Time: 07:00
River: Skykomish
Rod: Shimano Clarus 9' 6"
Reel: Shimano Symetre 2500

When passion turns into profession, it seems as if the former fades to the liking of a lone ember shivering in a bed of morning ashes. It is a regal thing -after 7 consecutive days of rising early in the morning, treading the old haunts and watching my clients go from zero to hero- that I find myself rising yet again to celebrate the same tradition. Tasting the crisp morning dew exclusively distilled by the Pacific Northwest while watching the sun's whisper-like glow emanate behind the far hillside never loses it's potency. While the majority begin their mornings listening to NPR, sipping a hot cup of Joe, skirmishing traffic to visit a location they are so keen to leave upon arrival, Mastro and I had the privilege of beginning the day chasing missing adipose fins.

The upper slots on the Skykomish looked like a good place to watch two floats bob and weave through the seams; off fired the pistol and the subsequent beating of the virgin-air with our fishing rods. Lady Luck usually makes an appearance within the first 3 casts of the day; today she was tardy. Mastro and I changed leader material, swapped colors, scents, chanted, danced and traveled water at a pace comparable to the plucking speed of a backwoods banjo player. The Steelhead were tucked cozily in the depressions of the river bed, under liquid sheets of silk. Defiant, they declined participation in the age-old game of "first light bite."

After stumbling through the first 4 slots, we came upon one I mentioned how "in days past it had been of lower priority." I watched from the sidelines as Mastro sailed out a cast. The equation every angler loves is this: one cast plus one float down equals one fish to the bank. And if life were so simple, we would be such dull creatures. I've never seen one of my floats explode, but this Steelhead accosted that 20 gram DNE float with such vehemence, it wouldn't have surprised me if it did. He ran straight for the cerulean colored waters of the deep, audaciously wagging his head. Watching the rod wave angrily back and forth while a fish nods holds unique reward in itself. Running to the surface, he faked a few well planned aerial attempts, gracing my GoPro with some mouth-watering overhead footage. Alas the white flag of surrender was summoned. Though dark, it was a dinner plate worthy Winter Run Buck.

It is a memorable day when a fisherman evolves into an angler, and when an angler relinquishes the life of a Steelhead back to nature. The next step is taking a limit of Steelhead, away from the confines of the hatchery. After punching the heart and marking his catch card, another cast was delivered to the same slot. Sure as daybreak, his float disappeared again! A more perfect hook set on the float, I have seldom seen. Like a predictable motion picture, a chrome flash appeared beneath the surface, and his 9'6" Shimano Clarus saluted it's opponent with a top heavy bow. Several minutes later -after a few fantastic aerial displays- the blinding sheet of bio-metal lay gasping for breath, flopping along the stones of the river bank.

There aren't many days when I'm out gunned and overrun in the world of river fishing; I could not have been more pleased with the outcome today. What a treat it was watching my past client and new friend, reeling in his first brace of Steelhead, on jigs he tied, with the imparted skill he practived. There is nothing that fulfills me more than watching a student of mine take their tools, make them their own and run with them. Living and guiding in a world super-saturated with the "Steelhead Elitist" attitude, it takes humility by the riverside to remind me what brought me here in the first place. Are we not all casting our lines to accrue; life changing memories; friends who stick closer than Sea Lice and to learn lessons in nature that we're too hard-headed to learn in our daily lives? Truth be told, putting some Winter Chrome to the bank always fuels the cause.

As the number of returning Steelhead dwindles and the vodka-like water wires their jaws tighter than a vice grip, there are still fish to be had. When you grow weary of your learning curve altogether, give me a call; many taught lines, bent rods and trophy smiles lie ahead this winter season, if you want them to. Reel Priorities, out.