Did anyone else freeze their #$%^&s off Saturday? The forecast looked grim, for sure. But that did not adequately prepare us, we westward-traveling hoard of winter steelheaders, for the mayhem about to ensue. Obstacle number one: snow and ice storms. Complete with booming thunder and lightning. Several waves of these weather cells sporadically dropped piles of white stuff in various spots from just before daylight until…well, pretty much for the whole day. The early-morning stuff stuck nicely on the roads and caught many motorists off their guard. By the time Jason and I cruised by, the cops were working out how to get all these rigs out of creeks, ditches and cow fields. We got creeped out by the one down in the creek. Slowed to a crawl and changed the subject.
As we were busy feeling smart for having slept in a little, I went to call in our shuttle and the phone was dead. Jason’s too. We drove into the nearest town and confirmed. Verizon’s tower had been blasted by lightning at around 8:30. Time to drive over and see our shuttle man in person. This was stealing valuable fishing time, and we cringed at the thought, but bombed over to the guy’s house and left a note. Then we bombed back to the river, almost an hour after we had first arrived. At this point our only consolation is that we’re SO late we shouldn’t see too many people, since they’re all racing each other down the river, right? But you can guess what happened next. Our presence pushed a lingering boat down river and out of sight, and another boat launched with us. Now we could be assured there was, in fact, zero chance if finding rested fish for hours, if at all. And then the sky went dark, and ice began pelting our heads and filling up the boat.
It was a tough start to what would be a cold, wet, classic day of winter steelheading. At the peak of one storm, Jason landed a perfect wild buck. There was barely enough light to get the shot. Later that day we had some excitement when a chrome chinook porpoised in our swing zone. We frothed it up, but no dice.
That night we warmed ourselves watching a ball game, wolfing down oven-roasted oysters and chugging icy PBRs. That counts as three food groups of you count the Tabasco.
In other news, Ethan and I ran across a whole bar full of Santas! We partied down with the Santas, one of whom bought us a Daddy-sized pitcher of Jubel. Thanks Santa! I want you to know that these were all North Coast Santas. No city Santas. They bestowed good luck upon us, whereby we enjoyed remarkable steelheading the following day. After a prolonged and painful hangover.
Merry Christmas, steel lovers! See you on the water…