"The Longest Silence" is one of my favorite books. The writing is fantastic, reminding me of Schweibert and Haig-Brown in it's practical love of fish, the places they live and people who they meet while chasing them. I especially though love his months long description of trying to catch a permit, one of the hardest to catch fish on a fly.
I read that section again and again sometimes because it reminds me of learning to fish. For whatever reason I seem to find the hardest way to figure it out. Fly fishing was like that, salmon were like that, steelhead were like that and now Puget Sound is like that. What's weird is that I can remember the first one of those fish hooked and lost as easily as if it was yesterday.
My first big fish on a fly was on the little Deschutes where I clambered down a steep bank into a slowly deepening run with overhanging alders. I roll cast a Clouser Minnow into the current and let it roll along and then pull up tight and stripped it back. I had about decided to leave the run and had just let the fly dangle in the current when a big Cutthroat took it. My line ran off of my little reel and the fish jumped twice and was gone with my fly. I can still remember the sun shining on the fly right before that trout decided to kill it.
My first hooked steelhead on a fly was in a very very long run of cobblestone. I had recently started tying spey flies and had landed a dandy 19 inch Cutthroat on a Lady Caroline and had switched to a homemade contraption of copper colored dubbing and a duck flank. Steelhead fishing makes your casting better over time and I remember casting about 45 degrees downstream and thinking that was a nice cast. Bam, Tug, Tug and it was gone faster than it took me typing those words.
I've been trying to figure out Puget Sound since I got my boat. I've fished for Kings off of Lilliwaup and Bald Point, Chambers Creek and everywhere else I could think of. I've caught a few Chum and Pinks so I know how to pick them up at times but the big Kings keep eluding me. This morning I went out, armed with some new knowledge from a friend of mine and started fishing not long after first light.
I was trolling in shallow water with a cut plug herring and a 4 oz weight. I don't have a fish finder so I had to check for bottom by holding the rod every now and then to feel for bounces. I had just done than and put the rod back in it's holder when it started bouncing back and forth like mad. I killed the motor and got the rod out of the holder and set the hook in time to see my line taking off of the reel and the fish splash on the surface. I started playing it in and then reached for the net to make sure it was handy. Right then the fish ran straight for the boat and by the time I reeled up tight, no fish was there.
Like those other two fish, I will never forget this. The astonishment at seeing the rod bounce after getting it in the rod holder and the gutting disappointment when I reeled up to a 4 oz weight with no fish. The quiet hum of my trolling reel when it's letting line out and the solid head shaking weight of a big king.