The dead of winter is fast approaching. This is the time when Bulkley steelhead fisherman are in a dark place. too far removed from last years memories of tailing chrome wild fish, and too far away from stepping into a run armed only with a dry fly. We read fishing magazines, tie flies, and tell stories of past battles with the strongest fish that swims. All of this helps dull the pain. It only slightly quenches a thirst for the true adrenalin rush of watching a wild steelhead chew through your backing like Christmas time does to your bank account.
If you lie awake at night, eyes wide open staring at the ceiling thinking of that fish you had that made you quiver at the knees. The one that made you feel like a rookie as you tenderly eased its massive body towards shore, hoping to lay your hand on his tail. As you reached for it the fly came unbuttoned and the fish squirted away. If this image keeps you up at night, distracts you from your work and effects your relationship with your wife and family, you my friend need Steelheaders anonymous.
Many of us Steelheaders have the little known or understood psychosis called "Pre-Season Steelheading Syndrome" or PSS. It comes upon you the day after your fishing seasons ends, and continues until the following year. The symptoms can be easily recognized by fellow fisherman, but are often confused for other maladies by non-steelheaders.
The symptoms of Pre-Season Steelheading Syndrome, or PSS, begin with feeling kind of twitchy and anxious, even grouchy, and never wanting to put all your fishing gear away. PSS is temporarily alleviated when the latest issue of your favorite fishing magazine arrives in the mail, but symptoms quickly return right after you devour every page of the issue... in a flat 20 minutes. PSS is also quelled with activities like post season scouting trips, casting in the yard, buying new gear, commiserating with fellow addicts. However, the antsy feeling returns within a few hours or days.
The most satisfying and sustained relief from PSS is, of course, extended Steelheading trips with one's buddies where Spey Casting, high decibel flatulence and not bathing for a week gives you the full satisfaction of becoming one with nature.
I originally join Steelheaders Anonymous when I hit rock bottom. I had alienated everyone in my life. It started out innocently enough. I began to think about steelhead at parties now and then to loosen up. Inevitably, though, one thought led to another and soon I was skipping out on parties early to wet a line.
I began to fish alone—"to relax," I told myself—but I knew it wasn’t true. I was fishing all the time. Things weren’t going so great at home, either. I was fishing through anniversaries, valentines day. One time I darted out during Christmas breakfast to make a few casts. I hooked a 20 pound steelhead in which I fell in trying to land it. I had to have my wife take me to the hospital for hypothermia on Christmas day. When it was all over she asked me if it was worth it and I said “Yes”. She slept at her mothers that night.
I soon had a reputation as a sick man who didn’t care about anyone or anything accept the thrill of a screaming reel. One day I arrived home after hooking 3 and landing 1 steelhead all on dries. The euphoric feeling dissipated pretty quickly when I came to find all my friends and family sitting in my living room. It was an intervention! I snarled as I stomped out the door. I headed for the river, in the mood for some dirty indicator fishing. I roared into the parking lot and ran up to a small deep riffle. A Conservation Officer tapped my shoulder and informed me the river had closed the day before and threatened me with a ticket. I damn near took a cast anyway.
To this day, I believe that a Higher Power was looking out for me that day. As I sank to the ground clawing at the unfeeling graphite rod, a poster caught my eye: ‘Friend, are steelhead ruining your life?’ it asked. You probably recognize that line. It comes from the standard Steelheaders Anonymous poster. It is responsible for what I am today—a recovering Steelheader.
I never miss an SA meeting. At each meeting we watch course fishing videos; British techniques on trophy carp fishing, or Chub 101. We shared experiences about how we avoided steelheading since the last meeting. I still have my job, and things are a lot better at home. Sometime I have thoughts of going to the great lakes and fishing their steelhead because they aren’t real steelhead. However my sponsor says they are a gateway fish that would ultimately end in my demise. If this story touches you call me. I will sponsor you, and you can come to our humble Steelheaders Anonymous chapter here on the banks of the Bulkley River.