Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My First Steelhead Fishing Trip

Catching an Idaho steelhead has always been up toward the top of my "To-Do" list, but I had never even fished for them until a couple of weeks ago.  Year after year I would see my friends come back from their trips and talk about their adventures while fishing for steelhead.  I was envious of the stories, I coveted the fish they would bring back, and yearned for the adventure.

A couple of weeks ago I broke down and asked a buddy if I could tag along with him on his next day trip to chase after these fish.  We spent the next few days getting me set up with the right gear, and coached up on how to fish for these picky eaters.  These steelhead at this point of the run don't have huge appetites, but mostly eat something if it is put right in front of them just out of convenience and survival.  We put together multiple presentations and pre-rigged a lot of different items up to save on time while on the water.  The night before we took off my buddy said one thing that will stick with me about steelhead fishing... he said, "I just hope you don't get discouraged if you don't catch anything tomorrow, stick with it and it'll become a passion."
The next morning we took off at 3:00 a.m. and made it to the river around 8:00 a.m.  We both excitedly grabbed our fishing rods and enthusiastically cast out into the current hoping for quick hook up.  I'll admit, my hopes had been building for the past few days and had reached an all time high as soon as my line hit the water... Cast after cast after cast, I kept thinking this would be the one... I envisioned a large buck steelhead swimming upstream and grabbing my bait as it crossed in front of his face at just the right time.

Sadly my hope slowly diminished a little with every cast... hours passed with nothing but an occasional snag on the bottom.  I was starting to consider if waking up at 2:30 was really worth casting for hours and hours without even a bite on the other end, when all of a sudden my buddy hollered, "fish on".   I ran to get net and rushed to the side of my friend to help him land the first fish of the day,  He told me that it wasn't a big fish but it was at least a steelhead so he wasn't going to complain.  We netted his fish and made sure it was a hatchery fish before handling it too much.  Here in Idaho if you catch a native steelhead it will have it's adipose fin and needs to be released.  We snapped a few pictures, he notched his tag, and then we both set back at it in hopes of catching another fish... unfortunately that was the only fish of the day.  We fished for 10 hours straight and I hadn't gotten a single bite let a lone catch that big buck steelhead I was after...
On the long drive home I did a lot of thinking.  I didn't even see a lot of fish caught so it was hard for me to consider going back and giving it another shot.  A few days later I was chatting with my uncle about my experience and he told me that my experience was unfortunately not too uncommon when it comes to steelhead fishing.  I'll admit, even though this wasn't my first time hearing that many steelhead fishermen can go days without landing a single fish, I was hoping my luck would be better than it was.  Talking to my uncle didn't get me any more excited to get back out steelheading but something inside me made me view this goal as more of a challenge. I was determined to get back out there and prove that I wasn't just going to give up on my dream of catching a note worthy steelhead.

About two weeks after my first attempt at steelhead fishing, I was able to plan another trip to get back over there.  Once again I left at 3 in the morning and drove for hours before stopping at a local gas station close to where we would fish.  My uncle and I grabbed a few snacks and hit the road, before we could even get 2 miles away from the gas station, a dumb deer decided to run out in front of my car... We hit the brakes and tried to miss it, but before we knew it the deer and my car had a less than pleasant introduction to each other...

We pulled off the road to assess the damage and do our surprise the radiator wasn't punctured.  I had a lot of damage to the body of my car but it was still driveable.  My heart sank because this was the car my wife and I both use to commute to work every day to save money on gas.  I was already pinching pennies to justify going on another steelhead trip let alone make car repairs.  We gathered up a few of the random pieces of my car that were scattered all over the road and then drove to where we were going to go fishing.  Everyone grabbed their gear and headed right to the river.  I sat in my car and sulked in my own little pity party while beating myself up for driving all the way over here to try and catch a fish which I was probably going to fish all day for and still leave empty handed.  After feeling sorry for myself I finally got annoyed enough to just get out on the river and try to fish my problems away.

