In the space between glamorous, arduous fisheries for steelhead and chinook, there are occasionally opportunities to fish for hatchery trout in coastal lakes. It was raining cats and dogs at Hebo Lake yesterday, high up on Mt. Hebo far above the Nestucca Valley.
I arrived in Pacific City at about 11:50, barely got changed into my fishing clothes and rain pants, when Jack arrived with his drift boat in tow.
I handed Jack my fly rod out the cabin door, closed my Simms boat bag, and slipped into my boots, throwing my coat over my shoulders as I stepped carefully down my oh-so-slightly rain slickery porch steps.
We were filling out our USFS day-pass up at Hebo Lake by 12:30, and with trout showing all around the lake in the blustery showers, Jack rowed us out from the boat ramp.
These were not big fish. Not extremely selective fish.But they were nice hatchery fish put into the lake so that people could catch them.
I’ve seen steelhead anglers interviewed for videos or magazine articles — people stating that they are not interested in catching hatchery steelhead. They only want to catch wild steelhead.
Jack and I shared stories of our childhood. I’m 68 and Jack is north of 70. We both remembered childhood days fishing long hours and catching nothing. We remembered long days graced by a single little trout, or maybe a 12″ hatchery trout. If measured side-by-side with a chrome bright steelhead or salmon, those trout we caught as little boys could easily be dismissed outright.
But yesterday, Jack and I were as delighted as the young boys we were so many years ago. It didn’t matter that we have moved on and managed to catch some larger and wilder fish. Not at all. The wind howled and the rain sheeted through the trees. We were having the time of our life. We changed flies to see if some worked better than others. We fished fast and slow, shallow and deep, large and small, close and far. We felt the thrill of the hunt and laughed when we were able to see the trout cruise up from the depths to grab or refuse our fly. We remembered what it was like to be 12 years old — actually catching trout instead of just trying to catch them.
I am unreservedly grateful for a wonderful afternoon fishing with a great friend—Thank you Jack.
Jay Nicholas, April 23 2017