The following is the adventure of me swinging a fly I tied in a lovely pool on the Salmon River and hooking, and landing, my second biggest ever steelhead. This anecdote is transcribed off of my long hand journal entry. This event took place in November of 1988.
"Around 8:15 I casually drove up to Altmar and drove into the parking lot. There were quite a few guys stretched out both sides of the pool. At the tail out there were three fly fishers and I watched them and chatted with them for a while. They told me the spin fishermen were hooking up periodically. One guy got out of the river and I quickly went back to the car and got geared up.
I got in at the tail but didn't like the water and the drift I was getting but I stuck it out hoping the guy above me would leave soon. Within half an hour he did leave and I moved in slightly above where he had been fishing. The water was much better here, 3' - 4' deep, and right at the seam between some soft and swift water. I was getting a great drift, casting across, mending to get depth, and letting the chartreuse bodied fly with a chartreuse Krystal Flash wing, probe the bottom of the river. I fished this one run methodically and steadily for about 45 minutes.
The water looked great, if there were steelhead in the pool they were right there in front of me. Fished an area slightly upstream and 15' - 20' in front of me and let it swing down below me. Over and over I cast letting the shot tick, tick on the bottom as I mended the line and tried to keep the fly presented perpendicular to the bank so the fish would see a nice big profile. Following one of many drifts the line paused, then I felt slight movement. I struck twice, hard, and immediately there was strong resistance and movement away from me. Any steelhead of more than ten pounds always feels tremendous to me and it's hard to judge their true size.
The fish didn't charge off in a blistering run, just a nagging spurt of line, 10 - 15 feet of line at a time. It would jerk off line then stop, then yank off another 15 feet of line. I couldn't hold this fish, ziss, ziss went the line through the guides, then stop, then repeat until the fish was in mid current about 60 feet out. I tightened up on my drag as much as I thought the 6# Maxima could take. The fish continued to bulldog in the bottom rubble. It was just gnawing away at the leader that kept it tethered and imprisoned.
I put in the 4" extension butt and started lifting the rod sharply. This made the fish respond with a typical run across and slightly upstream to the rock wall on the other side of the river. Then after a slight pause the fish made an immediate diagonal run downstream towards the lip of the pool. About 10' from the lip of the pool the steelhead vaulted into the air, it was awesome, a huge fish, bright silver sides, leaping three feet out of the water, throwing silver beads of water as she descended back into the river.
I was panicking, shaking all over, hopelessly excited over hooking this really big steelhead. I was afraid the fish would go over the lip at the tail-out and into the rapids below where I would of had to follow due to the swift current that would strip all of my backing out in less than a minute. I dropped the rod tip to remove the constant pressure I was applying to the fish and the steelhead did what all the books say they would do; think they are free and return to the sanctuary of deeper water in the pool. When the fish got midway back into the pool I felt I had won the fight and had thoroughly confused the steelhead. I applied tremendous pressure and gained line to the point where my leader was visible. Back and forth we went for about ten more minutes, give line, gain line! I pointed myself downstream and swung the fish around to quieter waters.
Still she wouldn't surrender, I was out of control and asked a guy below me to net the fish (it was too deep at the bank to beach the fish) The first two attempts were careless and unsuccessful, the third try was sloppy but it worked, the head of the fish was in the net but much of the body was out of the net. The big fish was defeated. I was beside myself with pure excitement! Big sleek bright female - 35" long and 16 pounds. Hooked in the tip of the upper jaw."
Now twenty-six years later I would never of killed that beautiful fish. I've caught dozens of big steelhead since then and would much rather now have a couple of close-up pictures to enjoy.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.