Since the steelhead season is just ahead I thought I would share a story with you. Some of you may still be looking for your first fish and others will be C&R'ing a lot of fish this season, but one thing you never forget is your first steelhead.
While returning from school and crossing the bridge over the Allouette, I stopped and watched a guy pull in the biggest trout I had ever seen...I had been fishing that river for about a year or so as well as the small creek that ran through our property and had just entered my second year of school. The small creek still had a good run of coho in the fall as well as some chum that would struggle up what was no more than a glorified ditch.
However, that ditch did have some big trout in it as I was to find out as the years went by.
The poor, dying salmon would sit motionless in their spots as the cold weather arrived and some of them actually had their dorsal fins frozen into the creekwater so they became imprisioned in their spawining waters.
The big trout that I had seen caught excited me so much I begged my mom to let me ride my bike to the local sports shop so I could find out how to catch one of these monster trout!
I had the good fortune of spending my spare time getting advice from the E & D sports shop as well as Mr. Paul Desbrisay, owner of DesBrisay's Sporting goods that was located right downtown Haney,who, I would find out later, would lead me to my first steelhead.
The next few years, I spent quite a bit of time watching others and one rainy fall day I caught my first jack coho on a worm under a float..My biggest fish so far in my career. Better things were to lie ahead.
One Saturday, after I had finished my chores I grabbed my 2 piece fibreglass rod, with the tiny seldex reel and headed to the river....that is where I got to fish next to one of the local masters of the river. Paul was throwing some fine casts into the river and as I walked up to him , he turned and said...."Hi. Bobby!...Good to see you out"! How is that rod working out that I sold you?" I said it had caught a nice jack coho a month or so earlier, but I was still on the hunt for my first steelhead.
He was an interesting man, and he reminded me of my Dad...A bit short, slightly overweight, silver hair and and a comlexion that showed his preference for the outdoors or perhaps a good bottle of whiskey. Frankly, I thought he was old.He had sold me whatever I could afford from my paper delivery money and my allowances, which wasn't much, but he insisted that these big trout are rather stupid and if you get something red, red/orange in front of them, they will bite.
I watched him make a few more casts and he asked me over to his side, and he carefully placed his rod in my hand and said, "Go ahead, make a few casts".This was a 10-11 foot custom made rod with a beautiful silex reel and it casted like a dream. I got used to the center pin casting easily as I was using the baby brother to it on my rod....As soon as he could see I was proficient with the equipment he quickly told me that just before my arrival he had rolled a fish behind some large rocks just upstream and now that it has rested awhile it might be worth a few more casts into the area.."Go ahead, I would love to watch you get your first".
The gear set-up was a handmade cork float with 3 split-shots and a # 6 orange/white wings spin 'n'glo, with a tiny piece of white wool in the roe knot.
He told me exactly where to cast and with nervous hands I laid out the first cast into the light green water, and watched the float and the gear gently land in the water. Unfortunately, I was a liitle late with the palm of my hand to slow the rotation of the reel and consequently got a bit of a backlash.
The terminal gear hung up on the bottom and once I had cleared the reel, I lifted up the rod tip to find what I thought to be bottom, but as i tightened the line, a huge chrome fish said hello by a couple of head shakes then exploded out of the water!..."Careful careful, keep the rod tip up.... let him go if he wants to go." carefully...... I followed all my mentors instructions and led the fish to the skilled hands of Mr. Desbrisay who carefully removed the hook from his mouth in the water and asked me "Beauty fish! Ya wanna keep him"?........I looked a my prize at my feet, handed the rod back and remembered what this same old guy had told me in his store. "You'd release him, wouldn't you? I asked".."Yup, I would" and with that I nodded my head in agreement, and he gently steered the fish back into the Allouette and I had the memory of my first steelhead forever etched into my head.
I thanked him profusely at the time and many other times over the years. He never forgot it either. He talked about how he had helped me get into my first steelie in the store all the time. The fish weighed approx.10lbs. was an absolute bullet, and was caught in 1955. I thought he was an old man at the time. Recently, I realized I'm just just the mirror of the man, still fishing the Allouette...............Ortho 8)