The river was deserted.........
I was alone with my thoughts and the unmistakeable beauty that surrounded me. There is no other place on earth like this place. The colors of fall were all around and it was a visual circus for my eyes. Big leaf maple leaves the size of my truck steering wheel were falling all around me like over sized snowflakes on a winters day. It was quiet, eerily quiet. To have this entire river to myself was a treat to be sure. I lazily fished where I wanted. The only goal today was to enjoy this fall wonderland,fish a few runs and head on up the road. I was just passing through on my way home from a work road trip and had a limited window.
I went to high dollar spots and I was rewarded handsomely for my efforts. The first money spot I fished looked good. As I watched my fly disappear and start to probe a submerged ledge, it felt fishy. As the line tightened and started to swing out from under the ledge the line stopped. The new mantra that my buddy Tony has been using and beating into my head is "10ft or 10 seconds" Wait till the fish pulls 10 feet off the reel or let him chew on it for 10 seconds then slam the door. It's a good one to remember and it works.The first option was the one the fish decided to employ and 10 feet quickly melted into 75 as the fish tore out of there in a flash. I could see the fish rolling and tussling at 100 feet and there was no doubt this was a Nostril fish. BIG and BRIGHT and fighting like Frazier kicking Ali's butt in their first meeting. I stuck 3 fingers into the spool of my 4 inch Sharpe's Gordon to try and slow this big boy down. He used every inch of the ring and had me on the ropes a couple times. After he hung my line on a midstream boulder I thought I was done. The line pinned in a crack the fish rolling and tumbling and thrashing the surface. Then without any reason whatsoever he comes loose of the rock and swims back around to fight freely once again. More runs and more digits into the Gordon. A seesaw battle ensues. A classic big buck fight. I have a low rod angle and I start to tire the almost 3 ft long fish. The runs are getting shorter but there is still no way to stop him when he goes. Finally I get him in front of me and I can see his entire body just under the surface. This is one of the elusive Nostril fish, I can clearly see the enlarged nostrils and gator mouth of this impressive male. I can't swing him in to me and he fins in the current just out of reach giving me no quarter. I stare into his eyes and connect with him on a level that can't be explained. This wild creature has given me a memorable fight and I don't even care if I land him at this point. Almost on cue, the hook pulls free and he sinks back into the depths of the pool with a flick of his massive tail. "WOW!, that was cool"! I say to no one in particular. I stand stunned at what has just transpired. After hundreds of steelhead over the last 27 years, the fish that I just hooked was as nice as any I have ever encountered. Just an absolutely gorgeous,big and bright fish that did exactly what he was supposed to. It just never gets old.
The second fish was a gem as well and as is always the case in this game, a total surprise.A last pool first cast fish.I get just enough line out to actually turn a fly over and flop it out there. It swings about 15 feet and the line comes tight. Again the 10 foot rule is chosen by the fish and as she tries to leave the park I lift the rod firmly and set the hook in place. Another battle with a beauty of a hen in the 8 lb range. This fight is much quicker but no less spirited. I slow the old Gordon down again with a combination of fingers in the spool and line tensioned against the cork. I love the old reels and this one is definitely not for a beginner. The spring is worn and it has just enough tension to not over run but it is a real free willy kind of reel. I love it. Adds an element of danger if you know what I mean. The fish tires after a quick 2 or so minute battle and I slide her in for a quick picture, leaving this girl in the water. She splashes me with water as she swims strongly away. I feel blessed to have been able to encounter a couple fish on this fall day, each one a gift.