Story last updated at 5/7/2014 - 1:21 pm
I knew where they were because that's where they are.
Those sort of statements make sense to fishermen who daily deal with the paradoxical, overtly obvious, not-so-scientific but dependent on experimentation, world of hooking fish.
With the water low and clear, the prospects of getting a steelhead were reduced further than usual, but I knew where they were. I call the spot the back corner because the fish stack up in a spot on the opposite side, just downriver before the water riffles out again. It makes sense to me.
Anyway, people have been bombarding the general area with a buffet of metallic treats as well as bright flies, so the steelhead have wised up. In fact, they have wised up so much that people are doubting the amount of fish actually in the river.
Steelhead can easily and coldly reject you like a Mercedes-driving sorority girl with a Gucci bag dismisses a pale-skinned, socks-with-flip-flops-wearing Alaskan dude on financial aid, all while holding perfectly still. As a result, you think they are somewhere else.
But I knew where they were.
I abandoned the suspended jig rig I'd been using with my 7-weight switch rod and went with a bright, but small fly I'd fish on the swing. I added a little weight to get it down and felt the occasional bump as I hit rocks. I was deep enough.
So after sending my fly to the same spot because I knew where they were, I felt a bump and set. Fish on.
The steelhead tore down river, then up, then tried to swim straight up out of the water and did a pretty impressive job twisting and arcing above the surface. That's when I saw the fly wasn't where I expected.
I'd set my hook on a bump that was the fly colliding with the side of the fish. With no way to turn its head, I had no control. It gave me time to think. Since this fish was foul-hooked, should I break him off, or just play it out?
I knew where they were. I knew it. If only I could have found the mouth.
So the fight raged and I worked him downriver to a nice landing spot where I could assess the damage to its flank, pop the hook and let him go.
I have a problem with keeping mouth-hooked steelhead even if they are of legal size. There aren't many around, so taking one female out of the equation impacts a higher percentage of the population. Yeah, other people are going to break the rules, but that doesn't mean I should.
Anyway, back to me unintentionally hooking a fish illegally ...
I worked it to bar by the shore. It was huge - bright, beautiful and the pink fly had pierced the side but hadn't done enough damage to expose meat or even draw blood.
Given the ferocity of the fight, I was surprised, but happy.
I stood for a second after it returned to the spot where I knew the rest were, and wondered how to count it.
It was a fish, I brought it to hand, but it was foul hooked. Do I treat it like Area 51 and pretend it was one of those things that never happened and don't count? Does it count, but with an asterisks like a Barry Bonds home run? Maybe like a pity date?
Or do you just stay ambiguous, and just say you got one. When you're then asked what you were using, you can smile at how appropriate the phrasing of the question is since it wasn't interested yet you hooked it anyway, then answer truthfully, "It didn't matter what I was using, because I knew where they were."