I was lucky enough to spend a few more days out on the OP with longtime friend–we’ve been fishing together since college–Nate Mantua, and a new friend, photographer Cameron Karsten. (If you’re wondering why the photos in this post are so much better than usual, Cam’s the reason.) We found tough conditions: First it was summer low and clear, then we experienced the unusual (and not good) combination of rising, coloring rivers with dropping water temps. The rivers actually lost almost 4 degrees overnight. And yet, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute.
With all the different fishing we do, and all the exotic places I’ve chased fish, I’ve come to realize that my favorite fishing of all takes place right in my own backyard. It tough to explain: Swinging flies for winter fish is a low-percentage proposition at best, the weather sucks, and the water’s freezing. Perhaps it’s a form of masochism. But chasing wild steelhead with a two-handed rod is my old true love.
This time, trying to match our locations to the changing river conditions, we fished four different rivers. We fished so close to the sea we needed to shout over the roaring surf. We fished high up in boulder-filled runs surrounded by dripping moss, ferns and ancient cedars. I loved all of it.
And Cameron did an incredible job of capturing what it’s all about. These are a few of his images, but if you want to see more of his work, check out his website. The guy flat-out has talent.
Fishing was tough, but we found enough fish to keep us interested, including a luminous sea-run bull trout a stone’s throw from the ocean, and a big, bright buck steelhead from a rocky, roadside pool on my way home–the Hail Mary fish on what would be my last day of the season out there. Mostly, I realize, I’m just stoked by the whole process, swinging away and hanging out with good friends. I’m already looking forward to next season, right in my backyard.