There's Nothing Like a Fish That Makes You Run

By Joe Cermele

I've been hanging out at steelhead camp in upstate New York for the last few days having a good time catching up with old friends and remembering what hours standing in 36-degree water feels like. Yes, steelheading this time of year really tests your mettle, but oh what a pay-off. Nothing helps you forget that your face is numb like the first flash and thump of a fresh chromer when you set on drift 247 in the same run you've been working for an hour. And nothing gets your toes back to a reasonable temp faster than a fish on. I have a strict no-running policy. I just don't do it. But when I've got steel on the line I'll gladly take an Emmitt Smith-style mad-dash downriver.

There is something about steelhead that I think makes anglers push their limits. You hook up and you'll stop at almost nothing to get that fish in the net. Maybe it's that these fish win so often, it's a little more personal. There is something a little more special about beating one considering their speed, power, and uncanny ability to find the closest piece of structure that will break your line and head right to it. My friend and one of our guides, Gary Edwards, epitomizes what I mean. Here's a guy that's chased Salmon River steel for 30 plus years. He's netted thousands. Still, when the big chrome buck above hit his egg fly and took off for Canada, Gary went a-running. He could have just broken it off, but instead, in a performance that had us younger guys awestruck, he followed it through the center of the next run, getting water in his waders in the process, and netted the fish solo 1/4-mile from where he hooked it.

I've chased a lot of steel, but my most memorable river run was actually after a big brown trout on the Brodhead in Pennsylvania. We were catching browns in the 12- to 15-inch range on dry flies fairly well all morning. The water was gin clear, so 6X tippet was a must. All of a sudden here comes a 22-incher ghosting up off the bottom. It sips my fly, I swing, and off it goes downriver. Two sets of rapids, ten boulder hops, one fall, and three averted logjams later, I put it in the net.

What's your best chase story?