Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Leaving Steelhead

I did it, I finally moved away from my hometown. Not only did I leave friends and family behind; I left the steelhead waters I grew up with. Between school and work I wont have much time to contemplate the loss of steelheading opportunities. So when I do get a chance to wader up and find a spot to wet a line, will I take the easy route of SRC's in the Sound and wee troots in the Upper Snoqualmie, or the metalheads that are all but non existent in the Seattle area? I'm thinking metalheads, steelheading has never been a numbers game!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why I swing flies for steelhead..........often on top

To understand why I swing flies for steelhead you have to look at my influences when I was young. According to my father, people who used conventianal gear were heathens and such methods provided no value whatsoever. As a young fisherman, witnessing these heathens in their natural environment did nothing to abolish the irreverent stigma imprinted on me at a young age. They would stand spitting distance from each other in areas often littered with beer cans and empty bait containers from the weekend before. Not that I had much of a choice, but given the opportunity I would have chosen to same angling path I was pushed toward as a child.

Lacking the skills necessary to fly fish right out of the gate, from the young age of four to about eight most of my fishing was done with a fly under a bobber using a cheap Zebco push buttin casting rod. During that time, whenever possible, I would coax the old man into some fly casting lessons.

On my eighth birthday I recieved my very first fly rod. It was an entry level trout package, and though it wasn't expensive, it was the single greatest thing I had ever held in my hand. This was also at a point in my childhood when I received my introduction to steelhead. My father would occasionally bring steelhead home for the table, often late at night since the most productive time to intercept these large sea-run cousins of the rainbow trout was dusk. This was one of the few reasons that I was allowed to stay up past my bed time. Standing in the kitchen looking at these 30+ inch steelhead, that were nothing like the 12-14" stocked trout i was used to catching, was inspiring to say the least. It wouldn't be long before the late night fillet sessions on mom's kitchen table weren't going to cut it anymore and I would demand some hands on instruction.

During my first few years of steelheading I was forced to leave my gear at home and tag along with my father. If you want to built patience in a child this is a phenomenal way to do so. Spending an entire day on the river without witnessing any signs of life below the surface of the water was not uncommon. Any encounter with a single steelhead during the day, whether you were able to land it or not, is a good day. Multiple fish days, in SWW, may happen maybe once a year. So as a kid I wandered the banks overturning rocks to see what I could find to pass the time between instructions, all the time waiting for my father to yell "fish on" and hand the rod off to me to do battle with my first wild steelhead. Since I had a brother that was just 14 months younger, we alternated trips with dad, and he didn't take one of us each time, it was two years and almost a dozen trips before I received the mythical hand off. This scenerio played out until I was 14 with only a few fish brought to hand.

The summer before I started high school we were spending the weekend up at some property owned by one of my father's friends. There was an old forest service cabin on the Kalama that they were leasing while planning to build on their property across the river. Bill and my father were going to head down to the river to do a little casting while dinner was being prepared and I decided to tag along. It wasn't long be fore they got distracted and began talking about plans for the property. As I picked up the rod they had left leaning in the bushes, Bill suggested that I head up to the top of the run. At the top of the pool was a small falls created where the river narrowed creating a foamy aerated pillow just below it. I began making short casts and swimming my offering back and forth.

It was August and the sun was high in the sky, not exactly ideal conditions. The bubble filled water below the falls created the perfect place for a fish to hide during the day. My elevated position next to the falls kept my fly on the surface, its black silhouette standing out against the white of the bubbles. I made another cast and as soon as the fly hit the water there was an explosion of life. The line went tight and the rod tip began throbbing with every kick the fish made with its tail in an attempt to escape. I had hooked my first steelhead solo! I made my way down the rocks to the center of the pool, adrenaline kicking in, heart beating rapidly. All the things that I had learned in my other encounters with steelhead came back and seemed so natural. I applied pressure when I could and let the fish run when it wanted to. This balancing act brought the fish closer and closer to hand all while protecting the 8lb test leader. It seemed like an eternity; in reality the fish came to hand in only a few minutes. She was a beautiful native hen with a bold red stripe down her side. I grabbed her tail with my left hand placing my right beneath her belly to support her weight. My father took a quick picture, I then walked her out into the current to revive her. I held her long enough for her to kick free from my loose grip and disappear beneath the foam from which she came.

I was hooked. Of all the other activities that I have participated in, soccer, baseball, swimming, none of them had ever given me such a strong feeling of accomplishment. The years would pass, high school would bring new interests and new freedoms that soon took priority over my passion for steelhead. Even at 14 I had no idea how large a role swinging flies for steelhead would take later in my life. These days I spend close to 100 days a year on the water cleansing my soul of the stresses of life. On a few lucky days I bring a beautiful, powerful, aggressive steelhead to hand.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Grand Ronde

I took what I had heard about the Grand Ronde with a grain of salt. All the stories of huge numbers of fish caught and the massive crowds that go along with such great fishing. Under the right conditions the fishing was great but the weather was not at all cooperating. Of the 6 days I spent there only two came with great success. The other four put my skills to the test. The fact that you actually had to work to catch steelhead here was a welcoming surprise, it would have become boring other wise.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


I finally got the chance to pass what I have learned over the years onto the next generation. Granted he's got a couple of years on me but its never to late to pick up fly fishing. There has been lots of talk about equipment, flies, techniques, and hours in the yard with the Echo micro practice rod. Last weekend we got a chance to go put what we have been working on into practice. He is one hell of a student. I guess that practice rod really works, he's been using it every evening and it really showed. I couldn't believe the success we had. I think I ruined him, he caught way to many fish for his first day on the water.
A little more on the water instruction and he's on his own
I think that was all that was needed, many doubles were had

Its great to share what you know its quite rewarding

Taking a break from steelhead

Sometimes taking a break from steelhead is just the ticket. I often find myself bypassing other opportunities to feed my addiction. So when a buddy called and said he had a friday off and that we should go fishing we decided to do something that we had been talking about but have not gotten around to. We had been taking about hiking into a few lakes on Mt Hood for the last 4 years. Needless to say we had all the details planned out a long time ago and picking a day was all that was needed. So off we went.
View of Mt Hood from 4500ft
The lake of choice
The targeted species

Once we found them its was not stop action. The best part was having the whole place to ourselves. Definitely going to have to find more time for the little guys.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Think less, fish more

Words to live by. The more days you go fishless the more important these words become. Everyone has their droughts and they all must come to an end. Besides it gives you time to shoot pics of all the things you ignore when the fishing is hot.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Skating flies

For gods sake people stop making excuses. I hear all the time that only native fish respond to skated flies. Or dont bother swinging dries on the west side. They're excuses. There are way to many idiots on the internet that will spout off "rules" or "instructions" as to how to understand and catch steelhead with a fly. Let me fill you in on a little secret that I have learned over the years. There are no rules. As soon as you think you have a handle on things, these fish will blow your mind. So when you hear that skating flies on the west side is a waste of time, or that hatchery fish won't take a fly on the surface, give them all the finger and make amazing things happen.