I always tell myself, “you have to invest more time fishing for Summer Runs,” and usually, I don’t listen to myself enough. Summer is a hectic time of year for most people that live around here, myself included. We spend months indoors, pining, waiting for warm weather, waiting for a break from the rain, waiting for a break from darkness, waiting for summer. I have spent the past four summers working at a fishing lodge in Alaska, so my time to fish for Summer Steelhead has been limited to the first two weeks of June before I leave. And usually, by the time the rivers open to fishing, I am deep into the frenzy of preparing to leave home for three months. Ordering gear, last minute home projects, yardwork, packing; time flies. So in the past my Steelhead fishing has been limited to about one or two half-assed last minute trips… I made a promise to myself that this year would be different. Yesterday was the first trip of hopefully many this summer to the river. Romey and I spent the morning exploring the Skykomish River near the Reiter Ponds Hatchery. Fishing was good.
Romey picked me up early in the morning and we drove through the Snoqualmie Valley and then Sky Valley to Reiter. On the drive through our valley, an odd sensation came over me. It was the same feeling I have experienced on other first outings in years’ past. We are headed out to the river to go fish, yet I have nothing more than a lightweight shirt on my back, lush green trees and grass lines the highway, I am not worried about rain or cold weather, I am not used to this. We spent the last several months fishing in bitter cold weather, drifting the serene yet barren rivers of a Northwest winter. Summer Steelhead fishing is for fair-weather fisherman, and I will proudly call myself to their ranks for the next few months. Traffic was light, we scored some extremely fresh Sand Shrimp in Monroe and even found a few open parking spots . The first day back visiting an old friend, the Skykomish River.
We put on our waders and walked down the trail towards the river. When we got to the river, there was a solid line of fishermen from the creek all the way down to the tailout. We squeezed in at the end of the line and spent the first part of our morning drift fishing the tailout. Not a lot was happening. Don’t get me wrong, there were fish being caught, and as we walked past all of the guys lined up fishing Reiter, there were a few fish in the water tied off on stringers, maybe four or five. We fished a half hour and there were a handful of Steelhead caught upriver from us. We felt like we had put in enough time at the tailout to know whether or whether not it was going to happen. Time to move on.
We decided to fish our way through the fast water toward the Cable Hole downriver. I brought both a float fishing rod and a drift rod, but followed Romey’s lead and spent the entire morning drifting roe. We got to a spot that looked halfway fishy, with a nice seam right in front of us. After a few drifts, I felt the classic tug of a Steelhead chewing on my bait. I reeled down on it and set the hook. WHAM! Fish On!!.
One of the defining characteristics of the Summer-run Steelhead is its desire to leap, jump and cartwheel in the air. Seeing a Steelhead on the end of the line jump is both a total thrill and a nerve-racking sight. Every leap is an opportunity for that fish to throw the hook. Now it wasn’t a second into this fight that I realized this particular Steelhead had a hankering for acrobatics. Pull-pull-pull-jump! Zip-zip-cartwheel! I would guess that the fish jumped a half dozen times. Not only was I dealing with a fish that was going ballistic, but the all the area around our fishy seam was a roaring torrent of white water. One long distance run from my fish and bye bye! Luckily, my first Steelhead of the year cooperated, and within a few minutes of battle, I slid it up onto the shore. What an awesome experience! We rejoiced, took a few photos, and continued fishing. It wasn’t long before Romey found a fish to play with, but his was a little more clever and came unhooked after a few seconds. You can’t land every Steelhead you hook, I guess, but Romey redeamed himself a few minutes later. We hit the Cable Hole, another beautiful Steelhead run just below Reiter. I walked downriver to find some solitude, and before I could set up my rod, Romey was hooked into a scrappy Summer Steelhead. I raced over to help him land his fish, which is no easy task on these steep-bank Upper Skykomish River drifts. It wasn’t huge, nearly a carbon-copy of my five pounder, but a beautiful specimen all the same. It was a great day for me, for Romey, for most folks up at Reiter. And although some folks scoff at the idea of spending so much time writing about a two-fish-fer-two-fellas type of day, the memories made were worth writing down.