I was standing balls deep in the cold water and constantly casting my rig with half-frozen fingers. More often than not the line would move downstream a few feet and then snag something on the bottom.
The morning weather was gray and gloomy with a few drops of rain here and there. Definitely an icing on the cake after hours of pretty repetitive and grueling process.
Just like a year ago the fishing trip didn’t start on the promising note. There were five of us fishing non-stop for more than three hours without even a single bite being reported.
The hope of catching anything, let alone a steelhead, diminished with every new cast. You could sense it in the air and you could see it on people faces…
But we kept throwing.
“Five and half hour of driving for nothing? Again? This is crazy!”
That were my thoughts as I followed a pretty simple and familiar ritual – cast at ten o’clock, pull the line just a little bit so you could feel the rocks on the bottom as the water kept pushing the rig down the stream, reel it in at three o’clock and repeat (if you were lucky and din’t snag something on the bottom).
After hours of standing and holding the rod, my right shoulder and back started to feel the pressure. On top of that my stomach was pretty much empty because breakfast somehow was not part of our morning fishing ritual.
“Only a few more hours to go and then food. Something warm. Anything. And I don’t even care if it’s organic or not!” – I kept telling to myself while trying to maintain my mental composure.
We woke up around five in the morning, way too late by the local fishing standards and our guide Misha wasn’t happy about that. It was dark and super cold outside, which made the whole experience even more “magical”. In the end, Misha turned out to be right – by the time we reached the river all of the “good” fishing spots were already taken.
After twenty more minutes of walking in the full gear, we found a few unoccupied spots and started fishing.
Few hours passed by completely unmarked by any significant events.
“Why did I come here again?! It’s a pure self-torture.”
Aaand another stone on the bottom… Of course! Right about time! 🙁
That particular time I got lucky as the line gave way after a few strong pulls, no need to spend another twenty minutes redoing the whole setup.
As I kept reeling in the line to check if the hook was still there, dreaming about a cup of hot soup and a burger with fresh onion rings and a juicy tomato in the middle, something pulled my rod really hard and my reel started giving away the line with the unforgettable clicking sound.
What the hell?
That can’t be true..?
I tried to keep composure but the smile kept showing up on my face. I forgot about food, bad mood, cold and everything else.
A fish! Feels pretty big!
What do I do?!
Then instincts took over. I just gave out more line and then reeled a bit, gave and reeled. That was the first time I ever caught such a big strong fish and it felt amazing.
At that moment I finally understood why people come here every year regardless of all the hardships.
It’s similar to surfing when you catch your first wave and you either hooked for life or have no emotions at all.
That was the only bite I had in two days, but guess what, I think I’ll be coming back.
Ok, now let me present to you a few important details that helped me catch my first steelhead:
1. Patience – the most important one on the list! Remember, that wasn’t my first steelhead trip. More than once I was on the brink of giving up, but somehow kept going, that was the key to my success.
I feel like in our lives today we expect immediate rewards for everything we do, but good things take time. Sometimes there are no shortcuts. The more effort we put into something, the more we value the results.
“Focus on the process.”
I’m not the first one who said these words but I believe I finally started to understand and appreciate the true meaning.
Far too often we focus on the end result and if, after a brief sprint, it’s not there for whatever reason, we quickly switch to another thing and then another and another.
But the fish is there! You just have to show up and keep your hook in the water.
2. Find the fish.
Here is the thing about fish – it moves depending on a myriad of factors like time of the day, water level and temperature, pressure, god knows what else.
It just doesn’t stay in one spot.
That’s why there are guides who know the best spots and their information could be very handy (even critical) because they fish pretty much every single day and share the latest reports between each other.
They know all of the holes and big rocks on the bottom, all of the rivers turns and twists while on the surface it all looks the same to you.
Sure you can save a few bucks and get lucky (that’s what most people tend to do seem like), but if you are serious about results, it makes sense to pay and get access to the up-to-date tactics that work.
I’m sure you could see how this principle applies to pretty much everything else in life. If you deal with professionals you get much better results. Not always of course, but most of the time (do your homework!).
Get help, don’t try to master everything. There is only so much time we have on this planet. Don’t waste it.
Just for the record, the spot where I caught my fish was identified by the guide (also known as the captain) the day before.
3. Switch the bait until the fish starts hitting.
You know the fish is there, you can even see it, but it doesn’t bite! What the hell?
See, we humans, have a tendency to keep doing the same thing over and over again. Especially if it worked in the past.
Remember, we live in an increasingly changing world. What worked a year, a month, a week even a day ago might not work today.
The key is to stay dynamic and be ready to change the tactics. That’s why good fishermen carry a good selection of different lures and don’t hesitate to switch things up.
Learn from them and don’t fight the change. Adapt and evolve.
That’s all I have today. If you follow these three simple steps I can assure you will get your own “steelhead” in no time.
Also published on Medium.