Saturday, November 9, 2013

Losing Newbie Status

I am not a fishing guide, nor do I want to be one. (Guides work way too hard.) But I do enjoy introducing people to the magic of river fishing, particularly on Steelhead Alley. Teaching a newbie to fish for steelhead requires one to act like a guide -- lots of knot tying, constant coaching and a ton of patience. (Like I said, guides work very hard.) Even if the newbie has fished before the techniques for steelhead are significantly different that nearly everything is indeed new.

Some new steelheaders take years to leave their newbie status -- partly because they don't fish enough to improve. And partly because steelhead are elusive enough and strong enough fighters that many newbies just don't get many chances to fight and land fish. Newbies generally need help with knots; spend as much time untangling line as fishing (seasoned vets, myself included, can do this too); don't manage their line well enough to get a good drift; and/or let the fish control the fight.

By tenure on Steelhead Alley, Brian is still a newbie. But today he left his newbie status behind by hooking and calmly landing the only fish of the day with the ease of a veteran.

Last fall Brian resumed fishing after taking an extended break and he tried steelheading for the first time. After a fishless fall and winter, he hooked and landed his first steelie in the spring. We met this morning and he quickly fixed his rigging on his own and tied on the chartreuse sucker spawn I provided. He didn't let the gusty winds tangle his line and he managed his line to extend his drifts. He kept the fly out of the snags and somehow managed to avoid the thousands of leaves drifting downstream on the Rocky River.

I was fishing downstream when I heard him announce that he was into a fish. We couldn't tell what he was hooked into because the fish fought like a bulldog,
Newbie No More
uncharacteristically refusing to come to the surface. The fish stripped line with a few short powerful runs that indicated Brian was hooked into a steelie, not a sucker. But it took several minutes before we saw the telltale silver flash of the fish's side. Brian didn't overreact to knowing he was hooked into his quarry. He calmly exited the river and swung his 9 foot fly rod to bring the fish close to the bank where I could grab her by the tail. We snapped a few pictures without removing the fish from the water. And then she powered her way back into the current.

Brian smiled knowing he had both landed his first fish of the season and brought an end to his newbie status.


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