My lucky number has always been 7. Very cliché, but it works for me. It stands tall, with a list to one side. It is odd, and prime, the perfect counterbalance to “Even Steven” tendencies. It is also my favorite weight of two-handed rod, perfectly matched to Oregon steelhead and the rivers they inhabit. Hope in a number.
The anticipation started to rise as my rig piled on the miles … 50,000 … 60,000 … 70,000 … 77,000 … 77,700. With my drive to winter steelhead waters around 100 miles round trip, I knew the magical mark was coming: 77,777. Would the day bring good luck? Hope and superstition spring eternal among anglers, and I had to conjure some more. I dialed up the studio version of Sonic Youth’s “Stereo Sanctity” from my younger rowdier days, and heard a resounding “7” tumble into cacophony, propelling me along winding ice and snow covered roads to my first winter steelhead trip of the year.
I strung up my favorite all-rounder for these tightly hemmed coastal rivers, the C.F. Burkheimer 7127-4. This sweetheart is a light but capable 7 wt that fishes floaters and sunken lines equally well. With the cold high water and low air temps, I was expecting little more than some casting practice, a chance to relearn the groove of swinging sinktips and sunken flies. It was the perfect day to fish water from top to bottom, to feel the soul of the rod and relish each cast as it soaks through the flow. It was also a day to reacquaint with many boulders and ledges concealed by greasy slicks. Find them under gentle tension or they’ll trick you into a rock-hard hookset.
I stood at the head of The Funnel in hard pushy current, casting over fast seams for a broadside swing in quieter water. As I etched the river’s contours in my mind, the fly stopped hard and cold. Honestly, I thought it was a boulder, and immediately a downstream belly started to form in the line. Damn boulder. A gentle tug to free it. The boulder tugs back. Huh? The boulder then headshakes and I realize my good fortune. With the line’s belly pulling steadily downriver, the fish swims slowly upriver against the tension, acting like it isn’t even hooked. Everything seeming as calm as can be, I take the opportunity to wade to safer position, but just as I start to move the fish responds with a surge. I’m halfway turned away when the pool lights up in a fury of leaps. Fighting the cold water, the current, and the drag of the reel, the fish soon tires and comes quickly to hand. What a rock! This one has sea-bright scales and translucent fins. An ingot of silver etches permanently in my mind’s map of the pool.
This is only the beginning of improbable day that turns out far better than I’d ever expected. By day’s end, I’ve hooked five fish and landed each of them - all bucks. What did I do to deserve this? I pack up early, leaving time for icy roads. On the drive home, I glance down momentarily, and the odometer flashes back the only explanation that makes sense.