One of the Best Days of My Life Led to Another Outdoor Addiction…
By angelamontana


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Harry with a nice-sized zombie he caught early in the morning.

An addiction is defined as “the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity”.  I just added another activity (specifically an outdoor activity)  to my list of addictions.  Avid sportsman and outdoor writer Toby Walrath (Trigger on montanaoutdoor.com)  invited my boyfriend, Jason Maxwell, of Missoula, and me (Angela Montana) out steelhead fishing this past weekend on the Clearwater River in Idaho.  I had no idea what to expect.

Because I had to work on Saturday night and all day Sunday, it wasn’t possible for me to stay two nights, although I wanted to stay more than anything.  Actually, I didn’t have time to really leave on Friday and be gone all day Saturday, but what am I working so hard for if I can’t play hard, too?

Jason and I arrived at the campground on Friday night around 10pm and met up with Toby and his friend from New York.  I helped set up a rig for the next day, and we got a good night of sleep.  Somewhere around 7 or 8 am we woke up to a light rain and got our gear and headed to the river.  This was all brand new to Jason and me, but I was so excited for this–my heart was already racing.

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Jason with his first catch of the day–a nice lil salmon!

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Yep. The current almost knocked me over on my own, so this is how I crossed the river-ha. Thank you, Toby and Harry!

There were four other people that ended up in our group, but Toby wanted to make sure I was comfortable with what I was doing before he even picked up his own fly rod, which was super generous of him.  I was so gracious for the time he took to help me.  Let’s also say that I realized the benefits that polarized sunglasses brought to anglers on that day.  Anyway, the fish were there, and a couple of the other guys were reeling them in just down the river from us (see Harry’s picture above), but Toby and I went up river a little more and spotted a lone steelhead just chillin.  Toby said I should try and get it to bite.  I wasn’t even sure if it was alive, as it was just sitting there in about three feet of water on the bottom, not moving at all.  He told me it was alive, and suggested I keep trying to get it to bite.  So, I ended up doing trying to get it, and, after six attempts, I was sure the fish was dead.  Toby kept reassuring me (as I rolled my eyes behind those polarized shades) that it was alive.  Then on cast number seven, I got the darn thing to bite!  It turns out that Toby was not exaggerating by any means when he said that I need to get the bead literally in front of its mouth.  That was my first steelhead catch ever!  Unfortunately, we didn’t get a picture, but the fish slipped right out of my hands and swam away anyhow.  It was more of a zombie fish, meaning it was pretty beat up looking being so late in the season.

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When you hook a good one, it is mandatory that you high five!

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Reeling in the nice one while Harry nets…I was smiling SO BIG!

After that, I was even MORE pumped.  I couldn’t believe I even got that fish.

So, Toby had been trying to get me to a spot where the rest of the crew was catching steelhead after steelhead all morning.  The problem was that the current was so strong and my wader boots were huge, rubber and slick with no traction.  I could barely even walk across the knee-high water on my own without the force of the current moving me.  Toby was adamant about getting me to that spot, though, and one of the other guys, Toby’s friend named Harry, who is over six-feet tall and around 250 pounds, walked me out there (and it’s a good thing that when I’m out hunting, trapping or fishing, I couldn’t care less how I look, because I am sure I looked super silly).  I did one cast from this “money spot” and my line fell short of where I was aiming.  So, I casted my line again and BAM! I got a bite!  In a full-blown panic from the realization of what just happened, all I could say was “OH MY GOSH, WHAT DO I DO?!!”…I’m still laughing to myself,  imagining how annoyed the other anglers probably were at my ignorance, but I was so afraid I didn’t get the hook set and it was going to get away.  I’d rather ask too many questions than do something I shouldn’t have done!

Let me tell ya, this fish had NO desire to be pulled toward me or anywhere.  So, as instructed, I let him fight and just stood there, gripping the rod as if my life depended on it.  I haven’t felt adrenaline like that since I shot my muley a couple of years ago.  Those fish are TOUGH!

After a couple of minutes, the fish wore itself out enough to get close enough for Harry to net it, and wow. I was not expecting to see a beauty like that.  Compared to the first steelhead I had reeled in, and to some of the others people were catching (look again at one of Harry’s above), this one seemed like it was in its prime and had no zombie-like characteristics at all.  Talk about an awesome moment.

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If you want to experience happiness, go steelhead fishing!

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I promise I wasn’t taking a bite out of that beauty, but I was just so excited–I couldn’t stop laughing!!

The rest of the day was filled with even more fishing awesomeness as we drove down the river and stopped at a few different places and I reeled in one more steelhead, but they were snags more than anything, so I am not sure if that really counts to others–but, they did to me!  Jason caught a little rainbow and seven salmon.  He got a nice steelhead, too, but I haven’t seen the pictures of that one yet, so that is still to be proven-ha.  Very cool, though, as Jason isn’t typically fond of fishing, but he seemed to enjoy his time out there.

When Toby got me to the point where I knew what I was doing on my own, he caught a couple of steelhead that ended up getting away.  One of them actually jumped out of the water twice.  It was probably one of the coolest things I had ever seen while fishing–I’m talking Outdoor Channel stuff, too.  I loved every second of that day in Idaho, and I was happy to see Jason got out there, too, and was even successful.

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Fishing!

I appreciate Toby more than anything for taking the time to show me how it’s done.  I’m talking about everything such as walking me through how to make my own rig to explaining the equipment I was using from the Ugly Stick to the type of line and the beads and weights on my line.  I just haven’t been fishing that much in my life, aside from bowfishing, and learning from somebody who has fished their entire life and was nice enough to actually take the time out of their fishing time to show a newbie?  That is purely awesome.  That is how people learn–that is how I learned!  I can’t wait to be that person to somebody else next year.  As a matter of fact, I am SO excited for steelhead fishing next year, that I am already buying gear for the trip that will be made to Idaho in February and March when they are in their prime.  Just thinking about Idaho Fish Camp 2016 is making me smile as I’m typing this.  Outdoor addictions are good for the soul, and let me tell ya–I am addicted to steelhead fishing!  Best. Day. Ever.

I suppose it is time to prepare to give in to another one of my outdoor addictions and get my bow ready to slay some carp!

-Angela Montana






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