"Nothing," he answered. "Zilch." He glanced at my fly rod. "Good luck," he said with what looked to me like a malicious grin.
I figured I would fish the pool for half an hour and head back home. At least I would get some casting practice, which I needed, and fresh air and sunshine, which are always nice. I would have calculated the odds of my hooking a steelhead at about two million to one.
I hooked one on my first cast. It was such a surprise that for the first 10 or 15 seconds I simply couldn't believe it. My cast went straight across the stream, the fly landing over the heart of the pool. The line sank and swung down with the slow, smooth current, but it went only a few feet before it stopped. I was certain the fly had snagged on a rock. Then, when I yanked back on the rod, the line began to race from the reel. I figured I'd snagged a floating tree limb. The fly line stopped and began to move the other way, back upstream against the current. How, I wondered to myself, can a tree limb float upstream? Then the steelhead jumped.
In all honesty, I'm not clear as to what went on for the next 15 minutes.
I remember seeing the steelhead jump several times, shining pink and silver in the sunlight. I remember line torn violently from the cheap reel as the fish ran downstream. At one point, about halfway through the fight, I jumped in and swam after the fish.
I landed it several hundred yards downstream from where I'd hooked it. As I slid it up the gravel bank, I prayed that the hook and leader would hold. I killed the fish quickly, then knelt there staring at it.
On the way home I stopped at the Applegate Store to have it weighed on the butcher's scales, a service provided for anglers. My steelhead went exactly 7� pounds.
When I arrived home, Hilde's labor pains had just begun, and a few hours later, at Ashland Hospital, Ingrid was born. I'll never forget my first look at her nestled in a nurse's arms behind a plate-glass window. She's so pink, I thought to myself. She's as pink as a steelhead's lateral line. She weighed 7 pounds, 9 ounces.
Eighteen years later I didn't hesitate for a second before answering Ingrid's question.
"That was one of the luckiest, most wonderful days of my life," I told her. "Mom and I have caught plenty of steelhead since then, but you're still our only daughter. You were more exciting than the steelhead, and don't forget—you outweighed it by an ounce!"