It wasn't quite 40 years, but we still spent most of October wandering the desert, in search of...
Ok, so it ain't Psalm 107:4 , but close enough. The desire to be near steelhead has driven many a man to improbable acts, and while leaving AK in the fall to fish for a bunch of puny A-runs is a fairly contrary act (see also: RoadTrip '10 v5 Recap, Box score), it is not unheard of...matter of fact, this was the 4th such peregrination to the hinterlands.
We had a grand total of about 113 hours in between trips this time, just enough to get all of the AK gear sorted and stowed and the new rods laid out, do a little emergency "holy crap, what are we forgetting?" time at the vise, wash all of the fleece that we own, and shove 2 weeks' worth of crap into a pile small enough to not pay overweight luggage charges AND get into the back of an economy-class rental car.
This year was nice.
This year, we didn't have a single day of leaky waders...last year, we didn't have a dry day.
This year, we got a chance to study at the feet of the fish, to learn from the river...last year, we ran around like a chicken with its head cut off.
This year, a fella had to have a game plan, and had to come at it with some humility and deference...last year, everyone and their grandma was catching fish.
This year, we took some pics and did some hangin' out with some like-minded dirtbags...last year, we fished like casts were food and we were starving.
This year was nice - for those of you that didn't spend 14 days wandering the desert in search of steel, this is what you missed, in no particular order.
Live bait, Montana-style.
"...ok, dammit, what are we forgetting? Anything?"
A partial selection of the tasty things thrown to friends this year.
This guy ambled down the bar one morning and lowholed us by skating himself across a juicy tailout.
Captain DirtBag, enjoying some fine reading material in the courtyard of the DirtBag Hilton.
The Gonger, in his own version of Geek Heaven.
Moving day...more river for us.
Dog and Pony show...photo stolen from Steelie Mike D, without permission, then altered to protect the guilty.
The ceremonial shotgun - we documented, then hit one solo. We woulda won.
If you haven't fished with a two-hander at night, you haven't fished. If you haven't fished a two-hander at night while rockin' the 'fro, you are missing a whole universe of mojo.
Another night-ops fish, this one taken out of the back pocket of a bobber-flinger...swing or die, heathen.
If there is anything more fun than speycasting at night, it would have to be skating flies for steel. Like the feeling one gets from involuntary adrenaline rushes, impromptu participation in kinky sex, or the ingestion of high-quality pharmaceuticals, the moment that your fly disappears in a spray of water and explosion of sound is one that you must experience firsthand to truly understand, and one that you will spend the rest of your life trying to recapture. After the last few years, we will gladly forego DOZENS of subsurface fish for a single player on top. Yes, we are now officially Damaged Goods when it comes to steelhead fishing...
Dry Fly or Die.
We had one epic day of skating where we raised a PILE of fish (20, give or take a few) during the change-of-light hours on both ends of the day - still trying to process some of the mental images from that day. 2 takedowns in one cast, a loooong ways apart? Seen it. A steelhead vee-waking into shore, chasing a stripped skater? Yep. A fish cartwheeling out of the water while chasing your offering? Mm-hmm.
Not sure if that day will ever be equaled, but it will live on in our brain for awhile. One of the dance partners from the epic-nocity.
Mike D's big bucky, on the Mo-fly
Angry little buck that took and fought like he was much bigger. We took his picture out of respect.
Love in the rocks.
The last good cast, during a lull in "The Sunday Hurricane".
Our 14 days of wandering the desert is over, and we stagger back to civilization with the help of the torch of enlightenment from our travels.
Did we learn anything from this years' walkabout?
We're pretty sure we did, but we won't know for certain for another 334 days.