By Jerry Myers
Terry continues her hunt for steelhead. Last year she was unsuccessful in catching a wild steelhead the months of May and July. Since I act as the Official Rules Interpreter for “THE WILD EXPECTATIONS QUEST” and am easily bribed, the rules were bent to include May and July of 2016 to see if a wild steelhead could still be caught every month of the calendar. Plus, we still have some credit line available on our Visa. The bank was very agreeable to an expansion.
Further more, two young women of remarkable artistic talents and proven stamina have joined THE QUEST. Sarah Menzies and Becca Skinner are photographers that found THE QUEST intriguing enough to merit a story regarding Terry’s steelhead condition. Trout Unlimited awarded Sarah a $5K grant to assist in producing a short film about women and fishing (sounds a bit like Terry). More funding is currently being sought from sponsors to complete the film project by December. Proper film making ain’t cheap!
So I found myself in SE Alaska earlier this month testing the limits of rain gear and attempting to keep up with 3 gals as they pursued steelhead in a swollen river that none of us had seen before. Two were armed with cameras, one with fly rods. We rented a drift boat and loaded our camping gear for a 3 days float to the Gulf of Alaska. The photographers doubled up in an inflatable kayak using an umbrella over their cameras to shoot in the incessant deluge. I bailed rain water out of the boat continually. We fished in the rain, we ate in the rain, we slept in the rain and we drank a hot toddy or two in the rain. Cold and rain for 6 days is perfect steelhead weather but challenging for humans packing finicky electronic gear. I had to toughen up to hang with these women as all four of us pursued our favorite fish with lens and fly.
Alaska was our longest sojourn from our home water here on the Salmon. SE Alaska has numerous streams that support spring run steelhead while most rivers in the lower 48 are running swift and high with spring runoff. Our northwest summer run steelhead are in their spawning phase in May and June. Most steelhead fishermen find it unsporting to cast to fish that are on shallow spawning beds attempting to mate. Alaska has both spawning fish and ocean fresh chromers this time of year, it was easy to avoid the active spawners and seek the new arrivals in deeper more traditional runs. Alaska, for us, is an eccentric old friend, wild and full of surprises. We spent our early marriage in Katmai National Monument managing a fly-in sport fishing lodge where we were immersed in the immensity of the landscape and the productivity of it’s streams. It was great to be back!
So I’ll cut to the chase. Terry was able to tie into a couple of impressively strong wild Alaskan steelhead, one within earshot of nearby crashing ocean surf and both as bright as foil. And our two photographers landed some digital silver and gold of their own, displaying formable perseverance waiting for the real action to begin. Assisting your wife with a net-less landing in a bank-full, log infested river and her first hookup in 5 days can be a bit nerve-wracking. Add a couple of professional videographers armed with audio and visual zeroing in on the money shot of a fish in hand. I think they call it dramatic tension and I think I had it. Fish landed, photos taken, cameras tucked in outta the rain, flask uncorked, mission accomplished, (well for May anyway). That leaves this July as the final chapter in the Quest. I can feel the dramatic tension building already!