1,000 CASTS

I just had a birthday. Haven’t cared much for or about those since I turned 33, and that was a long time ago.

On the invite of a friend, the green light of my wife, and the availability of a young but savvy guide named Bennett, I headed to southern WA to chase steelhead. Fish of a thousand casts is not hyperbole, and across ten hours, I think we put in our numbers. Egg-sucking leeches were moving fish of all kinds, except the one we were there to see. On one occasion I hooked up and watched my line rip upstream. All three of us were confident that a silver unicorn was involved, but in the end we were greeted by a whitefish that didn’t know he was whitefish. I can’t over-emphasize this point…I’ve caught hundreds of whitefish over the years. Even the guide was certain we had finally found steelhead based on the sheer muscle and speed that this thing exploded upriver. It was violent.

As light began to fade at the end of the day, things seemed bleak and we all resorted to praising the burnt yellows and oranges in the deciduous trees along the banks. They were stunning to be sure, but I wasn’t there for trees.

We came around the outside of a big bend, and started our drifts around some vending machine sized boulders in heavy water. It was a similar water and approach to what we had seen repeatedly over the course of the day. The same water that had given us 1,000 no’s.

And then we got a yes. And then another. Maybe it was the time of day, or the water temp, or just the brute force effort of staying out that long. The consolation gratitude for fall scenery moved down the list and we celebrated the moment of victory.

With wild steelhead on the board for each of us, we sent them back to hopefully reproduce a hundred more just like them. You hear rumors of populations that are dwindling in so many places even worse than reported. What hope is there between natural factors and catastrophic mismanagement that these amazing animals will carry on?

Time is particularly hard to steal away, so even as costly as it is to make these trips happen, catching such a gorgeous and powerful creature was the best birthday present I could ask for.

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