Rod: Shimano Clarus 11' 3"
Reel: Shimano Symetre 2500
The bleak days fade into one as the cold, withered hands of winter silently choke out the December daylight. Days grow short and windows of opportune moments of pursuing the "prize of the river" become fewer in between.
Today may have been God's exception with the wind lightly licking the flags flying high and the rain receding to other hillsides.
5:24 glowed on the screen of my Nokia Lumia and I struggled to keep my drooping eyelids open. After pounding down a cup of tea and shoving a few dismal looking slices of turkey bacon in my mouth, it was out the door and on the road. Since the days have been so cold lately, it's been tough sleeping at Camp Cable Hole and I've taken to shelter in a much warmer and welcoming location. Save Steelhead, I will never be able to defeat the tantalizing heat of a well stoked fire and the arms of a woman, surpassing in beautiful to a pissed off Summer Run Steelhead (who doesn't love those)? Alas, the river she beckons, a call I cannot ignore.
Upon arriving home, I could see the faint 6 o'clock glow of 30 headlamps bobbing about at Reiter Ponds like a Deadmau5 concert in Berlin. Thankfully, no anglers were in my backyard, and Cable Hole lay quietly in her cold velvet dress, unscathed by the razor sharp lines of the Steelhead Zealot. After gearing up, I decided to take the pass less traveled; it was off to my newfound pride and joy, the Wallace.
Though she isn't as lengthy, nor majestic, nor elegant, she does have a way about her that keeps the faithful few returning to her worn banks. So I stood in the welcoming sands of the Wallace, beating away at the water with my arsenal of offerings. After changing depths to no avail, I moved down to the second slot. Third cast out, I watched in disbelief as my float sank gently beneath the surface. "Must have been a rock that time" said my subconscious as I prepared for my next cast with a fine cluster of Coho eggs cured by talented angler, Brandon Berry. After forfeiting my second float under, I finally decided to raise my 11' 3" Clarus in the air and salute my opponent out of respect on he third float down. Sure enough, I was met with that butterfly feeling in the pit of my stomach, a gracefully bent rod, and a few head shakes from the one and only. He tossed, turned and rolled, but the lethargy of Winter seemed to have claimed his soul, long before raising a fin to volunteer for Reel Priorities. Though I would have loved to relinquish this chrome warrior to the depths of the rifle, my orders remained to "return with my shield, or on it." So, in plunged the blade, out came my pen and on went the mark of "Steelhead" in my catch card.
After floating though a variety of offerings in the lower slot, I prepared to leave. On the way out, I was overcome by temptation to cast the first slot; as we all know how "one more cast" works, it turned into plentiful "one more casts." Hope was waning as I would glance back at the shore to reassure myself of my angling skill, my career; the slot deserved one final presentation. As the infantryman gingerly inserts his final magazine into his carbine during the final hours of the firefight, so gently I slid onto my line the Sexy Pink 3.5" Holey Worm (thank you Brandon for bestowing me the honor of ProStaff with you guys at BnR Tackle).
No sooner than hitting the water, my float ceased to exist. 7 feet down in the slot lay an angry Winter Run patiently awaiting the right opponent . He churned the water so hard it looked like my scrambled eggs fresh out of the Magic Bullet! As if the water whirlwind wasn't enough, he proceeded to display his strength and valor with 3 valiant leaps, as I pressed the record button on my GoPro. Surely this fish was had crafted to test my angling skills; I could not have been more satisfied with his action packed aerial displays, viscerally violent head-shakes and long, deep runs this ornery creature was willing to give. As he came in on his side, we locked eyes, gasping from his last run; he resigned his life to me with that stare of defeat, knowing he gave it his all.
Not every adventure ends with such valiant Winter Warriors tugging at the end of your line, but they sure can. When the Winter Steelhead return, remember that even though the 50 anglers surrounding you may not be bagging them, there are always fish in the hole and willing to bite. Present correctly with something they want, and they just might oblige your invitation to meet your family with a view from your dinner plate.