Steelhead fishing in the winter is also bear time. Often they will stay out of your way if they can hear you. When other fishermen approach me they often will find me singing or whistling a tune. Or they hear me well before they meet me, high pitch bells sounding like sleigh bells. They are tiny brass bear bells about 8 of them on a string hanging from my waist banging against my legs as I walk. Itís amazing how far the pitch sound travels. There has been time when I set off dogs across the river. You can take all the precaution and still come across a bear. Do not show fear and slowly back off. Do not turn around. Keep your eye on the bear. He is more often scared of you as much as you are scared of him. Never clean your fish in the river as they have a fantastic sense of smell and will follow the smell of blood. Never leave anything on the banks. The rule of thumb is if you canít carry it and keep it with you, then donít bring it.
As you approach an area that looks promising it is important to take a moment and look at the surroundings, and analyze the water level condition and the safe routes to explore out and in the water. Always respect the river, as it will take your life just as quick. This is also why I never wade at any water level without a wading staff. More fishermen are badly injured or drowned in shallow waters as they fall and hit their head or break bones on the exposed boulder. Always remember the route you waded out so when coming back out it will be allot easier. The wading staff also known as a third leg needs to be strong and have the ability to carry your weight. I use a bamboo cross country ski pole with the snow guard removed. It floats out of my way and it can carry allot of weight without collapsing as some will.
The next step is to be able to read the flow of the river and were the likely places a steelhead will lay. Itís never the same as the river rises and lowers during the season and the Steelhead will lay often in different parts of the flow. This is knowledge that you will gain as your experience increases. Your first cast should be the closest. Stealth is important to these wary, sly and sensitive creatures. They could be just on the other side of a large boulder within 10 feet as was this photo example. Thankfully and good timing a buddy on the other side of the river was taking pictures of me when the I got a solid hit and an explosion of fish came next. Both photos are situations that I would warn those that are not use to wading big water, donít make the attempt as the wrong move would have sent even me tumbling down the river.
High water or what often the river is often called flooded out is dangerous. I have in the past when I first began wading taken chances and stepped off the bank and instantly I am 4 feet deep in fast water scrambling trying to get out. Itís an awful feeling when your feet no longer can keep you grounded. One time I drifted into the trees and its like slow motion your tangled in the branches and then you start to be pulled down and you struggle just to keep yourself stable. I lucked out and was able to pull my self out. I was muddy and the top of my waders partially full of water. What stopped my waders from filling up was my waist belt. Often others feel its nuisance but itís a lifesaver if you fall in as your waders will be full and heavy and will pull you down.
Keep your sense to be safe and its easy to enjoy nature at its bestÖ. We are blessed to have these rivers so close to us lets always leave it pristine.
Itís rare that I am alone any more as its always safe with a fishing partner. I also get to have another camera to record our exploits and adventures of the day. Donít be surprised new-bees that you donít catch a steelhead right away. I still get skunked and its important to enjoy the journey as there will be time that that wily steelhead will beat you at the game. Thatís why it called fishing.
Gil díOliveira .......... Web Domain........ Castingaline.com
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