It didn't take long for a few people around us to pull in a few great fish.  The jealousy and frustration were getting a bit hard for me to hold in.  Soon, my uncle hooked into a good fish and hollered at me to grab the net.  I ran over and helped him pull in a great male steelhead! Watching him catch that fish lifted my spirits just a little to give me that sense of hope I was needing.
I hit the river again cast after cast in hopes of fulfilling my goal.  I cast out and let my line start drifting down through the current.  I felt my weight bumping across the bottom of the river and then I felt a slight tug on the other end! I set the hook and felt the other end start to pull back in resistence.  I took a step back to get on dry ground and begin my fight in hopes of landing the fish I was seeking after... as I took that step back, I stepped on a frosted over piece of drift wood that was sitting on the bank of the river... between my wet boots and the frosted drift wood I lost my balance and fell backward.  My tacklebox that was right behind me broke my fall but of course also broke open and threw all my beads, leaders, bobbers, and all of my other gear into the air.

Needless to say, with all this ruckus, I had brought a lot of attention to myself by this point and I now had a mixture of laughter and words of encouragement helping me land the fish I was still fighting... or the fish I thought I was fighting... As I rushed to get back on my feet, I heard a fisherman other side of the river say, "Sorry bud I think I hooked your line"... As if I wasn't already having a bad day, this was just the final straw.  I sat there muddy, sore, frustrated, embarrassed, and flat out discouraged.  If I hadn't have driven my uncle all the way over here I may have packed up and left at this point.  I spent the next 20-30 minutes cleaning up all my gear, re-tying my set up, and thinking to myself how this had been one of my worst days fishing I had ever had.

Eventually I decided things couldn't get much worse so I might as well start fishing again so right back at it I went.  Once again people around us caught a few, and then my uncle was able to land another good fish.  The discouragement started to sink in again so I decided to take a break and eat some food.  My uncle and I chatted a bit and he decided to take a break for a while.  He sat for about an hour or so while I fished in the same spot he had just caught two great fish.  Unfortunately my luck wasn't changing.  My uncle decided that after over an hour he was ready to give it another shot, he grabbed his rod, walked over to where I was standing and cast out... almost as fast as his line hit the water, he set the hook and yelled, "fish on!"  I wasn't even happy for him, all I wanted to do was throat punch him and steal his rod.  I resisted the urge to yell out profanity and proceeded to grab the net.  This fish was different, it was staying deep and fighting hard! He fought it for a good 20 minutes before we were able to land it.  Once in the net we realized it was a wild steelhead so we quickly unhooked it, snapped a few pictures, and then let it go.  My uncle apologized for catching another fish and told me that it was literally just luck.  I pretended not to care and quickly grabbed my rod to get back to fishing.

My second cast after my uncle caught his wild steelhead, I felt something bump my line.  I set the hook like I had done a million times before and expected the same result as if it were just my weight drifting into a rock or what not, but this time I knew I was into a fish.  As soon as I set the hook I felt the head shakes of a heavy fish on the other end of my line.  Quickly my drag started pealing away and I knew I had finally hooked into a steelhead.  My uncle grabbed the net and I began the fight to get this fish in.  The whole time I was praying that I wouldn't lose this fish and also praying that this may make my horrible day somewhat bearable.   Just as we were able to get my fish into the net, I finally let my guard down and started to show some real excitement.  The rush that went through me was amazing.  With all of the negative emotions I had been dealing with, landing this fish was the complete opposite feeling I had been juggling for the past 8 hours.  What a relief.  What a rush, What a fish... I took some photos, notched my tag, and sat down for a well deserved break from 18 hours of fishing before I landed my first steelhead.

I'll admit, if I had caught that steelhead on my first trip with the first few hours I don't think I would have appreciated it as much.  I have caught a lot of fish in my life but this fish is something special to me.  I can see what draws fishermen to keep going back to chase these amazing fish.  Not everyone has to go through the adversity of wrecking their car, breaking their tackle box, and public humiliation before landing their first steelhead, but every fish has a story to tell.  These fish are not fish you catch every day.  I'm hooked, I can guarantee I'll be back out there trying to catch a steelhead again.  I may make someone else drive, but I can't wait to get back out there to try my luck again with these great fish!
27 3/4" long and 12" girth 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What is Idaho Pursuit?

