Ride the Lightning

May 27, 2013

My summer steelhead season starts the same way every year, a solo trip. Expectations are low as there are very few summer-runs in the system but there is always a chance, I’d go even if there wasn’t. This is a trip to reconnect with the river after a few months of my “off season”. This is one of my favorite trips of the year, not many anglers in their right minds are there and that’s what I enjoy about it.

The one friend who gets to come along.

The one friend who gets to come along.

Most of the runs we fish in the summer are un-fishable during the winter. It’s like re-uniting with an old friend you have’nt seen in a long time. Memories of fish from summers past haunt  as the fly swims through the water “the…, that one that just exploded on the dry beyond the lip, that one porpoising after it compleatly missing and never to be seen again, the one that came for every change never to eat, that one frieght training it and leaving the pool and gone…” and so on. Funny how that old adage holds so true, you remember the ones that get away the most.

After taking a few months off from steelheading, there are definitely insecurities as well. “Will I even remember how to catch one?”

In my second run of the day, the river let me know I still do.

In my second run of the day, the river let me know that I still do.

Reel screaming like a banshee trying to keep up with line peeling off into the depths downstream and catching a glimpse of a cartwheeling fish outta the corner of the eye upstream and knowing that’s your fish, oh shit!, has to be one of the coolest moments in steelheading.

A good feeling

A good feeling

With so many great pools to fish, it's like catching lightning in a bottle...

With so many great pools and very few fish , it’s like catching lightning in a bottle…can you find the fish?

This time of year, it has to do more with getting extremely lucky. Stepping into the right run at the right time. There are no magic pools, these fish are moving and moving fast. Luck is the name of the game. Catching lightning twice, yeah right, right?

Fishing a gaudy fly, even for me, I got a pluck-pluck and brought the fly back to check it out. Watched it swimming in the water and thought, “that is just too nasty for a fish to eat, can’t beleive a trout even tried to.” Changed to a more respectable fly of sorts…next cast…

34 inches of pure lightning...

34 inches of luck.

Something happened with this fish that I don’t see very often on the North, backing, lots of it. I’ve never had line escape my reel as fast as with this fish, no hesitation to leave the pool, it was instant. My reel literally smoked like a truck riding the brakes going down a steep pass, you could smell it, the S handle turned itself loose with the speed of the line, and was wobbling around while reeling, making strange noises. My left forearm became useless trying to keep up when she hesitated. Bo was freaking out. Over 200 yards later we tailed her in the shallows.



Anticipation is high for a good run this year. But reality is, is that it’s too early to tell, very early…only time will…

On another, more serious note, time is running out to voice your opinion on the Pebble Mine situation.

While never fishing in Bristol Bay myself and not sure if I’ll ever get to, I take great comfort in knowing there is a place where a salmon can be a salmon without our interfering with it, as should any fisherman/sportsman/anybody. This mine is for something that we as humans have placed value on, in the bigger picture salmon are invaluable to the earth and our existence. If you’ve taken the time to read this post, there’s no excuse not to comment(it’ll take less time to make your voice heard), you’ll feel better having done it. If you’re not convinced “Pebble” is a bad thing, watch this powerful video by Ryan Peterson then follow this link:



sea-swallow’d from ryan peterson on Vimeo.

Rich & Bo

7 Responses to “Ride the Lightning”

  1. Nice write-up. So envious of your river and the summer runs.

    Really enjoyed RP’s Sea Swallow’d too. I was fortunate to be in Bristol Bay year before last and his film captures it beautifully.

  2. steelheadwater said

    Thanks Richard.

    Ryan’s vid still makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck when I watch it…

  3. WOW! What a day, way to catch a bolt of lightening. I can’t wait to join you on the NU in July.

  4. Dave Conca said

    You got me fired up for the summer season. Take care and best of luck this year. I hope we can cross paths on the river soon.

    Most rivers open this weekend up here. There should be some early summer steelhead…maybe there will be some magic for me too!

  5. Dave Conca said

    oh, and yes I see the fish in the photo

  6. Charlie Erdman said

    sweet! always enjoy reading your posts! hopefully we can make it down for another trip this summer.

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