Hang on and don't horse him!" encouraged my brother.
Fifty yards of foaming rapids and water breaking around boulders separated us from the pool below. Three more times the fish struggled through the tumbling waves to the opposite shore and back. The current's force on the steelhead dragged me downstream as I stumbled and slipped over the snow cover stumps and rocks. My arms ached; my fingers were numb from the cold. Could I hold him?
Ten yards from the pool, the fish turned and swam past me and upstream.
As the steelhead turned again and thrust downstream, I gasped, "Clear the pool!" to the fishermen drifting their lures through the Doctor's Pool's depths.
Leaping from the icy water, the long thick fish tail danced toward the pool's lower reaches.
Below, the river cut into the mountainside in a jumble of boulders, logs and frothing rapids. Just in time, the fish turned and swam towards me. Digging my booted heels into the gravel bar, I pumped the rod and reeled frantically. Straight towards me the fish swam into shallows of the rock ledge at me feet.
"This fish is coming in!" I sang out.
Up the gravel bar I staggered and reeled. Enough momentum - the steelhead splashed and wriggled onto shore. After flipping the fish with my foot from the river's edge, I subdued it with a bat-sized club. Hosting the fish with one hand behind each gill I whispered,
"It's the Derby winner."
Three hours later my prediction was confirmed. My steelhead hung in first place among fifteeen other Derby steelhead at the Chilliwack Fish and Game Club. Its 20 pounds and 8 ounces were more than enough to win the 1972 Boxing Day Vedder-Chilliwack River Steelhead Derby.
In fact, he was the heaviest fish caught on Derby day over the previous forty years. A record Steelhead Derby Winner no one has beaten in over seventy-five years.
He was the granddaddy of the wild steelhead!
Works Cited and Consulted
Wiens, Elmer. "Derby Winner." British Columbia Sport Fishing. June-July, 1989: 56-57.
"Clear, Cold Vedder Yields Only 16 Fish." The Chilliwack Progress, Wednesday, January 10, 1973
Photographer: Al Jesperson, The Chilliwack Progress, Wednesday, January 10, 1973.