Photos and words by Lucas Young
There’s a fine line in winter steelheading between bliss and torment. If there was no hope for the first, there’d be little incentive to endure the latter. Riding in Clyde is a bit like that. In summer, he’s warm and smooth and stylish—blissful, even. But in February, with the wind whistling through all the gaps in his weatherstripping, the dull roar allows little room for your own thoughts. It’ll make you tougher, at least.
A few hours and fifty gallons of gas south of Seattle, Clyde grumbled to a slow stop on the side of a gravel road. I swung through one run before dark, feeling nothing. Then he led me through deepening shadows to a deserted campground, where I set up my tent, heated a can of soup for dinner, then went to bed, dreaming of O.P. steel.
The tug came on my third “last” cast the next morning, just above a tailout. It was a snaky hatchery kelt, but I was euphoric nonetheless—my first fish on the swing. My mood had been as mercurial as the weather. But now I felt rewarded. I reeled in, packed up my stuff, and pointed Clyde east toward Idaho.