Our Man In Canada
June 26th, 2000
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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.

circa 1968

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."

The Best of OutdoorLife

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

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