As time ticks on, many of us often find ourselves astray from where we originally planted our feet. Our home is where we are molded into the men and women that will later be, and shown the paths that we may take to achieve physical and mental maturity. When removed from these places, the friends and family that form the grass roots of our journey are a constant reminder of where we came from and why we are on the path that we chose. Sharing a newfound home with these folk is a practice full of enrichment for both oneself and familiar companions alike.
Having recently relocated to Washington, the Olympic Rainforests quickly became a place of recreation and solitude. The enlightenment found amongst the old-growth forests and moss laden cedar is second only to that of the magnificent waterways that form the veins and arteries of the majestic landscape. Every winter, wild Steelhead undertake a migration from the open ocean, to the places of their own grass roots; the headwaters of their natal streams. In an attempt to bridge the gap between the journeys of two species, Ryan and Evan, two brothers from Connecticut, joined me for a four day excursion to the wild Olympics in search of native Steelhead.
Ryan and Evan were both newcomers to the world of two handed casting, and the mighty Hoh River was going to be their place of “Spey-ducation”. Evan was setup with a Sage TCX 7126-4 (which he quickly dubbed Obi Wan, as a spin-off of its well-known epithet “The Death Star”), Ryan and I both wielded a Sage ONE 7126-4, and we collectively fished an array of RIO Skagit heads. Watching their casting and swing presentation grow as rapidly as it did was certainly a testament to the benefits of fishing the best tackle in the business… In no time, the three of us were en masse, doing our due diligence to put a fly in front of a migrating Steelhead.
Our desire to be as connected to the spirit of the steelhead as we could led us to set up swing camp right on the graveled island in which we swung. For three days and two nights, this was our home. Boat traffic was minimal, other anglers were rarely seen, and the scent of fresh mykiss lingered ominously in the air. Mother Nature treated us kindly with ideal flows, and weather perfect for our exposed island suite. Our conversation and camaraderie was vibrant as we sat around the campfire swapping stories, tying flies, and joining together in impromptu harmonica jam sessions. These were the moments that gave the reminders of home, friendship, and unforgotten memories that our souls craved…
Day three brought with it slightly cooler temperatures and a calm drizzle; much more indicative of the mystique of Winter Steelheading. At this point, we were fishing river-left with Ryan taking charge in front, Evan in the middle, and myself trailing behind. I always enjoy fishing in back, as I get the pleasure of working at my own pace, viewing the graceful casts and rhythm of fellow compatriots, and occasionally the magic of witnessing a rare hook-up; which is exactly how it unfolded before my eyes only minutes after entering the run.
In a matter of moments, the silence was interrupted as a bright buck broke the surface tension of the water with an aerial display of acrobatics about a hundred or so yards downstream. My eyes quickly turned toward the bank to see Ryan with his long rod bent over and pointed at the flailing red and silver beast. I made quick work of that hundred yards and was right there with him for the whole experience. Shouts of disbelief and excitement echoed in the valley, and when the fish finally tired of the triumphant battle, I had the honor of tailing Ryan’s first wild Steelhead. The three of us locked eyes with the mystical creature, and the power and significance that it withheld were embraced in entirety. As quickly as he came, the fish slipped through Ryan’s fingers and back into the great blue abyss. Our hearts were filled with respect, our spirits euphoric, and our souls completely enriched. Those brief moments in time will forever be etched into our memory, and ours alone. We were now not only brothers in pursuit and friendship, but brothers in steel.
Alex Blouin Sage Repair Center Team Member
Photos: by Evan Cleary and Lucas Young