A Sucker Runs Through It

bradThere’s a scene at the end of A River Runs Through It where Paul (Brad Pitt) has the big one on, and wades down the raging torrent engaged in the epic struggle between fish and man. He’s thoroughly enraptured, and if I remember right, is never seen again (who could imagine a better ending). Well, except for the disappearing part, that was me Thursday morning at about 10:17 a.m., and I finally get what it’s all about.

Minnesotans, in theory, exit the womb with fishing tackle (poor mom), but I’ve been a pretty weak fisherman through the years, partly due to the fact that I don’t drive, and partly doe to the fact that I’m lazy. However, after Thursday, this may change.

My bothers Dave and Nate, and my friend Scott Norr have been trying to make a fisherman out of me for six or seven years now, and it may finally take. Scott had me out for my first steelhead run on the Sucker River up the shore from Duluth, and I’m going to come clean right away. It was the big one. It got away. It hardly matters. What matters was having it on.

Steelhead are naturally reproducing rainbow trout that were introduced into Lake Superior and its tributaries about a hundred years ago (give or take fifty). Every spring they run up the rivers for a few weeks to spawn, and this is when some guys get obsessed. The weather is crappy, the water is 36 degrees, they’re in it up to their hips, and steehead guys are in paradise.

We’d been out for a couple of hours drifting yarn flies (don’t I sound like an old hand?). We were working upstream from the Old 61 bridge, and the river was a torrent, though it had calmed down considerably since a downpour earlier in the week. Scott looked mighty perfesshinal wading through the torrent or winding through the bank brush. Me, I looked like a moron with two left feet, but I was slowly getting the knack of drift fishing.

I lost one fly to the bottom, and Scott coached me through my first snell knot. I decided to change my yarn fly from green to pink, and I’ll brag here. That decision was the key.

Oh, why be modest. That decision has changed my life.

Back out in the current, the sky threatening to open, the falls ahead of me roaring like Niagara Junior, I was back doing my double handed drift thing, thinking that this was a lot of fun and maybe we’d catch fish the next time.

Then there was a new bump I hadn’t felt before.

And then SHAZAM!

I’ve hooked plenty of fish through the years and enjoyed every one of them, but this was something new. This was like, HOLY CRAP! My adrenaline nearly popped my cap off. Lady steelhead was pumped, too.

She shot up into the falls for a second, and then shot down right past me (nearly through my legs) and started pulling line out of my reel faster than I could reel it back in. I called to Scott, who was lost in his own reverie, but as soon as he saw what was happening, he coached me something fierce.

“Move downstream with her,” he crooned, “and don’t fall.” Here’s where I did my Brad Pitt impersonation. I was reeling like crazy and still losing ground, so Scott had me tighten the drag. Meanwhile, I was speaking in tongues and maybe shouting a few things that would make mom cringe, stumbling down the river to a solid spot to take my stand.

On the other end of the line, with the current in her favor, lady steelhead was still winning, and as I tried to pinch the line and haul the rod back to gain some traction against her, the line went slack.

A let down? Well, sure. I didn’t even get a good look at her, but word is that nobody lands their first steelhead. On the upstream, for close to a minute (that might be a stretch) I was completely absorbed in something beyond words. I could work really hard to try to describe it here, but I would fail. Until I felt it, I could never have understood.

I want to that do again. Definitely the pink yarn. Definitely pink. Pressure’s on for number two.


This entry was posted in General Musings. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Sucker Runs Through It

  1. Amy Jo says:

    Have you read The River Why by David James Duncan? You must!

  2. David says:

    Okay, two words: “Big Two-Hearted River” by Hemingway. Very pleasant read–it’s a “short” story. I love fly fishing in rivers and streams. In my former life, we fished often, although her idea of fishing was a boat on a lake. For me, a great part of the pleasure is the early morning, before breakfast, walk up or down the middle of the stream. The sound of the water blocks everything else out–very zen.

    When I was just a youngster, Mr. Del, an otherwise abusive man at the mission, would take me to Fish Creek, on the West Fork of the Dolores River, in the summer. We’d bring canned porknbeans, and white bread, and expect to eat fresh trout three times a day. Those are really good memories.

Comments are closed.