FREE THE CHUM: Steelhead Dreams


When I told him, I assumed he’d think I was a liar. Turns out he’s just as nuts as me.

It’s amazing how two seconds on a river can impact you. All it took was one subtle grab, one ferocious leap, and one spit hook. We spent hours chasing it. Then like a bolt of lightning it struck and vanished in a flash.

That site is burned in my brain. Chrome erupted from the water and suspended in the smoke-filled sky. Its metal head shook violently. Its silver-sided body flailed fiercely. And then the chrome ghost straight-up ghosted.

I didn’t sleep well that night. I tossed, and I turned. The ghost had vanished hours earlier, but it came back to haunt my dreams. Only in my dreams it was bigger, and its jumps were even more savage. At one point, it even morphed into a leaping tarpon.

The run where it all went down. Just a yellow speck amongst a sea of boulders, towering mountains, and a smoke-filled sky.

It turns out I wasn’t alone. Russ also dreamed of skipping steelhead. And he didn’t even see my fish take flight. My words were enough to create a cascade of angst-filled dreams. In one, a 60-inch, razor-mouthed pike chased the steel torpedo he desperately needed to catch.

I don’t interpret dreams, and I certainly don’t pretend to comprehend the machinations of the subconscious. But I think I understand this one.

We wanted to land this native rainbow’s larger, anadromous cousin, but these beauties are a pretty solid conciliation prize.

In just a few days, Russ is leaving his beloved Pacific Northwest for the steelhead-less waters of Colorado. The chrome clock is ticking loudly in his head and in his heart. And with each tick of that clock, his yearning for wild steelhead grows stronger and the unrelenting predator of time gets fiercer.

It’s a fitting metaphor for everyone who seeks steel. Our chances to connect with these wild giants disappear daily. For these icons of the Northwest, neither pike nor time is the indomitable predator. Unfortunately, it’s a far more menacing and indefatigable foe than even the toothiest, angriest pike. It’s the intransigence, irrationality, and greed of mankind.

That’s what usually haunts my dreams.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *