Cola

Time: 04:00
River: Skykomish
Reel: Pflueger Trion 30
Rod: Okuma Celilo 9' 6"

You're out camping; dusk has just settled in. Darkness engulfs your clenched fist, as you stare deeply into the embers of the fire; little do you know how deeply they emblazon this sacred time upon the tablet of your soul, for your lifetime to come. You know your inability to close your eyes and sleep is inherent, but you still go through the motions as if some supernatural force has bound you to this ritual.

The morning will yawn and the sun will begin the creep above the horizon in two hours. Your eyelids stick to the surface of your eyeballs, like the wet sand residual that's glued to your Simms Waders, after a day well earned on the river. Pushing back the overwhelming desire to slip back into your dreams aquatic, like a float slipping silently beneath the surface, you find yourself standing, two lug soles in the sand and embracing the crisp morning air. The river she beckons, and her call you have answered; congratulations, you have completed step one.

No, this is not the preface to some Steelhead "choose your path" novel that you read during the first 3 hours of your job at Desk Jockey University. No, you cannot have my free Chipotle Burrito Card (Thank you, Maria of Redmond Chipotle) that will sustain my river-worn body. Yes my friends, this is my day off; carefree, relaxing, quenching to an angling-thirsty soul.

It began this morning with an Olympic sprint down the winding trail to my official backyard on August 2nd (I've been offered the privilege of calling the cabin behind my favorite fishing hole, "home"). 23 "first" casts, fluttering one of Todd's 50/50 Rvrfsher Spoons through the head and tail of the pool produced no strikes; what discipline it must take for a lethargic fish to disregard a twisted piece of metal, buzzing past it's head at an unholy hour. So off I went, a few hundred yards upstream. Upon arrival to the end of the line, I decided to splice on a float, sit down on the shore, prop up against a rock and take a Reel Priorities nap; Sometimes I find it crucial to sit down, take a look around and reflect upon the purpose and path that lay ahead.

Energy reserves restored, I set out downriver and worked every seam, riffle and pocket with my homemade bead jig and Mottled Trout Bead dropper, all to no avail. One thing I notice during the early portions of the Steelhead season is how uncooperative Steelhead are to the "egg" underneath the float. Some will, some won't, so what, next riffle.

Upon reaching my starting destination, my fishing instinct signaled it was the time to lay down cover first with drift gear. So on went the chartreuse bead tipped with sugar-cured shrimp, and *chomp* came the first bite from an ornery Steelhead. 9 casts and 9 snags in a row later (casting, rigging and re-baiting sucked up an inordinate amount of time) it was time to re-splice the white DNE, 20 gram float.

My second cast out on the edge of the riffle, armed with a hematite bead weighted chunk of Prawn, White DNE 20 gram dove beneath the surface; I always arise to the occasion of punching a number two size hook through the lip of a volunteer Steelhead.

He immediately ran towards the current with gale-force speed, head-shaking and whirling around like the prop of a Cessna 172. Desperation soon set in, and "Prawn-philic" ran right into the shoreline; thankfully, Reel Priorities does not succumb to the allure of the "early game changer," where 90% of anglers lose their wits to a thrashing Steelhead. After sending a few shocks down the line and hurling my body off of my boulder high vantage point, I was able to "pull" the remaining 3 runs from this Native fish; in retrospect, it looks like a poorly clipped, Hatchery Steelhead, which now makes sense do to it's inherent style of fighting, pathetically small Adipose fin and elongated head semblance it's Skamania strain cousins. A feeble attempt to break the leader by running through my legs and the second water swing landing attempt later, "Prawn-philic" lay dumbfounded on it's side, gasping for oxygen, peduncle (tail wrist) clenched tightly between the thumb and index finger of my landing hand (left side).

Today was one of perseverance, relentless pursuit and mutual respect, a day not well received by the faint of heart. Wen you're able to consistently pull a Steelhead or two, in face of dwindling conditions, you accrue a mutually feeling of respect for the 1% of Steelhead that survived the one-salt, 3 year return journey of life.

Never forsake that last cast, because more often than not, you're only an inch away from your next adrenaline release; you've already weathered mile marker 39 of 40. Forget patience; resilience is a virtue.