Steelheading with Primal Angler

Posted on March 25, 2013


Yes, Virginia, there are Steelhead in that there Water

Many pictures by Ryan Davey. Read his version here.

Was a time when I worked from home and every day at 4 o’clock I would take my 13’8″ Spey rod (I actually met Ryan by buying that rod from him), walk across the street  to the Sky, on what Trey Coombs called the “best piece of steelhead water in the world” and fish for an hour. That was the highest- paying job I ever had, and I did a lot of good work, especially once I figured out that I have this weird brain and that I actually got more work done by reading about the problem I was trying to solve, going fishing, and letting my subconscious do the work. Then all I had to do was come home and type it up. That took me about a year to figure out. Things were good then. I worked on clearing the land on my farm, remodeling the house, and I wrote every day. I missed my dogs and my ex, but Ryan Davey moved in and at least I had somebody to drink beer with. He was working on his opus, Trout Bum Diaries (which spawned an entire genre of films), and even though he lived and breathed fishing, the whole time we lived together we only fished three times that I can remember. Including the fabled all night tiger muskie trip to Green Lake. Now there is a blog waiting to be written…

And then the house burned down and everything went to shit. Now 10 years later I have a corporate job, the latest in a long line, still not for the same amount of money, commute 2 hours a day, and all just so I can get back to “the good life.” I haven’t held a two-handed rod since the fire, and I haven’t steelheaded in 10 years. What are we here for?

In that time Ryan has been around the world and back, including guiding 6 seasons on the Great Lakes where he reckons he’s netted over 6,000 steelhead for clients; Alaska, Argentina, Iceland…I’m sure I’m missing a few continents. Lately he’s back in Washington posting pictures of huge fish every day and dammit, we decided to get together and fish. So Friday, I left work just a wee bit early, parked on I5 for 3 hours wondering why people do this every day and never get any better at it, and finally found myself whizzing along the Columbia heading to a part of the world I’ve often wondered about and never been to. No cell phones, no computers. Just friends and fish. There was 3″ of snow at my house when I left in the morning, but I was surprised to see a dusting in the coastal range in Oregon across the river.

We had some beer, we played some pool, we drank some whiskey. Then we got up and went fishing on a beautiful little river. On  the first hole Ryan set me up, taught me his system, and watched me cast for over an hour, alternately replacing flies, rigging, and even a rod as I broke one thing or another off. Finally, he wades out where I had been standing, fires straight down stream, and lands a steelhead, first cast.

We went to another hole where I got a similar lesson, but I did finally hook a fish, maybe a 7 -pounder, a feat not lessened by having to use a spey rod, putting the fish on the reel for the one of the first times ever, and having to reel left-handed, something I’ve never done.  Soon after that, I hooked another. We never saw it. In the 2-3 minutes I played it I could not get downstream on it and it broke me off by running out of the pool.  (That’s Ryan’s story, mine differs slightly.) In that short period, I was actually tired from playing that fish! I never imagined such a thing.  It was easily the largest fish I’ve ever had on by a factor of 2. Would’ve been nice to see it.

Ryan hooked a few more, landed a few, broke a few off.  I’m sure I missed many. In all I think we hooked 8 fish that day, more than I’ve seen in hundreds of hours on the Sky, and I’m glad to have the skunk off.  Seems like every seam on my waders failed simultaneously, and I had been wet since I first stepped into the water. By dark, I had the kind of cold in my bones that hasn’t left yet. But, I rediscovered my love of Spey rods and wondered why I have any single-handed rods at all. On the way home I was thinking it sure would’ve been nice to see that second fish, but I don’t fish for the fish. I fish for the water, to go to new rivers, and follow them to their source, like there is a lesson there that I could learn if I could just see what is around the next bend. In all, it was a great trip and I can’t wait to go back. Ryan has it dialed in and I’m glad he’s close enough so we can finally fish together.

I think I’ll go back next week. And, if you call Ryan, he will guide you on these waters. It’s worth the trip.