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Check your expectations at the door

Article by Oliver Massey

You can find yourself facing a wide spectrum of expectations in anticipation of a steelhead trip. This can range from being worried about the weather, concerned about the fishing, and anxious about how well the guide will like the flies you spent weeks tying before the trip. At the other end of the spectrum, we have those who are overly confident about their box of homemade flies, know that they will be complimented on their cack-handed double snake roll, and have six thermal layers just in case someone else forgot to pack theirs.

In the weeks and days leading up to a Steelhead trip to the Skeena watershed, a varying spectrum of emotions can wash over people that have drastic influences on the outcome of the experience. Those who have made the summer and fall pilgrimage to angle for angry ocean trout know that steelheading can be a humbling experience. What follows is one guide’s musings on the way preconceived notions (or alternatively, the lack thereof) can affect the results of a fishing trip drastically.

How, where, and why anglers derive their fishing pleasure is entirely subjective and based on their own past experiences. Anglers from around the world, with this season a major exception, bring with them their own style of gear, attitudes, casting nuances, and quick quips aimed at their long-time fishing partners and guides. Beneath the first layer of leaky waders, busted zippers, and worn-out felt wadingboots hides a steelheader’s delicate emotions. Now and then an experienced angler’s easily bruised ego raises its head when the fish and conditions don’t cooperate. Maybe it was the last run of the day when it felt like the water was too fast, or snapping off a big one right at the fisherman’s feet—either way, one’s preconceived notions influence the outcome of a fishing day tremendously.

At the opposite end of the Expectation Spectrum, anglers new to the sport are more often those who have the most to brag about during the last dinner of the trip.  Maybe it was the 19 eagles and group of bears they saw on the boat ride up, or the fish that bit on the last strip in before making another cast. Either way, a fresh outlook on steelheading never seems to end in disappointment. From a guide’s perspective, an angler who is malleable can be sculpted into a highly efficient fish-catching machine (read: start short!) by the end of the trip.

Avoiding overconfident predictions on the way a steelhead trip will go likely will lead to greater satisfaction in the long run. Check your experiences and anxieties at the door and never forget why these fish have captured all of our attention: They can humble even the most experienced anglers day in and day out.


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