The NW Chronicles: Touching the Beast

Greetings fellow anglers. It is with great excitement, I report to you the end of the two and a half year steelhead curse! On Sunday, I fought a bright-chrome Deschutes steelhead and won. Who knew life could be so sweet. Perhaps contributing to Four Seasons has brought me great luck? I would like to think so.

The day began much like last week. Three beautiful redsides in the eddies, and three more shaken off. Having fished the week before, I felt confident I knew where the fish were. I just had to entice them with a BWO emerger.

And just like last week, I hit the steelhead run just as the sun was coming off the canyon. I focused on a little faster and shallower water than last week. On about the tenth cast, the rod pulled hard and before I knew it, line was peeling out. My eyes bulge out and my heart started beating as I looked down stream and saw my line running out.

My reel doesn’t have drag and I’ve lost a steelhead by over-reacting, so I was careful to slowly put pressure on the spinning reel and dipped the rod tip towards the water for more friction. Sure enough: the fish turned with the pressure and leapt out of the water. “This is it,” I said and I think I said it out loud.

For the next fifteen minutes I wrestled the beast. As I put more and more pressure on the line, I felt comfortable bringing him in, but I didn’t want to snap the tippet or straighten the hook. He made three or four runs, but each time, I let him go and then managed to get him back, moving toward the bank. I have “fought” fish before, but this was the first real fight. It was like an arm wrestling match, where you need to constantly apply pressure just to stay in the game.

When I got my indicator to the rod tip, I thought the whole rod was going to snap it was so bent over. My wrist was cramping up and my adrenaline was going, but I managed to finally get the line in my hand. The beast shook a few more times and I let the line play when he did. Then I drew him in and I got close enough to touch the beast.

I am almost wordless to describe this fish. I’ve always loved trout. They are so perfectly proportioned and beautiful in the classic sense. This steelhead was like a fifteen foot tall, super model. Big and strong, but still with the slender elegance of a rainbow. It was as long and thick as my arm, but pure muscle. This fish had probably swum thousands of miles through ocean and river over the course of its life. Now it treaded water before me, the rhythmically swaying his tail in the current.

I sapped a couple pictures and let him on his way without even taking him out of the water. Off he went and I hope to cross paths with him again some day. Until then....

Tight lines.


  1. I’m reading it over and over… Congratulations PDX Drifter.

  2. a great story with awesome photos. thanks much for sharing your experience, PDX Drifter!

  3. that danielsson is quite the reel to play large fish with! had my first chance last weekend. it certainly takes some skill and makes you use the rod more.

  4. Nice work Johnny Detroit!!! I told you to go with the BWO emerger did I not??