Under the Open Sky: Steelie Chrome Dreams Come True

By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle
Perhaps you have finished your holiday shopping, sent all the cards you intend to send, decorated your house with lights and wreaths, and have even started to partake in holiday cheer by sharing the love of the season with friends and family.

Not me. I haven’t even begun any of my holiday chores. Not one. Nothing.
I’ve been busy. Too busy basking in the bright chrome glow of sweet, sweet victory.
That’s right, chrome. Not golden, not icy, and certainly not fiery. Chrome. Steelie chrome. Bright and beautiful winter-run steelhead chrome.
I’ve been through two summer runs and just started my second winter run, seeking to land my first steelhead. I’ve hooked into them several times before, but I had never put one on the bank or in the boat — that is, until Saturday.
That’s right, on Saturday, Dec. 15, I finally joined the ranks of successful steelhead fishing fanatics everywhere when I hauled up not just one, but two bright, beautiful steelhead from the Cowlitz River near Blue Creek.
Of course I had a little help — a lot of help — from fishing guide Scott Gibson, of Gibson Guide Service, and deck hand Brandon Mullins, of Ethel. (See today’s feature story.)
Just 30 minutes into the trip, Matt Russell, of Auburn, had his first fish of the day in the boat. Two hours later I had my own steelhead — my very first landed steelhead (although I didn’t hook it) — in the boat.
Having one fish for each of us took some of the pressure off of Gibson, but it didn’t slow him down. He continued to encourage and teach me, hoping I’d hook into a fish with my own rod this time.
“This is your trip, this is your time, I’m here to help you learn to catch more fish,” said Gibson. “And who doesn’t want to catch more fish?”
Just over an hour later, I felt that gentle steelhead tug on my own line. I silently set the hook and started the fight.
Yes, me. Silent. Whodda thought.
Brandon Mullins jumped back a step when he noticed my struggle and with a big grin said, “Hey, you could yell ‘Fish on!” if you like.”
After (what seemed to be) a long battle, Brandon netted the fish, hauled it overboard and snapped my picture. I was so happy I kissed him — the fish, that is, not Brandon.
Yup. I’m a steelheader.
So, away with the mug shot of me and my tiny largemouth bass nestled in amongst the words of my column. On to the new me, a steelhead angler me with a happy grin and holding onto the chrome slab sides of the best fish I have ever eaten.
For those of you that have never eaten steelhead before, especially a steelhead you caught yourself, let me tell you what it tastes like — it tastes like Victory.
Sweet, moist, and delicious Victory.

Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer and photojournalist. Visit her website at almostdailynews.com, find her on Facebook (Kimberly Mason – The Chronicle), call 269-5017 or email kim@almostdailynews.com.