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The Gearboat Chronicles


I’m oh-for-three. Not great stats for the opener of steelhead season conference play. In a not-so-funny coincidence, I listened to a guy telling me just last week he’d lost four steelhead in a row. I don’t know what’s going on, he said. I told him I’d endured a similar spell of not getting fish to the bank and this too shall pass. Or maybe I said keep your rod tip or your chin up or something. I don’t know. I said some words, anyway, meant to be consoling and had genuine sympathy for the guy. Mostly I was glad it wasn’t me.

O, man. This first fish of the season. Or first hooked fish, my lawyer points out I should say. There was a real slight, te-e-e-entative pause in the drift but I go ahead and uncork my standard overaggressive hookset. As a holdover from my last bout of losing fish, I don’t mess around with pitter-pat hook sets. I mean, I swivel the hips and lean into it. If that’s a steelhead mouth down there it’s either going to need Novocaine or whatever it is you put on ropeburn after a leader gets whisked through your lips. Related to me losing fish? Perhaps.


Camp Fish-Got-Off. At least the scenery was uplifting.

But I lay into it and nothing. Dang it all to tarnation, snagged on the bottom. Only. Wait. Why is the bottom moving?
Yesyesyes. A fish of a thousand casts yes. This movement chugs up toward the head of the pool about the speed of an old cement truck in compound low while I calmly poop my waders with excitement and get into battle stations, backing out from deep water for freedom of leg movment to unleash some Fred Astaire footwork if need be. Quick systems check on line tension, angle of the rod, back the drag off just a click. Check, check, check. The fish shifts into second gear nearing the head of the pool, taking 8.475 inches of extra line through my index finger which leaves 6 feet, 2.325 inches left before we’re on the reel.

I’m curious what this fish is going to do. It’s going to be good whatever it is and I can’t wait.


Hey, lay your corneas and earlobes on this clip from our Winding Waters Music For Wild Places pals Ross Holmes and Matt Menefee of Chessboxer. These two mustered the Salmon River itself into singing along a couple summers ago floating with us and here they are on Conan, playing with Warren Haynes. I’m not sure what’s more tremendous, that hat Ross is wearing or his fiddle skills. I guess the fiddling. And Menefee could probably win a trophy with that beard, but I’m sure he can with the banjo. Escucha to this.

So there we were. The line just went slack and I lost that cement truck fish. Then I hooked another one and it came up P1110405thrashing like a scene from Jaws and I was like, “You’re gonna need a bigger . . . awwww.” So that one got off too and then … you know, it’s hard enough to hook these things, then there they go getting off. I mean, really. Where do they get off getting off?

Driving home after deciding f[orget] this, I passed one of our guides Cam Scott and his spiritual and menu advisor Renee. We traded chit chat. He asked how I did. I told him. I asked how he did and he said either, ‘Real good,’ or ‘fantabulous,’ or – I really couldn’t anything except the sound of an underwater cement truck busy haunting me.

So, right. Steelhead fishing. Tight lines or whatever. See you out there. I’ll be the guy screeching and having my hair turn instantly white if I lose another steelhead.