Upper Wilson River

img_0860I went to my first NW Steelheaders meeting a few weeks ago where I got a tip from two Fish & Wildlife biologists about steelhead counts on coastal rivers. One of them told me about how they’d counted 125 steelhead in one pool on the upper Wilson, so I had to check it out.

There are 28 miles of fishable river on the Wilson, and I started up about as high as possible. The water was low, and in the first pool I didn’t see any fish whatsoever. On my way up to the car I came across a state trooper who was out checking permits. With all the recent news about police encounters, my first thought when seeing him was that he must feel pretty lonely out checking on people in the woods all alone. But he was super friendly; he thanked me for picking up a couple cans I was packing out—he actually asked if they were my beer cans, but 10 a.m. is a little early for my taste, and we chatted for a few minutes about fishing. He told me about a few spots on the river worth checking out, and sent me down to Hoskins Creek.

After fishing a couple familiar spots downstream, I made my way to the run he’d told me about. It’s deep and slow, and I could actually see about a dozen steelhead lolling around in the sunny water. I went against what I’d heard about bright water equaling dark lures, and tied on a shiny silver and blue spinner. I cast into the current a couple times, and something grabbed on. There was some serious pull on the end of the line, and when it leapt out of the riffle, I knew I’d hooked a steelhead. It twisted, and bent the rod, and zinged line off the reel with a couple good runs, but switching from trebles to a good single hook had him well caught. I played him for about five minutes until I could bring him close enough for the net, which he didn’t even fit in:

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We’re gonna need a bigger net!

I’d landed my first steelhead!

I’ve been going after steelhead off and on for about four years. Fly fishing, spinners, summers, winters, all sorts of rivers, and I finally caught one. I was so excited I couldn’t get a decent picture, and elated from the river bank back to the car and halfway home. It was the biggest fish I’ve ever caught, and although real fisherman might scoff at a 20 inch steelhead (barely a steelhead, more an overgrown rainbow trout), I was happy as a clam.

A trophy for a first such as this couldn’t go to waste (I couldn’t bring myself to turn him loose, a hatchery fish and all); he baked up nicely with some dill, lemon pepper and a hint of pride; it was the tastiest fish I’ve ever eaten.

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