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IT’S IN THE AIR

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steelhead
rainbow trout
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It is the 5th of September and we have a cold front moving through Seattle with a bit of rain.  It feels like fall.  Yesterday when there were a few hours of sunshine making its way through the trees, I recognized the angle of the shadows as a forecast of autumn a few days or weeks ahead.  Within the last couple of decades I would go into a funk because of the diminishing daily sunshine.  Some years it would develop into a serious depression.  I don’t do that now (thank God).  I have learned to accept the day for what it is.  And what it is, is that I am coming into my favorite time of the year:  Steelhead season.  I love fishing for chrome in late summer but I am dedicated to fall and winter steelhead fishing.  To those who know me, it is such a switch of personalities that they don’t know me anymore.  I am a true sun-lover.  I have had an affair with tropics and flats for decades.  I truly love to fish without waders.  I would rather sweat than shiver any day of the year.  So, why do I enjoy steelheading in the fall and winter so much?  I really don’t know the deep-down truth answer to that question.  It is just something in the air I breathe.

There is somthing amazing about having my nose and face cold while the rest of me is warm.  I have learned to dress for the weather.  And I have learned to dress warmer than I think necessary.  Some the medicine I have to take in my old age, I have discovered, makes me colder than just about any other creature within a hundred miles of me.  My baggage is always bigger than any of my friends when we head to the river.  I just need more clothes, I need toe and hand warmers (the ones you shake and put in the appropriate place).  I need two hats and a belief that I have enough to keep me comfortable.  I usually do.  Every day I am thinking of taking my first October step into a river where I think I might have a chance to swing a fly into the jaw of a native steelhead.  I know most of you have heard of “Visualization”.  I picture myself in that first run of my season every night.  It always results in a pull.  Maybe not a full connection, but a pull nonetheless!  I love to see and be fishing when the first snow is falling on the river.  What a quiet and calm time to be alive and knee deep in a gentle current swinging a fly.

I remember a Thanksgiving several years ago when my wife was in Seattle tending to an ailing father.  I was in Wenatchee and invited to my cousin’s house to dinner.  I decided to fish for a few hours before arriving to a great meal.  What a fortunate decision.  I was fishing through a run when it started to snow.  It was a beautiful place to be at that time.  There is something about snowfall while fishing that makes a troubled soul feel relaxed and able to just be there at that moment in time.  I had a few more minutes before check out time, so I decided to go through the end of the drift again.  A few casts into it I was given a pull I still remember today, I just started to smile. I was almost giddy.  I don’t know when I have ever felt so good fishing.  I brought the fish to hand and admired his colors matching the autumn leaves stacked against the shore.  I let it swim.  Then I went to Thanksgiving dinner.  I had so much to be thankful for.

Several years later, now, I am cleaning off my desk so I can start tying fall and winter flies.  This is such a fun time at the vise.  I will sit and stare at a bare hook for minutes, hours or longer, trying to think of something that I haven’t yet fished or expand on a pattern I’ve tied in the past.  I have so many past patterns that I have fished with success and so many that I thought that would be the best pattern I have ever tied.  Sometimes this takes me many nights of getting it straight in my mind what I want.  I have watched tiers sit down and tie-a-soon-to-be classic with hardly a thought, I need time.  Thankfully, I have and like my time to get it right. 

Sometimes, even when I think I get it perfect, I get it so wrong.  Maybe I just didn’t fish it enough to see if it was right or I lost faith too soon.  It really doesn’t matter.  Some of you tiers know what I’m talking about.  I have been told “Just tie a fly and fish it”.  I can’t quite do that.  There has to “something” to it.  I try to imagine a fish caught on every fly I tie.  If I can’t, I strip it with a razor and start again.  This might sound like anguish to some, but not me.  I like the process of figuring out a fly puzzle.  It may be sink-rate, floatability, color combinations or material application.

Yes, it is in the air tonight.  Chrome is not far away.  I need to ready my gear.  But this is fun time for me.  I remember when there was an opening day for trout season.  I would start weeks ahead of time to make sure I and my gear were prepared.  It was a ritual. Not so much anymore.  But I have the same enthusiasm. 

 I don’t get to fish as much as I used to, but that is OK.  Each trip is an epic journey.  I hope yours are all epic.

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