Lately I have had a lot of people ask me what Idaho Pursuit is... I've given many of these people the quick simple answer such as, "It's my online blog/website about the outdoors... I also sell hats and hooded sweaters and what not..." As simple as this answer was, it never sat well with me because to me Idaho Pursuit is something more... a lot more! So he is my detailed answer of what Idaho Pursuit is.

Lets take it one word at a time.
According to the US Census Bureau, Idaho is the 7th LEAST POPULATED STATE yet the 14th largest state in our great United States of America.  What does that mean... it means that Idaho is all about being outdoors!  It means miles and miles of rivers and mountains to explore.  It also means that yes, people do live here in Idaho. We do exist and we do matter!  Whether it's hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, socializing, photographing, boating, spelunking, surfing, or any other outdoor activity, you can find it in Idaho.

Idaho is known as being the Gem State seems how nearly every type of gem can be found within our boundaries.  When you think about this literally, this is quite unique and gives Idaho a one of a kind reputation.  Figuratively speaking, when you look at the state of Idaho as a state that you can find nearly every type of gem (whatever type of gem you are looking for in your life) Idaho can be that state which helps you find what you are looking for in life.  Some of my own personal gems are my family, my religion, my education, as well as my hobbies and interests.

Idaho is also known for its mountains and rivers.  The Sawtooth Mountains, The Lost River Range, The Clear Water, The Snake River, The Salmon River Mountain, Frank Church - River or No Return Wilderness Area, and the White Clouds just to name a few.  These lands represent freedom, public access, uniqueness, and diversity.  These areas are full of fish and wildlife which give life to everything they interact with.  They also are areas that show just how dangerous and fragile life can be.  As an example, just less than a hour away from where I live, the all-time lowest temperature of Idaho was recorded at a chilling -60 °F (−51 °C) without windchill, at the Island Park Dam on January 18th, 1943.  As a comparison, the coldest temperature recorded in the lower 48 states was -69 degrees.  This shows the extreme conditions that you can experience in Idaho!

Idaho is also know of course for their potatoes! Literally, I have held potatoes that are bigger than my own head.  Potatoes so big that one single potato could feed my whole family.  When I lived in Texas for a few years, the joke was, "Everything is bigger in Texas.... except the potatoes".  I'm hear to tell you that it's not just the potatoes, Idaho is plentiful in lots of agriculture as well as plentiful in their wildlife! Of course I won't get into the elk populations prior to the re-introduction of the wolves, but I will say that our populations of wildlife are abundant.  I love when people come to visit and I can take them up into the mountains and almost guarantee them that they will see some deer, a moose, or a few elk.
So... Now that we have clarified what Idaho is, let me explain one thing before moving on to the "Pursuit" section.  When I named my blog Idaho Pursuit, I knew that I was "limiting" myself to just Idaho, but the more I thought about all of the items I listed above, I realized that Idaho Pursuit isn't just about Idaho, its about the lifestyle and activities Idaho supports! I've sold Idaho Pursuit hats to Idaho, New York, California, and about 10 other states which goes to prove that the content and attitude of my blog is not just limited to Idaho.  Which leads me right into explaining the Pursuit.

Here are some of the definitions of the word pursuit - "1. The act of pursuing.  2. An effort to secure or attain; quest. 3. Any occupation, pastime, or the like, in which a person is engaged regularly or customarily.  4. When someone tries to get, achieve, or find something in a determined way".  These definitions were exactly what I was looking for when I wanted a name with a meaning.  To me the outdoors are much more than just a moment, its a lifestyle, a journey.  When I head outside for a hunt or even just a leisurely stroll, I often find myself reflecting on so much more than just the journey at hand.  

I have seen the meme which says "There is no WI-FI in the forest, but we can promise you'll find a better connection".  This is exactly how I feel when it comes to the outdoors in Idaho.  I find myself yearning for more, searching for purpose, and it becomes part of who I am.  As they say, you can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy... 

