I often dream of walking thru the trees to the waters edge, the sound of water getting stronger and the long rod threading through the last of the path to the gravel shore. The lie is not deep nor shallow, fast nor slow and lined with stones that any man would labor to carry, but he could. Between these stones lie gravel of varying granularity, from pea to baseball, shifting into scallops and ridges with every freshet and creating a diversity of chutes and slots, pockets and lies.
And in some of them lie the alpha trout, the realizations of chrome daydreams, the wily hardbodies home on leave from searun bootcamp - the wild steelhead of the legendary variety, hard to have but dear to hold even if just for a minute.
Now I could fool them with roe, or tempt them with metal. In fact I have in the past. I could play the numbers high with slinkies tapped on the gravel with a level-wind reel on a trigger handled drift rod, or float a bobber on a centerpin reel for 75 yards of seam standing on the same rock all day. But while some are quite happy with all that, my personal choice is not any of those because I don't fish for numbers, or even so much fish - I fish for satisfaction and I get that from seeking to perfect Spey casting and fishing the swing. The more 'pure' the swing, the better the casting, the more satisfaction I bring to hand. No split shots, no bobbers, no egg flies for me but I use sinktips because they let me swing through the winter months with reasonable (sometimes ridiculous) success. And summer greased-lining can be purely indulgent when the fish get to thinking it's time to torpedo a surface bug.
I am quite happy with the results of a season of swinging flies even when a particular day might be less productive than another method. But a day is not pivotal in an entire lifetime of swinging flies for steelhead and salmon, and a lifetime's worth of swinging fish to the fly is worth much more to me than many times the fish fooled by roe.
I am convinced that when my arms and legs fail me and I contemplate the days I have logged in my journal, it will be the fish I took by most honorable means (again, in my own humble opinion and perspective; very subjective) that I will remember as the accomplishments of my angling life.
Strip-strip-strip, switch. Hmmm... I stare into my Wheatley at the creations from the night before at the no-tell motel with fluff and feather flying about the room, spitting out bronze mallard bits floating in 20 year single malt in a tin cup. Weather channel in an infinite loop, and losing sleep over the excitement of being in steelhead country on a mission. And here I finally stand, and a black heron spey tied with a signal light tag makes the grade and gets the double turle nod.
The leader is fresh; the line mended as the first swing of the day begins. For me, there is simply no other way to seek the grab. Again, I fish for satisfaction, and sometimes that means a fish. When all goes right it means several in a day. But it always means satisfaction as long as I am surrounded by beauty, making good casts, and playing the numbers to move a fish to my fly on any given day.