Heaven Is A Steelhead, Part 3
By Joe Brooks
Back we went to our fishing, and now it was Jack who got the action.
He gave a whoop, and I jerked my head around in time to see a tremendous
steelhead in the air. It fell back with a splash and tore the surface to shreds
as it steamed for the far bank. Then, just as suddenly, it turned, rushed
right back at Jack, and came out of the water only 15 feet from him.
I could see that this steelhead was bigger than the one I had just landed.
Jack stayed with the big, strong fish for 15 minutes. Finally he got it
into the shallows, where its color blazed up and seemed to tint the water
with crimson and pink sparks. The fish was fat and found-looking, its
weight riding the length of the body into the tail - a powerful fish from
a mighty breed.
Jack skidded the steelhead onto shore. The scales said 25 pounds - a
skookum (mighty good) steelhead for sure.
We had released all of our other fish, except a couple that we'd eaten,
so Jack and I both felt that we could be excused for keeping these two
for mounting. There were the sleekest-looking steelheads I've ever
seen - fine products of a great river.
The Babine was loaded with big fish. The next day, I fished the pool
below the weir with another of the camp's guests, Don Ives, a machine
salesman from Seattle.
I was about 200 feet below Don when he hooked a fish so big that if
I hadn't seen the crimson on its sides during a jump, I'd have thought
that it was a chinook salmon. The fish streaked downstream with a
definite goal in mind, maybe the salt.
Don raced past me in pursuit of the great fish and disappeared around
a point. Twenty minutes later he came trudging back.
"He took me down through the next two pools," Don told me. "He got
into a pocket behind a rock, and I got most of my line back. Then the
hook pulled out. That fish must have been forty pounds."
I could well agree. That was certainly the biggest steelhead I'd ever seen.
And Don's reel handle was bent to about a 40 degree angle from the
pressure that had been on it.
In many steelhead rivers you can occasionally take fish, especially
summer-run fish, on dry flies and by skating spiders; or you can take
them on flies fished just under the surface. But all of us at the Babine
camp tried this kind of fishing at one time or another without luck. ~ Joe Brooks
*Publisher's Note: The above story is by the late Joe Brooks,
written for OutdoorLife magazine in 1968. This excerpt is from
a wonderful book, The Best of OutdoorLife, One Hundred Years
of Classic Stories. We thank Cowles Creative Publishing, Inc. for use
permission. ~ dlb