#41: Steelhead and Flat Tires
We woke up the next morning headed towards Washington State for our fishing rendezvous. and drove towards Coeur d’Alene in Idaho to fish some mountain creeks for Cutthroat Trout. Idaho’s state fish is any kind of Cutthroat, no designated subspecies. We spent a few hours driving further in national forest land in search of good spots to fish, and when we finally arrived at our location that we had picked out on the map, we got out and realized that we had popped another tire. We had a spare, but were about three hours deep on a dirt road, and far from the nearest place we could find a new tire. Minivans were not built for these roads. We fished for about an hour, with no success, and then worked on changing the tire before carefully driving back towards the town. It took us a while, and by the time we had cell reception and could look up a place to get a new tire, everything had closed for the day. We decided to drive to a Walmart with an auto repair center, spent the night there, and then get a new tire in the morning.
The next day we started the drive towards the Seattle area, stopping along the way at Palouse Falls, which was spectacular. We arrived at the Hanbey’s, relatives of our friend Robert Bentley from high school, and had dinner with them. Once again the fishing community was looking after us - with complete strangers putting us up and helping us along.
We all went to bed early, and at 4 AM the next morning we got moving and drove down to the Cowlitz river along with Logan, the youngest Hanbey who was home from college at the time, and Mr. Hanbey. We met our guide and went out in his boat. He explained that we were a bit too early for the spring run, but it was still possible that we could catch one. Steelhead are a type of Rainbow Trout native to the Pacific North West. They hatch in the rivers and then migrate out to the Pacific Ocean to mature, and then run back up those same rivers several times in their lifetimes to spawn.
After several eventless hours in the pouring rain, the sun came out, and Logan got a monster bite. After a long fight he got the fish in - a beautiful Steelhead around ten or twelve pounds. Not long after I got a bite, but the fish quickly spit the hook. We caught many Steelhead smolts, juveniles who were heading out to the ocean instead of up the rivers to spawn. Finally, a few hours after the last bite, my bobber went down and after about ten minutes I had my first adult Steelhead in the boat. Fresh from the ocean, still bright, silver and super strong - it was one of my favorite fish of the whole trip.
Daniel caught several more juvenile steelhead before the end of the day, and at around 3PM we packed it up for the day and headed back with the fish, which we ate that night for dinner - they were delicious. We felt better about missing out on completing Idaho now, after completing another state that we had anticipated giving us trouble in only a day.
Given our progress and location, we decided to give the fish a small break and do some sightseeing. We both wanted to see Glacier National Park, so that night after dinner we said goodbye to the Hanbey's and drove some of the way to Montana before calling it a night.