Wenatchee Steel

I asked my good friend and high school buddy to join Joe and me for a trip on the Wenatchee for steelhead. Mike has fly fished for trout for probably close to 20 years, but like so many others he hasn’t quite taken the leap to chase steelies. Ok, I’ll give it away early… let’s just say he’s glad he did! I really wanted to put him on one of my Spey Rods, just to give him a taste of what a different casting style is like. We all know someone like Mike, he is one of those guys that has CRAZY, natural athletic talent (think a .9 handicap in golf, yes “point 9” not “9” - and pro caliber baseball background…) so I knew he’d pick up Spey Casting quickly. Yep, he did, by the second hole, with Joe’s help, he was getting every other cast about 60-70 feet out. It was more about his ability to easily manage the line and not hang up on the back cast than the length of the cast into the run.

The weather was beautiful, 55 degrees in the morning reaching to just over 80 midday, and not a cloud to be seen. Yep, it was beautiful for humans, or for time in Hawaii, but not so beautiful for steelhead fishing. The river temp was above 50, warm. Joe and I felt the bright sun would probably put a damper on the fishing, pushing them deep into the slots given the 8 feet of visibility. The river flow was solid, about 900 cfs and on a slight drop.

We launched at Monitor; nothing home at the bridge hole, but damn it fished well. After another hole or 2 we find ourselves at the highway run as I call it. We start Mike up high in the riffle, and I take the lower half, mainly because I can cast further and it’s a lot wider down low. By now we’re getting itchy for a tug, really itchy. Joe plays coach from the dugout helping Mike with casting and showing him the finer points of mending. I’m thrashing the water down low and starting to salivate at how great it looked. Joe wanders down to my stretch and comments on Mike starting to get his Spey groove, then we hear it. FISH ON!! We both turn, and for a split second I’m kind of expecting to maybe see a trout or white fish, not sure why, probably just an unconscious and stupid thought of “some rookie isn’t going to hook up before me.” Sure, dream on. Mike is tied into a hot steelhead and she was blasting like hell down the run and bucking around like she’d just been told her ass looked fat. I instantly have that feeling of pure joy from seeing someone’s face with their first real encounter with the worlds most revered freshwater sport fish, it was simply awesome!! His face was lit up like a thousand pipes at Woodstock. She was thrashing about and took 2 strong runs, sizzling the reel in his hands as he looked at me with eyes the size of Lady GaGa’s gaga’s. He got her to the beach twice, but that 2nd big run took him 80 feet down the hole and… poof… gone… just as quick as it started. He looked, well, dejected, as expected of course, and Joe and I were really bummed for him. But, while technically not a “landed” fish, Joe and I reinforced to Mike that it was the better part of the whole experience. A minute+ of pure adrenaline rush from a hooked steelhead is very hard to beat. And feeling the weight of something on his line that might as well have been a whale compared to most of the fish he’s landed. He REALLY wanted another fish, mission accomplished!

Joe is nuts about reading water, in a good way. He picks slots and runs I’d pass right up, but then I get to casting and he’s right, nice run Joe. He calls it “funny water,” and you may ask, “as in funny like a clown, Joe?” No Peschi, as in funny like “you’ll be laughing your ass off at the droves of fishermen that pass up that water while you land a steelie” funny. Not sure if I like that skill or the Moosedrool Ale he serves better, hell, I’ll take both. But just keep the ink pen out of my neck please.

Mike was using one of Joe’s beautiful Pimped Up Purple Peril’s, awesome fly (thanks Joe!) and an intermediate tip. The fish took hard and fought better than most. We estimated that she might be pushing 7-8 lbs, probably a wild hen and quite bright to boot. She took the fly about 1/2 way through the swing in what looked like about 4 feet of water. The flow at that spot seemed a bit faster than you’d expect to hook up, but not by much. Maybe it provided more cover with the riffle/whitewater or maybe a bit more oxygen from the riffle with the warmer water? We’ll never know, but that doesn’t matter, the most important thing is that we were all smiling for the rest of the day. But as for the rest of the day, well, it produced not a single tug. Oh well, it IS early season steelheading.

To top it all off, we only saw one other boat on that beat, which was pure heaven! Well, that was second only to the burger of the gods and “the milkshake that can stop time” at the Heidelburger in Leavenworth - crazy delicious!

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