“This is the expectation, man. For steelhead fishing in late March, this is what it’s about.”
It was around noon and Rob was at a three. It was a Fun Scale, not a Misery Scale or Overall Scale, but it was still a three. There was fun but only trace amounts. I have actually wondered myself if steelhead fishing is “fun” or if it’s just something challenging to do that occasionally provides enough of a dopamine dump to make it worth doing again.
Anyway, Rob hadn’t hooked a steelhead with his brand-new fly rod and was debating the notion of never casting it again unless the salmon are running.
As the friend who had convinced him to go, it didn’t bother me too much because Rob isn’t a pessimist as much as he is a well-timed whiner. Whining is acceptable with the appropriate timing and as long as it comes from someone who isn’t actually a malcontent. Overstating misery or dissatisfaction with results in a comical fashion, is different than pouting. After all, Rob does flooring for a living, so a four-mile hike – the last two on an icy trail – after work isn’t exactly the start to a relaxing weekend.
As a side note, when we got to the cabin that cost $65 per night, there was no firewood. None inside, none outside and there weren’t even rounds we could split. While sleeping in a cold cabin would have been better than sleeping in tents, we booked the cabin specifically so we could return from the river and get warm and dry. Here’s the thing about paying $130 for a cabin with no firewood when the highs might get to 40 and the lows are in the 20s: it’s not a huge deal. I’m not going to rail against the Forest Service, because I think the situation is more indicative of where we are in time.
My family loved the Staney Creek cabin on Prince of Wales. It was safe, warm and had enough mice to keep things interesting, but not so many it was appalling. But it’s not “then” anymore. You get the feeling some of the cabins are really tired, and worn and that they are holding on out of loyalty and the memories of their prime as funding dries up and volunteering becomes almost prohibitive.
Anyway, I picked up some wood splinters from the wet ground and went inside to try and ignite them in the wood stove while Rob and Zack hacked at a rogue round that sizzled like bacon when it eventually burned.
The next morning, I managed to catch two steelhead from the same stretch of water and that was it. For all of us. For the rest of the trip. Rob was at a three.
I wondered how much fun I was having. I was sweating while hiking, then cold when wading and casting. There was wind and occasional rain and only those two fish so many casts ago I wondered if it had actually happened.
So, was this, in fact, fun? I had told the guys that oftentimes real fun contains a little misery at the time. You know, you look back and laugh and think it was all worth it because at least you were doing something.
Later that evening the three of us sat on a log where the river met the lake and called it a day. It was calm, the weather was starting to clear and all things considered, Rob was at a six.
He leaned over and the pepper spray he had on his belt discharged. The safety mechanism had broken and his waders were dripping with bear repellant.
Rob likely dropped below a three, but I didn’t ask.
Jeff Lund teaches and writes out of Ketchikan.