So , for those of you who are going to read this and don’t chase steelhead,I’m going to discribe what it like to be a steelheader.No not the kind that pays a guide to go and then catches a fish cause he was told to cast over to that spot ,because the guide knows where the fish is.
I’m going to call myself a Steelheader ,and those other guys are steelheaders to, but there is a difference here, that I want to explain . Somewhere back in time, I got into flyfishing for trout . I’ve been a fisherman all of my life . My father got me involved in this but mostly bait fished ,though he would fly fish and tye bugs when I was little . He use to take me to a fly shop when I was five. Now we use to trout fish alot and I’ve caught alot of trout on all sorts of things from flies to lures, and the like so I’m no purest that is for sure !
So at one point I really got into the challenge of fly fishing .I haven’t learned everything and that is what I love about it .The underwater world haunts me . So one day I hear about steelhead,and that is the end of my days being a normal fisherman. I lived in Virginia and met this young lady whose parents lived out here .This is a case of destiny ,so she moved back out west . So I fly out to see her and that was the end of me wanting to live on the eastcoast .We had gone for a walk along a river and I spotted steelhead in a pod laying in a pool .Well that was it I was moving out west .I worked for five years to get out here .
I got here and that was the beginning of a tourture I wouldn’t wish on many of you. I started fishing for steelhead and had only seen eastcoast tactics, nymphing . Well that wasnt working so well for me , though I know it works . I tried everything at first but to no avail . Then came the day I finally went to fish the Dechutes mind you I’m doing all this on my own with no help! The Dechutes River is intimidating to say the least ,when you first look at her .I was out there with my single hand rod and these guys were across the river with two handers, I fought the wind all day and watch those guys cast all day out where I wanted to be .That was it I was getting a two hander. Now this is a deverse world, and I’ll get into that in another post .
So this all started out on a local river close to my home. I’d go there find a nice run fish it through get a grab or a tug on my fly from a fish . Now for some guys getting a grab or a tug is all it takes .This river however has haunted me and kind of driven me crazy. My last three times there I’ve had something happen .First it was the begining of winter steelhead and I was there and, fish were in! I was fishing a run that I’d gotten hits in, a few times before .When this happens it can really start to play games with your head. I got to the end of this run and, bam a grab and a hard one and a let go and then bam another grab and a let go . This can send shockwaves up a steelheaders back for months . Then the last time I was there I was in the same run but up at the top of the run which I rarely fish because it is real hard to cast there but there are boulders there and I know fish hang there because I’d gotten tugged there before . So here I am working the run and get a what Ill call a pull and a let go .Now this time Im starting to get discourged . I head home wondering if these are ghost fish or figments of my imagination .
Well, I’ve visit a few rivers since that last pull and have been avoiding the river because of this curse, it seems to have over me . Now heres where being a real steelheader comes in .I dont care if you fish with crank baits If you chase these fish like I do your a steelheader .I’ve gone to lengths and hiked miles to find these fish .I’ve gone over maps trying to find ways to get to these place .Why because I dont own a boat (yet ).I have been paying my dues, for the last five years so to speak .
The other morning I decided to make a long hike into a run, this isn’t a very hard hike in, but really sucks coming back out. Especially with waders and wading boots on .I got up at 5am and made breakfast and got my gear in the truck and left the house around 7 .I wasn’t in a rush because I knew this was going to take some time to get to the run .I parked my car and got my gear on .The hike was on, it is a wonderful hike through a rainforest .Ferns everywhere, giant spruce, and fir as far as you can see .It is like another world which makes the hike in enjoyable .I got to the run and it is a typical Northwest day rainy and overcast .This is the best kind of weater for steelheading . I started at the top of the run and started making my way down .Two handed spey casting is a joy ,but at times you can start to feel like you are just making pretty casts to ghosts in the river. Something felt different to me that morning .If you steelhead fish as much as I do, you sense something .Its like it is in the air, or the trees, or the river itself . Cast after cast I was working the run steering the head of my skagit line to hold it in the strike zone as long as I can. Then the cast and the drift and there are some places you say,” if I was a steelhead I’d be right here.” Well, bang, I get a tug and a let go. I’m mad now and with speed I shoot the line back out and drift it to where I got the tug, give the rod two pumps and, bam, another tug, but this time the fish grabs and I lift the rod , fish on baby .
Now the battle begins , each fish is different when you hook them ,some just run ,some slam the fly others seem to just nibble at it .When you set the hook though they either run down river ,and i do mean run ,like a football feild faster then any running back you’ve ever seen . Some just thrash and hold out in the middle of the river and bulldog you shaking their heads and rolling and doing whatever they can to get away . I set the hook and know instantly this is a big fish .I pull back on the rod and it doesnt run far but just pulls on the rod hard ,then a short burst run .The rod is pumping in my hands and I can feel the weight of a large fish .I just hold on and she hangs out in the middle of the river shaking her head .With each shake my heart pumps back just as hard and im praying she doesnt snap the leader .I start reeling in . I see it its big alright and she sees me ! Off she runs into the long deep pool ,this fish is all power . I keep hanging on palming the rim of my reel to control the amount of pressure I have against the leader .The whole time im waiting for her to burst off like a bullet .She decides its time to go up river ,i reverse the rod to the oppisite side to turn her she just powers up stream but the rod and leader hold ,now im reeling and she decides it time to power out to the middle of the river .Im praying now for the leader to hold .
There is a moment of heart break that can happen ,and everyfishermaen has had it happen when your into a fish and the leader just snaps ,your heart drops to the bottom of your toes .This doesn’t happen this time though and I finally land her on the beach. She is big, bigger then any I’ve landed yet. She is chrome brite and beautiful. She has come so far to make it back here. It has taken her years and she has just given me the fight of a life time for any fishermen to remember .I unhook her ease her back into the water and thank her for her time, and send her on her way .
This to me is being a steelheader !