Monday, January 9, 2017

Chances are good

Adventure ain't what it used to be.

That first trip to the Salmon we played how many can we catch. We’d get lazy and stretch out in warm November sun after tangling with another nature-defying steelhead.

It wasn’t meant to happen again, but exceptional years became normal. Another year followed when the river was all ours and we lost count of monotonous ten pounders, each as pristine as the wildest salmon, and twice the fight.

These steelhead made us dream of going back; to thinking well of six hours straight
along 90 West; looking forward to staying at Roger’s place; rising before December dawns to all that inevitable weather.

Until they weren’t there.
Steelhead numbers have fallen away in recent years and now we’ve got cold feet. Adventure is taking a backseat because the catching isn’t the way it was. We’d have to fish all day for no takes, maybe only one chance for the hero shot the whole trip. Those odds aren’t good, so there’s no need to long for something we never thought attainable.

It’s easier this way.  

Going now would be “like real steelheading is meant to be”, and we’d still have everything else – pretend cabin comforts, friends distracted from work, the whiskey and music, and likely more rested river than ever before. We’d have to work for a fish, to hunt the river like we always wanted to before all those fish spoiled us.

Chances are good the rewards would be greater now than ever before.


PS. I wrote this to highlight what, to my mind at least, seems like an imbalance between what I've come to expect and what I actually always wanted. Multiple fish days are great, but I got to asking myself whether they have dented my sense of adventure, and the greater satisfaction of attaining something that is harder to come by. Mostly it's my own reminder to go and find out, to put in more time exploring the river for the chance of a fish that deserves our effort, rather than waiting to see what will happen.


  1. I think the trio lost its sense of adventure when you started bringing your own food. Nothing says adventure like third-string pizza, syrupy wings and a Budweiser.

  2. If you're gonna get up at 5.34am you'd better be going steelheading.

  3. Sometimes we get spoiled when we are introduced to a fishery when it's at its peak. There is a certain deep lake in NWCT that I fell in love with at the tail-end of a great time for big brown trout. Then zebra mussels exploded, the alewife population crashed, and the brown trout starved to death. But for a few years there, it was amazing and I'm glad I was part of it. Fisheries are cyclical. Like that deep lake, the SRNY will have it's day in the sun again. But your point is well taken. Nice post.

    1. Thanks K. And good thoughts. The question I'm pondering (and quite possibly a personal one for all of us), is whether to wait for that day in the sun to happen again - in effect staying away from the river - or roll with the hard times and keep going for the sake of fishing. Am I a fair weather fisherman? Does my love for my soccer team wane when they're not winning? Humans are cyclical too, it seems.

      It may have just been hypothermia, but a wise friend of ours said to me last night that there are layers to all this, and again they're all personal. If we don't go fishing because we know the catching stinks, are we actually anglers? Or is it more a "cost-benefit" decision to optimize rationed time and resources? Probably.

      It's interesting to me that, at 46 years on the clock, I'm still grappling with the cyclical transition from my younger days, when I did nothing but fish my local river 7 days a week all summer long.

  4. Yup. Salton Sea deep in the California desert. Orangemouth corvina 10 lbs on big flies in the most surreal place I've ever fished. I got in the year before it crashed. One great season, a single fish the next...and then they went extinct.