MANISTEE — On my fourth cast of the morning, I backlashed the baitcasting reel.
It was well below freezing and I guess, thinking about it, one of the line guides on the rod had frozen and you know what happens when the line on a revolving-spool reel stops suddenly while the spool’s still spinning? It isn’t pretty.
I took me a fair bit of time to pick out the bird’s nest. The water from the line had frozen on the spool, complicating matters, and though I have a fair bit of experience picking out backlashes (trust me), it was a struggle. My host, Mark Chmura kept after me to let him fix it, but heck, I’d done it. No reason he shouldn’t keep fishing.
After I cleared the snarl, I let the bobber drift downstream and within seconds, it disappeared. I shot the rod tip skyward. Bingo.
Chmura started laughing.
“That fish was sitting there looking at that spawn bag dangling there for five minutes and when it came down to him, wham.”
Indeed. It was a gorgeous bull steelhead, about nine pounds according to Chmura’s calibrated eyeballs, bright silvery with that faint red stripe along the lateral line that gives rainbow trout their name. I brought it to the boat. Chmura netted it, hoisted it for a quick photo and released it back into the river.
It was a fine start.
We were fishing from Chmura’s 20-foot flat-bottom boat in what most believe is the state’s finest steelhead river. Chmura, who’s in his 27th year as a charter boat skipper, runs on the big lake spring, summer, and much of the fall, but hits the river in the winter. He said the rest of the day, now that I had my photo, would be all gravy. And a fine sauce it was.