Steelhead catch

Sean Blinn, 6, of Grangeville, landed his first keeper steelhead Feb. 15, and caught-and-released a bigger wild steelie later that weekend.

The day he caught his steelhead, Sean Blinn, 6, his sister, Molly and the Blinns’ dog, Jack, were up early, as they are every weekend. The routine and the skills they’ve practiced for years came together with a little bit of luck on Feb. 15, when the first steelhead he landed in his life turned out to be a 32-inch hatchery keeper. “All I had to do was get a pink jig, a shrimp and a bobber,” he explained to the Free Press at about lunchtime on March 19. “I casted out into the current and then I caught the steelhead.”

His dad, Mike, was with him that day, but Sean did a lot of it himself: the casting, the reeling and the landing. Dad’s still tying the knots for now, but Sean knows about jigs. “All it has is a hook, a white string and a pink string,” Sean explained. “And rubber legs,” Mike added.

Molly caught her first steelhead by herself that weekend, too. “It was a girl with eggs in it,” she said, “so that one was hard to reel in.”

On other occasions, Sean has caught salmon, bass, trout and catfish so far. Some day — maybe when he’s 12 — he said he wants to catch a shark and make a necklace of shark teeth.

It’s a lot like how Mike learned to fish from his dad. “We travel all over, fishing,” Mike said. “My dad took me fishing in the Bitterroot when I was a little kid and we traveled all around the state, catching different kinds of fish.”

The Blinns take along their lucky bobbers and they pack Swedish Fish candy for luck. But when asked what they do for luck this is the first thing they said: “Chicken and a biscuit,” Sean said. “And Easy Cheese,” Molly said. “I ask daddy if we can put it on a hook,” Sean said. “He always says ‘No!’ because it won’t work.”

Sean said he thought the jig was in the water about 10 seconds before the fish hit. “I casted a lot of times,” he said. “And guess what! I caught two or three fish. Was the third one with the fin, or the second one?” he asked his dad. “Two days after he caught that keeper, he caught another big steelhead by himself,” Mike said. “That was a big native male...” “...that one had his fin,” Sean said. “...and we had to let it go,” Mike said. “That one was quite a bit bigger.” “That was nervous,” Sean said.

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