It’s a familiar sight from my typical spot in the back of a boat on a steelhead river: in the bow is my son, Schpanky, with a rod bent sharply under the weight and pull of a winter steelhead.
And that is exactly what I saw on my last fishing trip of the old year.
We planned a half-day float with my buddy, Derek Young, on a local river that, while it does contain steelhead, is not generally a very productive river for steelhead on the fly. I fish it a few times each year, swinging flies from the bank. I go there simply because it’s close to home. But I never go with the expectation of catching fish.
And in that regard I have yet to be disappointed.
This was my first time floating this section of the Snoqualmie from Plum Landing to Fall City. The weather would prove far better than expected, with the steady deluge of the previous day not on the menu for this last Friday before Christmas. In fact, later in the day the sun would make an honest appearance—something not common during what had been a particularly wet month.
Schpanky’s Redington Torrent 8 weight was rigged as the meat-getter of the day. In addition to Bloody Mary fixin’s, Derek had packed an old Fenwick glass 7 weight and would be tossing streamers. I opted to swing the old Spey rod (translation: not catch steelhead). Schpanky was not unfamiliar with the task that lie before him; he’s done this type of fishing a few times before on Olympic Peninsula rivers such as the Hoh and Bogachiel: rubber rafts, bobbers, and beads (oh, my!). The Snoqualmie is a big river. Not a lot of gradient. Lots of places for comparatively few steelhead to hide. Mostly these are hatchery fish destined for the Tokul Creek natal cement ponds.
From my perch in the back of Derek’s boat, I spied a large rock off the starboard bow of the Streamtech Salmonfly. “Put it behind that rock, boy,” I expertly instructed the lad to do. The rest is best told in pictures.
While Schpanky did a fine job of playing the fish, Derek’s expert oarsmanship ensured that we would anchor in slow water while I athletically lept from the boat and successfully landed the fish; a 7 pound, dime-bright hatchery hen that would be on the smoker in less than 48 hours. It was a great day to spend fishing out the old year, but it also marked the end of the hand-holding. Neither the best seat in the boat nor the first crack at the best water will be offered up to the boy from here on out. He’s out-caught the old man 4-1 the last 3 times we’ve chased steel.
The coddling has got to stop. Happy New Year, all.