A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fishing for Steelhead

It is that time of the year when the Steelhead Trout return from the Pacific Ocean to spawn in the Russian River near my home. Unlike Salmon who will die after their romantic affair, Steelhead return year after year. They wait offshore for the first big rain which swells creeks and rivers with enough water to make their passage to their spawning ground.

When we moved up to northern California nearly 40 years ago now, I was all excited about this new adventure in outdoor sports. I talked with the locals, learned what special gear I would need, bought the pole, reel and all the specific Steelhead tackle and waited for the rains. What I didn't take into account was how cold it would be standing knee-deep in fridged river water protected by only a pair of leaky rubber waders. I wore several layers of sweat pants underneath along with all the thermal and wool socks I could put on and still be able to stuff my foot into each boot. The top half of my body was layered with a thermal undershirt, flannel shirt, sweat shirt, down vest, and an old foul weather army coat. I was still cold with my nose running, ears burning, feet and fingertips numb. Where was all the fun in this misery I wondered.

On New Years Day 1975 I was trying my luck yet again thoroughly not enjoying myself getting hung up, losing tackle and freezing just like all the other times. I was reeling in from one of many casts and felt like I was dragging in a piece of driftwood or an old shoe. It wasn't till it got close to the shore did I see I had a fish on. No struggle, no fight like I had been told to expect. I was done. I went home and proudly showed my fish to the family and never went Steelhead fishing again.


  1. The is priceless. Great posting here. Cold brutal days in the river.

  2. I love the retro photo of you with a very nice steelhead rainbow trout. With the newer gear these days, fishermen can stay warmer than they did in the 70's. Neoprene waders 5mm thick with polypropalene longjohns can make a day in the river quite toasty. Did you eat that fish?

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  4. That's been over 35 years and you quit cold turkey? LOL! I had a similar experience with deer hunting. I enjoyed both your photos and the story.

  5. Both sides of my family loved to fish. In fact, if my dad took some days off, it was to take us all fishing. I have some great memories of fishing, fishing vacations, fishing with Jim.

    Too bad it was such a trauma for you. I am glad you caught a fish and have evidence of it.


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