Forty years later. Mid 1980’s. The Stillaguamish River in Northwest Washington State.
Not a cane pole, but a 4 oz. 10 ft. fly rod that cost $400- to $500-, fly reel at $200-, fly line at $60-, wading shoes $90- and waders $180- and etc. Enough flies, that if I dropped them all in the River, it would make the River rise six inches.
As I walk from one Run to another, I reflect back and get a flash of Goose Creek. What am I doing? Wow! The adult thing with expensive toys. Chasing bigger Minners (minnows).
The Minners that I am chasing are the kind that can give you a heart attack on a fly rod, and are far from being Minners. These fish are known as Steelhead.
For those of you who are not familiar with these fish, they are, (we think), Rainbow Trout that are of a special breed. Born or hatched in the Rivers of the West and Northwest Coast from California to Alaska, and also the eastern coast of Russia, Steelhead are now being introduced to a few more places on this Earth.
These Steelhead, once hatched (usually in late Winter and Spring), live in the stream for one to three years. They live and basically have the same habits as Trout while still in the River. Until one day, (ususally in Spring) the Mama (Earth) signals them to start their Migration downstream and head for the ocean. There they live for one to three years and travel ocean waters as far away as the Aleutians in Alaska in search of food.
Here they grow rapidly, and when the Mama tells them it’s time, they return to their native stream to spawn and start the cycle all over again.
Biologists and Scientists have studied the Steelhead for years and have many theories. Could it be possible that that all Rainbow Trout are Steelhead that became land-locked through natural disasters and cataclysms. Like religion, we could go on forever with our theories. But since we believe today that all life started in the ocean, it’s like the chicken, which came first?
The Steelhead or the Trout. If any of you Professionals wish to argue with me about this, please don’t waste your time. I’m too busy fishing to argue about theories.
When these Steelhead return from the ocean, they are Beautiful, Powerful, chrome-bright on their sides, white on the belly, and steel or gun-metal gray on the top of their heads and back. Hence, Steelhead. They can weigh anywhere from one to thirty-some pounds, depending on how many years they lived in the stream and ocean. Generally they weigh from six to sixteen pounds, What a Minner!
I have spent a lifetime fishing for Minnows, Bass, Sunfish, Catfish, and pretty much all fresh-water fish, except Pike and Muskie. I love and have a respect for all fish. But when you have been bitten by the Steelhead bug, believe me, you become an addict. The mystique and beauty of these fish have caused most of us fishers to become labeled as “Steelhead Bums.”
Unlike most of us humans who have become so scattered and lost and can never seem to find our way home, the Steelhead have never lost that instinct. Although they travel all those thousands of miles in the ocean, when it is time they return to their native stream and to usually the same spot in the River where they were born.
How Wonderful, How Amazing, How spiritual. To be “Go’in Home”.
I hope I have given you some insight about Steelhead, because as my stories progress you won’t be in the dark about these fish and the “Bums”.