The only thing I miss about being a student those many years ago are the vacations. A couple weeks around Christmas, Spring Break-and don’t even get me started on the summer. Now I consider myself lucky to have the week between Xmas and New Year’s. I live for this week. So when I saw the forecast, I wasn’t daunted. “Rain with 60% chance of freezing rain.” Hmmm, sounds like winter steelheading. With only passing thoughts of how nasty Mary’s Peak might be (Hey, that’s what 4x4s and engine braking are for, right?) I threw the rest of my gear in the truck.
I picked up Rob Russell pre-dawn and he wondered how I thought conditions might be . . . . Despite being one of the best steelheaders I know, Rob hadn’t fished the Alsea much. “Perfect . . . of course, I always think it’s going to be perfect.” The drive was almost perfect, (we might have fishtailed a little), and soon enough we were slipping the boat into the waters of the Alsea River. The water was an ideal level and approaching that pefect shade of steelhead green but was just barely on the slate side of the color spectrum :
I started on the sticks as Rob fished from the front of the boat. Soon we anchored in a productive area and Rob’s float slipped under the surface in the bottom end of the run. A chrome six poundish steelhead put on an aerial display for the ages and what that fish lacked in size he more than made up for in spunk. As Rob tailed the fish, I heard him yell “native” and before I could even get a shot, the sleek steelhead was freed and on his way, hopefully to father many smolts.
With Rob having scored a fish, I grabbed my fly rod moved up front. We ran my indicator rig through all the fishy looking spots I could reach and sure enough my thingmabobber plunged under. A hatchery hen had eaten my lowly glowly. Now, I’ve heard it said that fishing isn’t a matter of life or death, it’s much more important than that and my face bears this truism out:
Hey, she wasn’t the prettiest girl at the dance but she was the one that bit me–and I am happy she did:
As the day went on, the river cleared and was a perfect shade of steelhead green. We marveled at the amount of spawing gravel, spotted plenty of redds and an elk forde and admired all the diverse fishable water this nice, intimate, productive little river offers. We hoped to stumble upon a pod of fish but that never happened. Instead, there are fish around, scattered thoughout the river.
The levels should be good through tommorrow on many coastal watersheds. If you can, seize your vacation.–KM