Faith and Steelhead

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by Tim Harris

I just returned from my first real steelhead trip to the Deschutes in a couple of years.

I had to miss out all of last  two summer seasons due to illness though I did manage a few days last winter where I actually hooked up several fish and landed one nice hatchery fish.

Now I’ve got the steelhead sickness again, it is time though to break out the floating line and the switch rod and begin to swing Streetwalkers across the currents.   I’ll get up before dawn and head to the river in the early morning, rig up and wade out just as it begins to get light.  Then begins the methodical, meditative practice of cast, mend, swing, and step until I am at the bottom of the run and I pack up and go to work.   The cast is meditative too – strip, lift, swing, create the D loop, and let it rip.   Mend once, maybe twice.  Swing slowly.  Take one to two steps down.  Repeat.  Repeat. Repeat.

All the while you are keeping faith.  

Faith that there is a steelhead lurking in front of that rock where I got 5 fish one season.  Faith that a steelhead is following the swing and will maybe grab it on the hang-down if not sooner.  Faith that the fly is so damn enticing that  a fish has to be looking at it.  Faith there is at least one fish in the run at that moment.  Faith that, as you near the end of the run, the last cast will connect to steel which has happened to me more than once.

The 13th century Zen Master Dogen taught that Practice is Enlightenment.   In steelheading if the cast and swing is the practice, then the grab of a fish is enlightenment.  Maybe just the act of having faith and following the practice is the true catching and you don’t really need the steelhead at all.


Tim Harris
Gink & Gasoline
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