A friend of mine Nicholas Coleman went Steelheading this fall with his friend and legend, Dec Hogan. When I talked to Nicholas about Dec I had no idea that he was such a pioneer with guiding, spey rods and Steelhead. Dec has written “A Passion for Steelhead” and he did a River Journal called “Steelhead River Journal – Skagit and Sauk” . He has guided on the Skagit and Sauk for over 25 years and one of the first guys to do it with a spey rod. The photos that Nicholas sent are awesome. Below is Nicholas’s write up.
The last week of October came and went amazingly fast. The best part about it was I got a call from my friend Dec Hogan. If you don’t know who he is, you might want to look him up. You will find one of the best books on Steelhead fishing there is! What I love most about this guy is his enthusiasm for Steelheading. He recently has moved Washington to Utah and the closest Steelhead water has been on the Salmon River, near the North Fork in Idaho. Very, very pretty little place with a magic all its’ own. The drive is a pretty one and if you leave early enough in the morning from Utah you can be fishing by the late afternoon. It was pretty cold this year and very dark in the morning. Lots of hunters and sportsman alike all heading off to their own scouted territory and if you are a fisherman the earlier you are out the better chance you have a having a nice little run to yourself. I found out the hard way that gear chuckers and locals might feel different about the earliness of an arrival as I was in the middle of a beautiful run below an old bridge. I had started in the top of the run and the best part of the run was at the very bottom end of it. I was saving that for last, well at least I thought. When I was just coming into it a funny old guy was starting to set up about 20 feet below me. I was not amused, as I took my steps and was coming closer and closer to him he didn’t seem to mind. Then two more guy showed up spread out about five feet apart from their buddy and proceeded to start chucking stuff out. Their lines were about out to where I was and I was fishing just past their lines when I couldn’t take it any more and I got out. Later in the early afternoon, we checked their again and they hadn’t moved. I now know how things work I guess in little towns like that, but the good thing is we were not limited to that one piece of water. The weather still being super cold and as anyone knows its always a battle to keep the ice out of your guides, I was shocked even around the hottest part of the afternoon my guides were still icing up! We explored some familiar water, we had come up the year before as well and had some luck. So we really tried to find some great places. We had a few nibbles and a couple of misses for a couple of days and on the last day is when we hooked up with Dec’s brother in law and Marty Howard and his son Trevor and their buddy Mark O’meara. We crossed a long stretch of river to fish a run with some nice slow moving water. Mark was the first to start into them. As I watched with a bit of jealously from the other side of the river. I knew that patience would pay off. Just above me Trevor yelled and he had one on, then off! A few minutes later he was landing one. Patience is a good virtue, its tested when you have been standing in freezing cold water for a few days and no real fish. I forgot to mention, that morning as we woke up and came out of the tent, that the temperature had gone up big time. Probably 10 degrees or so. I think this is why the fish decided to start moving for us. I watched Mark nail a few more, I think Trevor might have caught one more, then it was finally my turn. My Hardy Bougle 4” lightweight reel sang into action and the part when I was talking about patience…I got greedy and lifted up a little early and in and instant, gone. Dec decided that day to get serious with photographing. If you didn’t know, he is an excellent photographer and has a great eye for lighting and composition. It is harder than anyone thinks in my profession and when I see what a great photographer can do Im always impressed. Dec and I had some words, and from the bank I hear, “you feel confident in your choice of fly?” I immediately said “yes!” and then a few cast later Im thinking, “hmmm..maybe Im not…” Ah crap, so I switch over to one of Dec’s little pink, well it looks like a streamer, but its not, I wish I knew all the names of everything, but I will be the first to admit that I do not. About eight cast later my hard to learn patience pays off. The thrill of a Steelhead on the end of my Burkheimer is starting to be one of my favorite feelings! When everything comes together and works like it should nothing could be better. This steelhead was a champion, racing up and down the river. When I was able to pull him in I was lucky that Dec was taking photos, one of his famous lines I hear from the shore, “try to look like you’re fishing!” The long wait was over. Down in the shade of river bank I was able to see this beautiful fish. The colors always blow me away, I really do have no problem letting them back into the river. To head up river and then back to the ocean. What a remarkable species. I remember Dec jokingly saying about the fish, “I only wanted to see what you were fishing..then wham!” , I truly felt like it was now okay to go home. Dec and his many years of experience told me. “Get back in there!” Unfortunately that was the last fish of the day for me. But I couldn’t care less. The thrill of that one fish really did make that whole trip worth it. The mountains, the smokey air are all things I have come to cherish in my life. If I can get a bit of that each year, I truly will be a happy boy!
Photo’s by Dec Hogan