Another quote that helps me understand the word Pursuit is, "If you're not getting better than you're getting worse, you never stay the same".  This applies to all aspects of your life.  It is impossible to  stay stagnant in this world that we live in.  With all the influences for both good and evil, you are either becoming a better person or a worse person.  What you constantly do is a outward reflection of who you are on the inside.  If I spend my days watching TV and yelling at my kids, the amount of satisfaction I will have in my life is going to be minimum.  Of course it is relaxing and I am not against sitting down and watching a show, but my personality is more about getting out of the house and doing something that will make me a better person.  When I chose "pursuit" this is was I was hoping to capture as well as convey to share these messages with those who read my blog. 
So, what is Idaho Pursuit? It is what you make it.  It's a little bit of everything without a limit of what it can or can't be.  Just like the state of Idaho, Idaho Pursuit is a place you can come to find that gem in your life that you may be looking for.  If there is something you haven't seen or want to see on Idaho Pursuit, let me know... who knows it may lead to you and I making an adventure to explore together.  Idaho Pursuit is more than a blog, more than a hat company, and more than just some online outdoorsy website.  Idaho Pursuit is you, your life, your passion... I hope you enjoy it and make it something wonderful!

I appreciate all those who read and comment on my posts. Please keep in touch and lets get out and enjoy the outdoors!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Spring Prep

This time of year brings about a lot of new outdoor activities many of us haven't been able to do during the winter.  As the snow starts to melt and you start preparing for your outdoor adventures, don't forget to make sure you gear is all up to par before leaving the house.  Of course we all want to make sure we our gear is working properly before we put it away and store it during the winter, but it is still smart to check everything before you head out on your spring adventures.  Here are a few things you want to make sure you check before leaving the house.

1. Boots
 There is very little gear that makes as much of a difference on your experience in the outdoors than what your boots do.  If you're boots are worn out, falling apart, or just not cutting it, then chances are you're adventures are going to be cut short due to wet or sore feet.  Before you head out of the house check the stitching of your boots to make sure everything is till good.  Also if you have leather boots, make sure the leather is not cracking or ripping.  It is also smart to treat the leather on your boots with some leather lotion to prevent cracking, drying, and even help waterproof the leather.  Another part of your boot you need to check is your insoles as well as your laces.  I always carry para-cord in case I have a shoe lace malfunction.

2. Clothing
Even though it may seem like spring is here for good, we know that at any time of the year in Idaho, you can experience all four seasons in just one day.  Make sure you always have layers no matter what, and that you have clothing for every element you may face while outdoors.  With that said, if you are getting ready to hit the hills but you just realized that you may have put on a few extra inches over the winter, it may be a smart idea to not squeeze into your hunting gear just yet and risk ripping, stretching, or ruining that gear before the season.  Clothing that doesn't fit can cause a lot of irritation and be extremely annoying while trying to hike around.  Get clothing that fits and get out to lose that winter insulation!
3. Gear

Weather it is your binoculars, gun, scope, pack, or any other type of gear, be sure you do a good look-over before you head out of your house.  One example of this is that I had left a candy bar in the outside mesh pocket of a pack one time and a mouse had sniffed it out and chewed a hole in my pack to get to the candy bar... This was when we lived in a house we were renting and our storage shed was away from the house... Needless to say, when I realized one of my pockets on my pack wasn't going to do me any good, I knew I shouldn't have brought that pack on my outing.  With your guns, be sure to clean them and take care of them before you store them away for a long period of time.  When you get them out of storage, make sure they function properly before leaving the house while also keeping safety in mind!  With the other gear like your binoculars, if you house is anything like mine, as much as you tell the kids to stay out of places, they always seem to have their hands into everything.  You want to make sure every part to every piece of equipment is there as well as make sure nothing got broken without you knowing about it.  I am yet to figure out where the base went to connect my spotting scope to my tripod, but I'm sure my kids had something to do with it :)
Weather you're hitting the hills looking for shed, new hunting areas, or just getting out and enjoying the good spring weather, be sure to check a few of these items to make sure your trip isn't ruined or lessened by your gear failing.  As I said, of course we encourage you to always clean and take care of your gear so you know what condition it is when you put it away for the season, but it is always safe to check things before you leave the house.  Preparation is a key aspect of success for any type of adventure outdoors no matter how big or small it may be.  These are just a few tips of course there are many other items you could/should check before leaving the house.  Get out there and enjoy the outdoors!