Unforgiving snow, a lack of anglers, and two nice-sized steelheads are a couple of reasons why the first day of the 2023 steelhead season on the mighty Brule River was so special for us. In the week before April, the temperature was cool when we arrived at the legendary river.
As we were getting ready for the day, we stopped momentarily to gaze at the stars before crawling into the waders, laced up boots, grabbed the robs, and finally headed to the river. Heading into the woods, the first few steps were fine, as the snow was firm. We dipped into the snow at the hip level by our fourth or fifth step.
The entirety of our hike to the river went like this. This made walking just to get to the river difficult and exhausting. The walk from the parking spot to the river normally takes about 15 minutes, but because of the snow, it took us an hour.
As I was waiting for the sun to rise, I sat on the bank and enjoyed
the peacefulness of the river. I saw three trout jump while I was waiting, which gave me the confidence to land a fish, once the sun rose, I began fishing.
I was the first of us to pull one in, with my bead lure that mimics a trout egg, which steelhead feed on. After about an hour I had hooked a strong steelhead, There was no slack in the line because the steelhead was fighting.
Once it was within reach I realized our net wasn’t with us. I thought to myself I’m not letting this one go. I caught my first steelhead out of the cold Brule barehanded. I felt accomplished before releasing the fish back into the river.
Once at the bank I dug through my fly box and picked out a stonefly variation.
I had tied a few days prior, attached it to my leader, and fastened on an indicator. I was excited to try and catch a steelhead on my own flies for the first time ever, even if only to hook and lose it.
I arrived at a bend I had, had pervious success within the last season, I sent a hook silently downstream before my rod became alive.
“I made sure to let this steelhead fight for a while before attempting to land it, as I didn’t want a repeat of my last big battle.
I anxiously let it take control, I conscientiously directed the steelhead downstream, where I began to try and get my net and briefly pulled my attention away from the steelhead and my line went slack.
I thought it was over, but the fish swam directly towards me, my nymph still proudly pinned in the corner of its mouth, and I finally secured the chrome-painted steelhead.
The Brule can be tricky to fish during this time of year, as excessive snow, slippery ice sheets, and high water can make it difficult for an angler to catch fish. However, with determination and a strong will, an angler can also have excellent days during this time of year.