minutes|