Four years braving the freezing cold winters and finally, I catch steelhead in the old-school style, using a 6ft trout rod and 8lb test line, Skookumchuck River steelhead fishing. Skookumchuck River starts at the Skookumchuck Reservoir high up in Thurston County, in Tenino Washington and weaves its way across Washingtons evergreen mossy landscapes joining the Chehalis River before reuniting with the ocean. A popular destination for steelhead anglers and one of Washingtons best steelhead fishery, the upper Skookumchuck River runs parallel to the Skookumchuck Rd.
The best Skookumchuck River steelhead fishing lies upstream starting from Hike End, an access trail off Skookumchuck Rd. And along the side roads, pass Hike End lies many side slots parking with a short hike to the river. And at end of the road is a bridge crossing over Bloody Run with a sign warning anglers “No Unauthorized Vehicle Beyond This Point.” Many anglers park right before the bridge and hike up toward the Skookumchuck dam to find their fishing spots.
The Skookumchuck mossy landscape and green vegetations reminiscent of the Blue Derby in Tasmania provides an ideal backdrop for steelhead fishing. There are plenty of access points of the Skookumchuck Rd that leads to a long trail run between the road and the river where anglers can hike to their favorite spots. When the water is low anglers can walk on exposed bedrock instead of the trail.
As the river snake over the countryside creating different water conditions on segments of the river making each segments ideal for drift fishing or float fishing. And it is on one of this segment of the river somewhere between Hike End and the Skookumchuck Dam is where I caught my first steelhead.
February 12, 5 am Monday night I suddenly wake up with no plan of going fishing that day, but the frustration from the previously failed fishing trip leads to 1:20 drive for Skookumchuck River steelhead fishing. Arriving around sunrise I parked on a side slot parking on Skookumchuck Rd and march down to one of the more popular fishing holes.
With me is my Ross Rx 8wt fly rod and 6 feet ultralight St. Croix inshore rod with 8lb test line. The St. Croix rod is more suited for trout than steelhead. But it can cast very light lure weight 1/32oz-1/8oz which is crucial for the area I’m fishing. And considering that the oldtimers use to use trout rods to fish for steelheads I have no concern.
I start with my fly rod, hoping my first steelhead will be on a fly rod, but that idea slowly fades as the cold freezes the eyelets and the fly line becomes increasingly stiffer making it hard to cast. Then I switch to the St. Croix, rigging the line with just enough slip-shot that it touches the bottom of the river. The leader set at 5 ft connects to a size 4 hook with a little orange fishing corkie to float the hook off the bottom of the river.
After 1.5 hours of fishing, my drag starts screaming, the 8lb test line screech with tension so tight a virtuoso violinist can play Pachelbel Canon in D on it, a favorite wedding music composition made popular by the movie Father of the Bride. But unlike Canon in D melody that celebrates the union of two people, the 8lb test line and fishing reel shriek with the ancient discord between the fisherperson and the fish, an argument that can only end with one victor.
Skookumchuck River steelhead fishing Vs Space X Heavy Falcon
For 9 minutes I fought the fishing and finally I coast him toward land. And a young neighboring fisherman acting as a midwife assists with the delivery with a swift kick as the steelhead breached land. Coming in at 9.1 lbs, 27.5 inches long, a girth of 18.5 inches with the time of arrival marked at 8:55 am February 12th, 2018, I landed my first steelhead on the half-light frozen tundra bank of the Skookumchuck River.
Six days early, Elon Musk Space X launches its Heavy Falcon rocket toward Mars, with a Telsa Car mounted to the tip of the rocket and a space dummy in the driver seat playing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” on a continuous loop. An audience of millions watches the Heavy Falcon space launch with hopes dreams of a commercial space travel. But unlike Elon Musk childish midlife crisis space launch my audience is only 5. And 3 were elderly retired men whos face and hand bare the scares that could only come from a long life of fishing. And it is this audience of experienced passionate fishers who bare witness to landing my first steelhead.