Meditations on wool and neoprene

Tim Frahm in his beloved wool and neoprene on Pescadero Creek.

By Tim Frahm

Let’s see, what do I need here. Oh yeah. Start with 5262s (size 6 and 8), gold bead (5/32″), spun mohair, palmer hackle…

Like most rod and gun nuts I know, I’ve got important dates marked off in my calendar. But for me, living on the central California coast, the most important date in the calendar is December 1.

Opening day of winter steelhead season.

I remember hitch hiking over to Pescadero Creek (near Half Moon Bay, now my “home water”) with a buddy of mine back in 1968. We watched as some older guys threw line effortlessly through the ever-present wind. I can still hear Tony say “I can’t wait till I’m old – then I won’t have to worry about my casting anymore.”

I guess I’m one of those “older guys” now. These days I don’t worry about my casting. That means I’m free to be more focused on what’s going on around me.

Call me obsessive, but if we’re on the water together, I may be talking to you, but I’m not looking at you. I’m looking at the water. I’m looking for fish, and for clues as to why they are there — or not.

Over the years I’ve observed a lot. I’ve seen steelhead runs beaten back by drought and diversions and habitat destruction. I’ve seen fish take a back seat to cities, big ag, flood relief and even “food safety.”

But I’ve also seen the amazing resilience of steelhead. They rebound when given a chance, from prolonged drought, from massive habitat loss, from extensive poaching.

And I’ve seen men and women with a conservation ethic – sportsmen, agency folks and ranchers, produce growers and timber harvesters – who find ways to give those fish a chance.

I’ve seen Trout Unlimited help those folks act on that conservation ethic.

One of my work mates calls me “the Steelhead Whisperer” because I usually do find a grab or two. Really though, I’m just a pounder of water who spends lots of time watching, and throwing line. And trying to keep the steelhead legacy alive.

The sun’s coming up, the tide is turning and a fish just rolled. I may not take off my wool cap or my 3.5 mil neoprenes until April.

Tim Frahm is Central Coast Steelhead Coordinator for Trout Unlimited.

By Sam Davidson. Sam Davidson hired on at Trout Unlimited in 2003, and has served as communications director for TU’s Western Water Project, field director for TU’s public…