Lessons learned

Some of the most valuable Alaska steelhead lessons I learned while flyfishing for rainbow trout in California.
They weren’t some magical insight or secret from a guide but observations I made while fishing the same water over and over.
My buddy Kurt and I were fishing a river that had dropped from 7000 to 5000 cubic feet per second. The drop revealed a network of skinny but deep channels that were invisible when the water was up. They were deep canyons of blue water where trout would hold. Get the cast just right, and you could drop a heavily weighted nymph rig in one and likely get a fish. A bad cast would get you hung up on a wall or gummed up with the brown slime that lined them. Six inches made all the difference.
Even if you’re not dealing with channels, there is nothing in a fish that says it has to recognize you’re using the right fly and obey your desire for it to bite. It doesn’t have to move six inches to take the fly just because you want it to.
I kept casting to where my buddy had hooked one — well, at least where I thought it was. Then I considered the chute. The shore on my side of the river dipped sharply then rose almost instantly. If it was like that on the other side, then the best holding water was right next to the opposite bank.
I sent a roll cast to the far side of the river, two feet beyond where I was casting, and almost on top of a monolithic shelf that was in six inches of water. The fly fell off the shelf. One thousand one. One thousand two.
Boom. Steelhead.
Next cast, same spot, off the shelf. One thousand one. One thousand two.

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