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LEAP OF FAITH

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This is a concept that we steelheaders deal with every time we head to the river.  Just the act of traveling (sometimes hundreds or even thousands of miles) proves that we have taken a leap of faith; we have faith that the fishing might, could, should – WILL be worth the trip.  If you have ever fished with a guide, you know how much faith you have in what he/she may tell you about the river or fishing.  The guide will say, “Jump in here.  It is deep near the bank but head toward the middle and it will get shallower.  Follow the ridge in the middle of the river, fishing both sides.  Be careful, though, the ridge does get too deep if you go too far.  When it starts getting deeper, back up a little and make your way back to shore.  It may be a little deep just before reaching the shore, but don’t worry, you’ll be fine.”  The water looks a little swift and the bottom is not visible from shore, but do you start crying and tell him you’re afraid to do it?  Noooooo.  You jump right in and follow his directions.  You have faith in his instructions.

Not all leaps result is a positive outcome (though most do).  I knew a guide who had fished and guided a certain river in the west all of his life.  It most always was off color making it difficult to see the bottom.  There was a certain stretch of river where there was a shallow ridge running right down the center of the run with deep water on each side.  You can only get there by boat.  Very few anglers knew about it.  He would never fish it when others were around.  The fishing was ALWAYS spectacular there.  He had a client with him one day who he liked a lot and was going to reward him with some outstanding fishing.  He told the guy that what he would do was to tell him when to jump out of the raft and not to worry – the depth and current was safe.  As they were approaching the spot, my friend took another look around and saw no one.  Then the time came.  The client was hanging on tight to his rod, cinched his wading belt a little tighter, sat on the raft side-tube with his legs hanging over the side.  My friend commanded “Jump, now” and he did.  He disappeared below the surface with his hat floating down river.  My friend was definitely worried for about 3 seconds, but was relieved when his client popped up gasping but actually had a grin on his face.  He was savvy enough to know that leaps of faith don’t always work out.  He put his rod in the raft and then pulled himself over the side.  They had a good laugh and kept drifting downstream.  It was a hot summer day so he actually enjoyed the cooling off.

It doesn’t always mean that you take someone else’s word for something and blindly (but with faith) proceed.  I have talked with other fishers about this and just about every one of them has a story about this.  There are times when you have to make a decision based on faith alone.  Not really knowing what the outcome may be.  I was on the Dean River at the Giant camp.  The fishing on the first morning was awesome.  There is a riffle section just below where I was fishing and slightly turned a corner to the left (on river left).  I had hooked a fish earlier and it took off toward the fast riffle water at the bottom of the run.  I decided to try to stop the fish and  “walk” it back upstream to where I was wading.  I read about it before but had never tried it until now.   To do this, you need to strip line off of the reel very fast; faster than the fish is pulling it downstream.  The line eventually gets even with the fish and slowly gets downstream of it applying pressure from downstream causing the fish to turn and face upstream toward you.  Then, very slowly, start inching the line back on the reel.  Turn the handle easily while pointing the rod tip almost directly at the fish.  The fish started finning back toward me.  I kept reeling. It came to a very fast section of water where it had to swim “uphill” between two rocks.  I just kept slight pressure on it and it moved right through the white water.  I kept “walking” it upstream until it was at my feet where it took off again but not to the fast water downstream.  I landed it shortly later.  I was elated.  Tried something new and it worked.  You know, it usually doesn’t work that way.

After that, I sat on the river side and lit up a cigar and slowly smoked my way through it.  When fished, I made a few casts and another steelhead smashed my fly and headed downstream just like the one before.  I smiled to myself knowing I’d be able to get this fish back up to me like the one before.  But this fish had a different attitude (more of F- U personality) and screamed backing off my reel downstream.  It took me a second to realize this fish wasn’t going to “walk” anywhere.  I started chasing it through the fast water into the pool below.  It slowed some but sprinted occasionally, constantly taking line downstream.  I came to a tree in my way right on river’s edge.  The river was lightly off color so I couldn’t see how deep it was if I were to try wading around the tree.  I made a decision to go for it.  A leap of faith.  I had my camera tucked into the upper part of my waters, so I worked it below my wading belt and tightened it up a little.  I grabbed one of the branches of the tree and stepped out into the river not knowing how deep it was.  My friend, Jim, was running down to me and I yelled for him to get downstream of the tree, just in case.  Now, the following is no shit.  I jumped out and let the current swing me around (I was still hanging onto the branch) where my tip-toe landed on top of a rock.  The water was up to within two inches of my wader top.  I pushed off of my toe hold on top of the rod and swung around even further toward shore and, luckily, shallower water where I could continue playing the fish.  I actually managed to land that fish.  Not 15 minutes later, my friend Jim hooked a fish back up where I had hooked the last one and it was a repeat of the previous fish.  Jim knew the “leap of faith” pool and knew it would work.  He also landed his fish.

I have done this type of thing since and most result in a positive attitude, but some have resulted in a wader full of water.  Sometimes, you just have to have faith and go for it. 

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