Have fish will travel

Why you need not travel farther for steelhead.

Why you need not travel farther for steelhead.

Why do so many people spend thousands of dollars to go all the way to the Skeena system and Alaska to catch steelhead? What is the big deal up there? Is it that we’ve screwed up our fisheries so bad down here that we have to go north to go fishing? Maybe, but not in my experience, not yet anyway. Is it because tourism departments of Alaska and British Columbia have just done a better job marketing their renewable tourism dollar markets than us? Probably a bit of both.

Last summer I had a client come fish with me for two days in early October, right before heading up for a week-long, prime-time steelhead trip to the legendary river X lodge in Alaska. His two days with me were, quote… “just to learn how to cast a two-handed rod. If we catch a fish, it is an unexpected bonus”. Apparently last year at river X lodge, he was only able to bring four fish to hand in a week, in prime conditions. He blamed this on his inability to cast a two-hander.

This guy was fresh off the plane, I waded him out to the first spot of the morning, with about 20ft of line outside of the rod tip landing in a pile of slop, before he knew he was standing in a river in Oregon and possibly before his wading boot laces were wet. His line came real tight and some large unseen force began a violent game of tug-o-war, standing next to him, I felt like I was watching this guy fight with the river over who would keep the rod. It took more than a moment for the motor/reactionary skills of my new friend to realize what in fact is happening, and remove his hand from the vise-like grip on his reel handle. The fish never really got to worked up, it did some big head shakes ran slowly down river, slowly back up river, kept going upriver. It was a long, slow drawn out battle of give and take until finally the fish came up to the surface. I wasn’t aware of the real size of this fish until the top half of its tail came out of the water slowly. The tail itself was immense, but more shocking was the distance from the breaching tail upstream to the point where the leader penetrated the waters surface.  Im not going to lie, at this point I was scared, this steelhead was giant! After a slow process of bringing this behemoth from the depths to the shallows and back, several times, I scooped his big ass head into the soft mesh net. We won!!! Defying the laws of nature, we had done it! “There is your bonus”, I told him. We snapped some photos and then let that steelhead swim on.

I thought to myself, why would you want to fly all the way to river X when you just conquered the Mt. Everest of steelhead right here in Oregon?

We finished out both days with my client bringing two beautiful fish to hand each day and then pulling off the river midday totally satisfied.  So in two half days with me he had 4 steelhead under his belt, one of which taped out at 42 inches. Not bad for a beginner spey caster and in t-shirt weather to boot.

He then flew up to the river X the next day to start “the real fishing trip”. I found out after his trip, he managed to bring another four fish to hand up there. Except that was for an entire week of fishing 8-10 hour days in ice and snow, and none were over 10lbs.

I personally would rather save money on the airfare, lodging, gas, food, fishing licenses/permits and turn my travel days into fishing days right here in the coolest fishery on the planet. Plus the weather is much more mild and our season is year-round. All the while putting my dollars towards keeping the local economy alive. Wouldn’t it be amazing if even a portion of those destination travel dollars were spent right here on local conservation, boosting our native fish populations and providing more access to public rivers and steams.

Seems to me that a good portion of destination travel is just a case of the greener grass on the other side of the hill. Or maybe I’m just trying to justify to myself why I can’t afford to take a trip right now, soon I will count my pennies for that Dean river trip.

~ by theriverwrites on February 11, 2009.

3 Responses to “Have fish will travel”

  1. I don’t think it’s just you. Oregon has it all, and unless you’re someone itching to experience a different part of the world, then there seems very little reason to leave this state.
    Nice blog! Great intro. And kudos to you for helping to break the cliche of who (or what) environmentalists are.

  2. Nice fish Jeff. We landed 2 fish on your secret eastern stream also in the 20 pound class. There is also another river to the northwest from there that is spitting distance that saw a fish in the 30 pound class taken on a swung fly. This doesn’t even scratch the surface of those fish not landed.

    Nice blog. See you soon.


  3. Jesus F’n Christ. Can I book one of those trips next year please? C U @ da Monsta Trux!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: