There’s something about steelheading that’s — I don’t know — sad. I’ve written about its emotional rollercoaster, and how when you’re down the track seems like an endless journey into melancholy. The highest percentage play on these tribs, a presentation along the bottom, makes me weary by tedious repetition. Let’s not even mention the weather, which can turn a suck day into shit faster than you can tighten the strings on the hood of your rain jacket.
But when the bite is on and weather is tolerable and the people are pleasant and — this is not insignificant — your luck is good, it’s about as much fun as you can have while wearing rubber pants.
A little crick stompin’ on day one. Up at 4:20am, spot secured by 5:10, waiting for first light. Any day I can land one steelhead is a good day. Skunk off early is even better. Bright, beautiful chrome that shone even in the rain.
We bounced around from pool to pool. I had to work my butt off for this steelhead. It was a very difficult presentation for a lefty, and in an hour maybe I got maybe a dozen quality drifts. One of them was good enough to fool this sparsely spotted fish.
Loved the last spot on day one. Best steelhead of the day, and one of the better ones of the trip. I got into some double-digit pounders, and the word was that there was a good mix of bigger fish this year. I hooked this one about a rod’s length away from me, and had to chase her downriver once she left the pool.
Why we keep coming back — and why we gird our loins for days like day two: not a freaking touch. Most miserable moment: last two hours, guy below me hooks four. Guy above me hooks three. I snagged the bottom. A lot. Little did I know, tomorrow was going to be great.
Day three: there’ll be no birthday skunk! A splendid buck, just beginning to color up. I shared the water with several other anglers who couldn’t have been nicer. Thank you, gentlemen. Not the world’s best picture, but you get a good sense of the size of the fish.
My father always said, “I’d rather be lucky than good.” When you’ve got the hot steelhead hand, you recognize the manifest truth of his words.
If you ever figure out steelhead fly selection, please let me know. I fished this same spot — and some others nearby — last year with little copperhead black stones, and nothing. They were all over the bling. This year, if it was small and black and had a copper head, they wanted it with a sense of urgency. What a strange game we play.
To be read in your best baseball announcer impersonation voice: “Fouled off. Just got a piece of it.” Upon rig retrieval, it was easy to see why I dropped the fish at hookset. On this day I hooked nine and landed six, which doesn’t suck for a batting average. I lost one on a terrible initial hookset, and no idea what happened with the third.
The last fish of a memorable day. It was the 91st steelhead I’ve landed.
Good going Steve.
Overall I was very pleased. 🙂
I know the feeling. Enjoyed the article. I’m one of the guys that come to see you tie flies at the Compleat Angler.
Eric, thanks for reading and thanks for coming out.
A quick query: favorite Steelhead set-up? (Rod, line, etc.) I’m currently in school at Syracuse University and looking for a winter obsession.
I use the Ken Abrames Salmo Sax #3. It’s a great striper rod, but an absolutely brilliant steelhead stick. Paired with a Rio Anadro WF 7 floater and an old Lamson Konic sealed drag reel (must have sealed for freezing days). I think there’s a leader system somewhere on this site (probably in the AA Steelhead Soft Hackles piece). Currently it’s a 7-9′ long butt section of 10# P-Line with a 6# Drennan fluoro tippet. You should be able to find out more in other steelhead articles on this site. 🙂
you’re killin me with the fish out of water hero shots . my 2c .
I’m probably causing those fish as much actual harm as I am you, Jim. All of them were kept wet until the photo op, and in the case of the last one, you can still see water dripping off the fish. But I hear you — no one wants to see my mug over and over again, and I am a bit self conscious about that style of photo. At least give me credit for not thrusting the fish into the camera at straightened arm’s length! 🙂
steve , no disrespect meant . my understanding is that we are getting a fair amount of natural reproduction in the salmon. i just worry about adding stress to the fish in what is a stressful situation . the journey up river , the battle w/other males , the spawn itself and the fallback to the lake . i try to do what i can to make sure that can happen .
i really dig your website and refer to it often . love the soft hackles and the flatwings !
thanks , jim
None taken, Jim. I appreciate your viewpoint. Even in the boat shots in the post above, we keep the fish in the net in the water till we’re ready to shoot. Thanks for reading and supporting currentseams.