Premonitions of the Steelhead Kind

By Scott Richmond

I had a premonition last week--a premonition of the steelhead kind. I've had thousands of hunches, hundreds of theories, and about a million hopes. But only three honest-to-God premonitions.

A week ago Wednesday, I was about a hundred feet into a run at Ferry Canyon on the Deschutes River. And I knew-- knew--I was about to hook a steelhead. Every sense tingled in anticipation. Three seconds later, my line went tight and I was connected to a nice fish, which I landed.

That's the way it is with premonitions: they always come true. Otherwise they're only hunches or wishful thinking.

My first premonition was in winter 1986. I desperately wanted to catch a steelhead, but had never managed the feat. Although I was fly-only for trout, I'd bought drift gear for winter steelhead. I'd used it once on the Clackamas, but it wasn't a good spot. So I decided to try the Carver boat ramp.

I arose pre-dawn and got ready. Suddenly I knew with absolute certainty that this was the day I'd lose my steelhead virginity. I went to Carver and cast with confidence. This would be the day! No question about it! Around 8:00 that morning my corkie stopped mid-drift, I lifted the rod, and got an answering pull back. I soon landed a nice 10-pound fish. Premonition confirmed!

Many years later I was at Hole-in-the-Rock on the Deschutes. I was in the exact spot where I'd caught my first Deschutes steelhead (on a fly) over twenty years before, and I had a premonition that a fish was about to grab. My fly swung another twenty feet, and bam! Fish on!

Now you could argue that this premonition was just a reliving of that first Deschutes steelhead experience, that I was in the same spot at the same time of day when a steelhead coincidentally jumped on my fly--past and present experiences melded into one. Or you could say that I'd hit the same honey bucket as that first time.

But unlike the first time, I was using a spey rod and casting thirty feet farther; although I was standing in the same place, my fly was not in the same spot. Honey bucket theory refuted!

You could say something similar about last week's fish; I'd caught steelhead at that same spot before. Or you might speculate that in both cases my eyes saw a movement under the fly, something that I was not consciously aware of. After all, many hunches are like that: knowledge based on information you didn't know you had.

But my eyes aren't that good, and my fly was ninety feet away. I doubt I saw anything.

Further, at both Hole-in-the-Rock and Ferry Canyon, I'd fished the runs many times, but only had two premonitions.

And what about my first premonition? The one about losing my steelhead virginity? I had no prior experience whatsoever, so there was nothing to relive, no memories to recall.

I can't explain premonitions except to say that fishing--if you approach it right--is often mystical. The best way to preserve that mystery is to stop trying to come up with rational explanations for everything. Just accept what comes to you, and be grateful.

Scott Richmond is Westfly's creator and Executive Director. He is the author of eight books on Oregon fly fishing, including Fishing Oregon's Deschutes River (second edition).