The older I get the more I see connections between fishing and life in general.  One thing that I have reflected upon a lot lately is how so many things in life are completely based upon the relativity of the situation.  What constitutes “good fishing” or a “good fish” can be based so much upon the circumstances.  A 20″ ‘bow in one river might be considered a monster, while in another river, that same fish would be considered an average fish.  I’ve found the same to be true with my schooling.  English and writing have always been a strong point for me.  On the other hand, science has been difficult for me to be proficient in since high school.  A couple weeks ago I had a big paper due for English class that would be worth a hefty portion of the final grade.  Yesterday the paper was returned and I was excited to see the number 95% written on the top, indicating that I had earned a solid “A”.  I also had an important test to take yesterday that would determine to a large extent what my final grade would be in one of my science classes.  I studied hard, but as usual felt that it was arbitrary and in the end my efforts would not be reflected in the score I received.  As I exited the testing center and looked up at the score board, I was relieved to see the number 76% next to my identification number.  I was caught off guard by what was now the highest score I had earned on a test in this class.  In fact, I was even more excited to see that number 76% up on the board that I was to see the 95% that was written on the top of my English paper.  On the other hand, if I had received a 76% on my English paper, I would have been very disappointed.  It all comes back to relativity.  I recently made this connection while on a steel steelheading trip.

Two Papers Down…One more to Go

Steelhead fishing is not something that I am very familiar with and I have not done a lot of it.  Most of my experience fishing for steelhead has consisted of waiting for the hatchery truck to show up at the Boise River and then immediately trying to catch them when they are dumped in.  It doesn’t take much of the skill that is necessary for catching steelhead in their natural habitat.  Needless to say, I was excited to go chase steelhead in the Salmon River when the opportunity presented itself last week.

My First Steelhead…Courtesy of IDFG planting them in the Boise River

I have often heard steelhead referred to as the fish of a thousand casts.  This was definitely the case for me last week.  Right now the steelhead are holding in deep water, and that makes fly fishing for them rather challenging.  Drift fishing was the way to go, and it was a totally foreign way of fishing to me.  Chris knows his stuff when it comes to drift fishing for steelhead and he picked up a couple of nice fish at the first hole we tried.  As the day went on he picked up a couple more as well.

Getting the Skunk Off

Chris with a Beautiful Wild Steelhead

A few hours had gone by and I hadn’t even had as much as a bump (at least that I knew of).  I continued to break off and was becoming a little bit frustrated with having to retie the rig so often.  I decided I would go back to what I know how to do, even if it wasn’t the best method, so I busted out the fly rod and set up a nymph rig that would ride along the bottom of the river.  The particular run we were fishing had a nice shelf at the top of the run, before dropping down in to a deeper pool.  I began covering the run and  a few minutes later my bobber stopped moved and I had finally hooked into my first fish of the day.  The fish made a few good runs and with the help of Chris I was able to land my first and only steelhead of the trip.

Another Fish That Fell for the Glo Bug

The small hen was pushing 22″, a dinky steelhead in anyones book, and definitely not much of a fish to brag about, but I was pretty dang excited.  I never did pick up any more steelhead, but I was 100% content with the fish I did catch.  It all comes down to the experience.  I know places that I can go and catch 20″-24″  trout that are much closer to home than Salmon, Idaho.  In fact, my chances are probably greater at those rivers than they are chasing steelhead in the Salmon River.  With that said, it is amazing to catch a fish that traveled all the way down to the ocean, lived there for a year or two, and then traveled all the way back up river to its native spawning grounds in Idaho.  What an incredible fish to be able to catch.  There is something special about chasing steelhead that you don’t get from your average run of the mill fishing trip.  It’s a humbling experience and makes you appreciate every fish you catch.  In most situations, I would not consider a one fish day very successful at all, but when going after steelhead for the first time in years, I considered the trip a great success.

A Face Only A Mother Could Love

A couple of days ago I headed out in search of some more dry fly action.  It was supposed to get pretty warm in the afternoon and I figured some more caddis would be going off.  I got to the river around 11:00 AM and didn’t see very many bugs flying around and I didn’t see any fish up top.  I started off nymphing with a stonefly nymph and a Glo bug.  I picked up the first fish of the day pretty quickly.  A healthy and wild rainbow trout.  This one had spots everywhere!

Egg Eating Rainbow Trout

I continued fishing the same spot for another 45 minutes or so and picked up a few more fish, mostly on the egg pattern but occasionally on the stonefly nymph.

Rainbow Trout Love Stonefly Nymphs!

This Little Rainbow Still Has His Parr Marks

I decided it was time to move and worked up river to a spot I hadn’t been to for nearly a year.  I continued to catch quite a few fish for the next couple of hours and finally hooked into a brown trout.  All I had been catching up to that point was rainbows and whitefish.

An Egg Eating Brown Trout

Close up

I continued to work my way up river and got into a flat where the suckers were spawning.  Sucker fish sure are ugly but they put up a pretty good fight compared to little trout I had been catching.  I think they fall into the category of, “Having a face only a mother could love”.  However, they do have some pretty cool looking eyes, full of different colors.  If only they would fight like a carp, then they might be worth chasing!

A Face Only a Mother Could Love

Crazy Eyes

It was finally starting to warm up a little and some caddis were starting to come off fairly regularly.  Eventually a few fish started rising as well.  I decided it was time to head back down to some good dry fly water.  As I worked my way back downriver I noticed more and more fish rising with the further I got downstream.  I decided it was time to switch to a dry set up.  I put on a stimulator and dropped a little olive elk hair caddis off the back of it.  I started picking up feisty little rainbows pretty quickly.

An Average Rainbow Trout for the Day

I continued to work my way downriver and picked up fish the whole way.  Most took the Elk Hair Caddis but there was also and occasional taker on the Stimulator.  Eventually it started to get really windy.  The fish were still rising  but it became extremely difficult to get my fly out to where they were.  It was another great day out on the water.

The Star Valley Trout Ranch

Recently I had the great opportunity to go and fish a private fishing ranch over in the Star Valley, Wyoming area.  The ranch is located in Idaho but you have to travel over to Wyoming and the drive back in to Idaho.  To say the least, the fishing was phenomenal.  I landed over 40 fish and they all averaged around 17″ with some pushing 30″ or bigger.  Most of the fish were caught on egg patterns and san juan worms and it was all sight fishing.  The pictures tell the story much better than I ever could.  I can’t wait to make my way back over again!