>From: Peter Harrison
>Sent: Tue, 24 Feb 2009 16:05:34 -0800
>To: Peter Harrison
>Subject: Big Fish
> Dear Friends and Fellow Fishermen,
> As some of you may already have heard, last week, on Friday, 20 February I was out fishing on the Hoh River with Shirley. It was a wonderfully clear day, the temperature a little below freezing and a herd of elk were grazing in a Riverside pasture. The river was running exceptionally low and clear and we were swinging flies through some attractive water. I was using my 15-foot Spey rod, Shirley was using her eight-weight, single-handed rod.
> There had been little action but I had seen one good-sized fish roll a little ahead of me and, for a brief few seconds, I had hooked into what appeared to be a 12-pound or 15-pound fish. At around 2 PM I was swinging my fly through some good-looking water and something that I can only describe as a lightning bolt hit my whole body. Suddenly my Ross reel was screaming at a decibel level usually reserved for Rolling Stone concerts. In a couple of heartbeats 200 yards of line had disappeared from my reel as the fish headed for Alaska. I told myself not to panic, but my whole body was shaking; I knew that if I could survive the first round I would at least have some chance of getting the fish to the bank. For the next 30 minutes I battled the fish, standing at times chest deep in the middle of the river on a submerged bar.
> At this point I had not seen the fish, but eventually I managed to make it back to the river bank and was able to stand on dry ground. At that time the fish exploded into the air, executing three cartwheels. I couldn’t believe my eyes, the fish was almost 4 feet in length. I had never seen a steelhead like it. After 45 minutes of battling the fish I managed to beach it gently. My intention was to let it go, having first measured the fish, but it was bleeding quite heavily from the gills. As it seemed likely not survive the ordeal, and because it was the fish of a lifetime, I decided to take the fish. In 10 years of fishing Washington state rivers this is the first fish I have ever taken, of any kind, from a river.
> At this point, several boats appeared, heading down river. In one of the boats was my good friend and mentor, Jim Kerr; with him in his boat was a state biologist, who measured the fish and took some fish scales. A couple of other boats arrived and had spring scales with them, and we weighed the fish. One set of scales said 31 pounds and the other said 32 pounds. The fish was dragged for about a mile through the forest to our parked car and then taken to Olympic Sporting Goods in Forks. We weighed the fish on their scales and it registered 31-1/2 pounds.
> As many of you already know, there is a formula for estimating the weight of a fish. In essence you square the girth of the fish and then multiply that by its length and divide by 800.. My fish was 44 inches in length with a girth of 23-1/2 inches. That would result in a fish weighing 30.38 pounds. It was not until the following day, 23 hours after the fish had been caught, that I managed to get the fish to a State-accredited set of scales, at Key City Fish Company in Port Townsend. The fish had obviously lost a little weight due to loss of fluids and bleeding, but it still weighed 29.5 pounds at that point.
> I have subsequently contacted the International Game Fish Association to check on records for fly-caught steelhead. It turns out that the existing world record for 8 kg tippet is a 28-pound fish caught by Chuck Stephens on the Skeena River on 20 October 1985, 24 years ago. I am now in the process of submitting my fish of last week as the new world record. On further research it also appears that this would also be [one of the largest steelhead to have been caught on a fly] rod for all tippet classes.
> Hopefully you all enjoyed the story and the pictures. Many people got to see the fish before I dropped it off at a local taxidermist. One state biologist confided in me that he was 62 years old and had personally caught over 5000 steelhead and that this was the biggest steelhead he had ever seen in his life. Another chap simply shook me by the hand, looked me in the eye and said, “This isn’t the fish of a lifetime, it’s the fish of a thousand lifetimes.”
> I guess English Pete got lucky.
> Best regards
From: Ryan Peterson
Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2009 5:07 PM
To: Peter Harrison
Subject: RE: New world record steelhead Hoh River on a fly rod!?!
Hi Peter –
Let me be the one hundredth person to congratulate you on the huge Hoh steelhead you encountered last week! It’s a rare thing indeed. Right up there with Shirley’s 20#er on the Rio Grande two years ago! What a bitter sweet experience it must have been with the death of the fish. At age 13 I caught a blue marlin off the coast of Maui. It came in bleeding from the gills and was thus kept. I’ll never forget how sick I felt when the crew strung it up on the dock when we got back, and the passers by stopped to gawk in awe. Yet the memory of the angling experience is always formost in my mind.
Anyway, I wonder if you would allow me to post your letter and photos (below) on my weblog here: www.thebigpull.wordpress.com Many dedicated steelhead anglers check in there and I bet your story would cause good discussion of the issues at hand: huge steelhead caught with “pure” swing methods, dealing emotionally with the death of a steelhead, the role of the IGFA in our sport, etc. I think yours is an incredibly provocative story.
Please let me know! And congrats!
From: Peter Harrison
Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2009 6:55 PM
Subject: RE: New world record steelhead Hoh River on a fly rod!?!
Thanks for your e-mail. I must say that I have been rather surprised at all the interest calls since I caught the fish last week. I even had a call from a writer in Iceland today asking whether he could write up the story for his own local fishing column in the newspaper. The darker side of the story is that I killed the fish, something that I have never done in over 15 years of fly fishing in the USA. I certainly catch my fair share of fish but I have never taken a single fish at any time before. As you probably know Washington’s state laws let you to take one wild steelhead a year, there is no limit on size.
I certainly have bittersweet emotions. The elation of hooking a giant fish and beaching it but real trauma and actual stress about killing the fish. I am still upset at that part, believe you me I did not do it lightly. Emotionally I am scarred, I still have knot in my stomach over the whole incident. That has led me to ask myself the question: “ isn’t it time that all wild steelhead be released?. “ After all, if they lived long enough, and evaded seals, net’s and hooks, all those smaller wild steelhead that are killed each week, would stand a good chance of growing up to be a large size too.
Please feel free to post the article and photographs, it is sure to be contentious, perhaps some good will come of it. One last point, I would appreciate it if you could edit the text slightly for me. Where it reads largest steelhead ever caught on a fly, a more accurate statement would be to change that to: one of the largest steelhead to have been caught on a fly.
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment.