There are so many things that can go wrong when fighting a large steelhead or salmon. One may be an awesome fisherman and be blessed with amazing luck, but still lose as many fish as they catch.
Do not be discouraged it happens to the best of us!
Today I took my son out again today to try and catch him a steelhead. I did less fishing and more spotting to increase his odds. He is only fourteen and does not have a great sense of urgency when it comes to fishing. He loves it, but he doesn't always get it. I was even handing him my rod when he needed to tie up. He did hook into a few fish, but none made it to the shore.
I fared a little better landing 2, the first being a small male steelie. I mean it was small by steelie standards, maybe 18 inches. He put on one heck of a show and if he had some size I would have never won that battle. He wrapped himself around my son who was fishing downstream of me and I got closer I realized that I was lucky to not have broken my rod when my son grabbed it with the fish on it and it started wrapping around him.
The other fish I did land was a smaller sized hen who took my fly on the swing after it passed a bed in a deep run. The strike and the battle was great considering her size.
I had several other hook-ups. My intention was to hand my rod off to my son, but every attempt was foiled before I could even hand him the rod.
Each time I stood there confused staring at the river trying to assess what went awry.
The first worthy encounter to mention was while drifting a nice gravel bed with several fish on it I had a visual on my egg through most of the drift and when I didn't it was because I noticed one of the fish open its mouth and suck my nuke egg in. In textbook fashion I set the hook downstream as the fish continued to shake its head as it drifted off of the back of the gravel. The head shaking was constant and I was sure that this fish was as good as landed. I yelled to my son to take the rod and the fish must have thought I told it to run for it's life instead. After several jumps well over three feet high, this chrome beauty made my drag sing as it headed back towards Lake Michigan. With one more jump after it's run the fish spit the hook back at me. I could do nothing but say sorry to the boy, because that was the kind of fish you just don't hand off to someone. Oh well, at least I didn't loose any tackle I told myself trying to make the butt whooping I just had not seem quite so bad.
While using the same exact nuke egg in the same exact area on the third cast before I lost the last fish I had another take. This one wasn't text book and I was not ready for it. I was trying to spot my fly in the drift as I noticed a torpedo shaped shadow rocket ahead. I felt a tug on my line and it started moving upstream. I pulled back hard and it made this beast go freaking nuts! It took it's first jump going forward as much as upward with a heavy head shake. I could see that my line was towards it's mouth. The fish took several more jumps each seeming more powerful and vicious than the last. The fish never realized that during one of the jumps it had broken my 6lb leader. It continued to make several more jumps and flips as I stood there with a slack line just watching. I could do nothing but smile and start to chuckle as I heard my buddy yell from across the river "What the Heck!" Although the whole ordeal lasted but maybe a few seconds at best it still excited me for more.
When I pulled my line in my leader was frayed. It could have been before I even made the cast, but I check my leader for frays and knots regularly.
Catching fish isn't always where the most excitement is. Most of my most memorable fights are one I had lost and I have lost tons. Just keep fishing and be grateful to be out on the water. If everything was easy to catch it wouldn't be as much fun.