When the ice has melted, steelhead fever strikes
Written by Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal   
Sunday, 24 April 2005 03:40
Not every angler gets steelhead fever. In fact, it?s a pretty rare disease compared to the yellow plague (walleye) or the speckled pox (brookies). At some point, when he was a younger man, Gord Sr. got bit by the steelhead bug pretty bad.

One of my earliest childhood memories is of Mom herding my brother and me out onto the lawn ?to see what Dad caught.?

There, kneeling on the still brown grass, was our father with a big McIntyre River steelhead.

There?s a picture somewhere of Roy and me standing in flannel pyjamas holding that fish. I suppose that?s when the infection was passed.

During my teen years, steelhead fishing was about the only thing more interesting to me than guitars and girls.

A few friends at that time who had similar interests ? in steelhead, I mean ? would be part of our annual spring steelheading adventures.

Only a fever could drive someone to spend a freezing night sleeping in the front seat of a Chevy Impala, but that?s exactly what a buddy and I did. Many times.

When it wasn?t an Impala, it was in the back our family?s Matador stationwagon.

At some point, about the time my grandfather started fishing with my Dad and me, we graduated to a pop-up tent trailer. The trailer was a whole lot more luxurious than the Matador, and even had a built-in heater. We would park that thing at the Jackpine for a whole week.

Unfortunately, my grandfather insisted on burning giant bonfires and sparks nearly burned the tent down.

But that?s another story.

Many years have passed since those heady days and the steelhead fever has dimmed somewhat.

It?s not that I don?t get fired up when the streams start to open, because I still do. However, the days of pre-tying 200 yarn flies in February are over. Gone as well are the late-night lead sinker pours. Maybe that?s a good thing.

But the evenings of spawn bag tying with the hockey game are still on, although this spring I?m going to have to make do with Fear Factor.

So too is the annual inventory of stuff in my two decade-old fishing vest. I tried to retire that old Columbia vest this spring ? even contemplated throwing it out ? but our history together prevented that. So the vest will get one more season on the river. Or maybe two.

Despite the mellowing of age, spring is still considered ?steelhead season? in our house. Cheryl expresses amazement whenever I agree to do yard work ? or anything, really ? between mid-April and mid-May. That she understands the importance of this time period is just one of the many good reasons I married her.

Part of the appeal of steelhead fishing is being able to follow almost daily the course of the run. You chase the fish from ice-out and low water, through the peak runoff, and into the low water of late May. Each period has its challenges and pleasures.

I?ve been out a few times already this spring, and even managed to catch a couple fish. The early trout are always memorable, as the power of these bright fish is something wild.

When the runs picks up, and the fish flood in the rivers, individual steelhead become something of a blur.

But what a fine blur it is.

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