After a summer of record-setting drought and low flows, winter roared into the Pacific Northwest late in 2015, dumping much needed snow in the mountains and rain in the rivers. So much rain, so fast, that many rivers reached flood stage over multiple days in back-to-back storms. Bank side trees were uprooted and moved to new places. Gravel was scoured and sculpted into new bars. Big changes, but only temporary until the next big storm comes along.
This is the season that brings heart racing anticipation to many Pacific Northwest anglers - the season of winter steelhead - the burliest we've got. Everyone knows the fishing it tough and the weather unpredictable. Even with modern tools like 10 day weather predictions and satellite images, ideal conditions remain as elusive as the fish. Sure, I could try to wait for the perfect day, but with life beyond the river tugging on my time, I rely on plan "A" and simply go when I can. Even marginal conditions give cause for celebration, an excuse to explore. It's a time to cut new trails and groom old ones, clearing away the summer's salmonberry thickets, but carefully keeping the entrances hidden in the hope that I can stay there forever.
The view opens up into endless possibility and a preternatural instinct takes over. Strip the line slowly and ply the soft water near the bank. Stretch the kinks out of the running line and toss one to the bucket formed by the ledge. Drop it in broadside, a little slack at first, then swim it slowly with the pulse of the flow. Feel the pull of the current and the river's deep green beauty. Winter is here!