Landing steelhead is tricky. Mix a rising river, days of searching with few results, and the feeling of complete victory or total defeat sitting in the hands (my hands) of calculated execution. It is a team concept and in this particular situation it worked to perfection. Clutch (Portland Trailblazers are not-so-clutch lately) is the term used in a sporting event victory when the team wins in the final seconds. Many times in the greatest games in history this is just the case.
Three days of fishing with Phil and Daniel and we had some early success. Enough to keep our hopes up for all three wet days. The river was high and rain punished us but we continued the hunt through it all. We found ourselves near the end of our fun times as the river was swelling faster with each minute. We could actually see it happening. The color turning, logs starting to float by, and willows being swallowed near the shore. Now or never if a last fish was to be hooked. Then it happened. Phil was solid to one. Clutch.A battle for the ages. Daniel, like the paparazzi, snapping every angle so we could relive the highlight reel at days end and in future dreams. We finally got the first glimpse of a pretty massive tail which explained the bull dog long winded battle. I have nets and the question is always to use or not? I am simply more confident tailing these fish. Nets in past experience for me have made the fish victorious more times than not. The key to tailing is for the angler to get the prize straight out or even slightly above them. If the fish is tired it's head can be lifted and then "steered" to the tailer. Big bucks make it tough. They burry their heads and even when most of their energy is used just the weight of them make it hard to get a good lift on them. Have you ever attached a 10 pound weight to the end if your line on dry ground and lifted it? Try it! (if you want a broken rod) Its crazy hard/impossible to pick it up!
With a bigger fish like this, each time Phil tried to turn the fish into me it would put its head down and go on another run. Our normal strategy was not working. Plan b: Next time he was able to get the head of the big buck lifted to the surface I was able to move in for the tail. I had it...but not for long. Thick fish like this are not easy to get a lock on.
The trick is to get them by the tail and give them a cradle of support underneath the belly. Attempt #2 was a success! Clutch! Keeping them in the water is comforting to them and in this position they relax. keep them in the water and they concede the fight. Lift them out of the water and things get ugly quickly. They struggle.
We estimated this fish to be 37-38 inches with a great girth in the 19" range which put this guy at around 18 pounds. With the fish never leaving the water it was easy to hand off Phil his fish to capture the memory and honor of such a fine specimen.