To fully appreciate flyfishing for steelhead in the fall, you must think of it as a process. Of course, you can simply show up at a river and fish for these migratory beasts any old day of the week. You may even catch one or more. But that really isn't what it's all about. I've realized this since moving away from a certain Great Lakes coastal area.
|When I wake up in September and it is raining (like today), I think of this fish|
|October Steelhead are also very nice, but only the really big ones are memorable|
Perhaps just as important as your experiences on the water are your experiences off the water. The fly shops are buzzing with talk about big fish, where someone hooked this or that fish and on what fly. You don't contribute much to these conversations, choosing instead to listen and nod your head. You meet friends at local bars to watch the baseball playoffs and talk about your last day on the river. At the end of the season you will look back and realize that for every hour you spent on the river you spent 2 or 3 thinking about being there, tying flies, talking about it. For me, fall steelheading was about immersing myself in a feeling best characterized by constant anticipation and tension. Not catching fish only increased the time I spent thinking about catching fish and further added to the anticipation of getting back on the water.
The fall steelhead season ends in November, when the air temperature might not get above freezing all day. You still fish because you know that fish are in the river. You also know that you won't be having the sort of days you had in October. But you go because this is the end of a two-month process. Most of the leaves are off the trees now and the scene is brown and cold, perhaps with a dusting of snow. Ironically, you spend more time looking around now than you did when the fall colors were so pretty because you simply can't stand to be in the water for extended periods of time- it's just too cold. And then it's over, the season ends. Perhaps more importantly, the mystery is gone. You now know that the fish are in the river and you know where to find them. That doesn't mean you'll catch them. But you know much more now than you did in Sept when this whole process started. In the Spring you will come back and fish hard. But you will know that the fish are in and the process will be much different.