Sunday, April 12, 2009

Keyonis' First Steelhead

Easter Sunday arrived and ended gloriously. A beautiful sunrise was followed by a quiet morning with the Sunday papers and a delicous brunch at the neighbors. We watched the Indians and then the Cavs win. We said goodbye to Beth, and she headed back for OU. Keyonis called and asked if we could get together. So Anne and I picked him up and headed down to the Rocky to go for a walk and see if we could fish for an hour or so before dark.

I wasn't sure how much water would be in the river, although the gauge said 250 cfs. The air temp was 44. There were a few fishermen in the spot downstream that I wanted to fish, so I figured it was at least worth putting on the gear. Keyonis barely fits into the adult hippers I bought him, and he uncomfortably walked through the woods behind me. We spooked a pair of mallards on the way downriver. The sun hung low in the western sky, so it was tough to see into the water. Green moss assured that wading would be a little slippier than normal. One fisherman headed out of the river as we arrived, walking right through some prime water.

Another fisherman moved downstream. That left Keyonis and I alone in the stretch that I wanted to fish. A white streamer and a Santa's Helper nymph were tied behind a sinking leader. A few wakes from cruising steelhead made it clear that the fish were there, now the question was would they feed. Two casts later the answer was yes. I handed Keyonis the rod and he fought his first steelhead. He gripped the rod tightly and tried his best to handle the fish. But a quick run downstream was all it took to throw the hook.

Two more casts and another fish. This one broke off. We tied on another Santa's Helper and moved a little closer to the bank where a pod of fish were making lots of noise. We promptly hooked two more giant males and after long fights and unsuccessful netting attempts by me, we were again left empty handed. The smile on Keyonis' face said it all, but I knew he wanted to land one. I said a prayer of thanksgiving, tied on another Santa's Helper and gave it another shot. We had already been blessed with more fish than I had expected, but I was hoping for one more. With my help, Keyonis flipped the fly upstream of the fish. The fly drifted down and began to swing across the current when it stopped. There was a tug on the line and Keyonis returned the favor. The hook was set good and the fight was on. Keyonis is a small 12-year-old and landing a steelhead is all about using leverage. His height and inexperience gave the fish all of the advantage. And this was one powerful fish. I had a hard time turning her. We took turns fighting the fish. I would crank her up close, hand him the rod and walk down to net her. She would spot me and go for a run. At one point she went into the backing. One of the big males he had hooked earlier had done the same. I purposely left the drag a little light to avoid breaking the line this time. He slowly worked the fish back upstream and we tried again, only to have her go on another long run that culimanted in a giant leap from the water. Luckily she didn't break off. I then decided to walk downstream and reel up the fish into the shallows, hoping that maybe we'd have a chance to beach her. But I wanted Keyonis to land the fish. He had a hard time turning her, but finally after a solid 15 minute fight he could hold her in the water steady enough for his inept fishing partner to net her. He smiled broadly as I brought the net to him. "Can I pet the fish?" he asked. "She's firm," he said, after touching her bright silver side. She weighed in at 9 pounds, and was spitting eggs as Anne took our picture from the bank. The fish swam off after being revived for a minute.

We called it a night. Five fish in an hour of fishing. We probably spent 40 of those minutes fighting fish. This was Keyonis' introduction to the power of steelhead. Hopefully we'll have the chance for many more outings, but it will hard to top this one. What a beautiful Easter.

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