Confessions of an obsessed steelhead fly fisherman

M

meluvtrout

Active member
Joined
Aug 26, 2008
Messages
403
Roger Phillips
Edition Date: 11/15/08


I consider myself a fairly rational guy, until it comes to steelhead fishing. Then anything that resembles common sense goes downstream quicker than a leaf in a Class V rapid.

I love fishing for steelhead with a fly rod, but there's really no real logic to it. I don't catch that many, and when I do, they're typically not that big. They're slightly larger than the biggest trout I could (theoretically) catch on the South Fork of the Boise River or the Owyhee River.

I spend more money and hours steelhead fishing for a smaller tangible return than any of my other hook and bullet activities.

If I measured it strictly by hours, I could probably kill a deer quicker than I could catch a steelhead on a fly.

This year alone, I traveled to three states to fish for steelhead, fished for several days each time, and probably got skunked as often as not.

But there's something magical, mystical and soul stirring about hooking a steelhead.

I grew up in prime steelhead country on the Oregon Coast. I fished a fair amount of time during epic rainstorms and wearing hip boots, Levi's and cotton long johns, soaked and shivering, while casting gobs of eggs to finicky winter fish.

I caught more tonsillitis than steelhead and eventually gave up trying.

Ironically, it was Idaho - the outer fringe of steelhead country - that ignited my passion for fishing for them.

Years ago, I was standing on a rock on the Little Salmon River casting an ugly, hand-tied creation that looked more like a jig than a fly when I spotted a steelhead swimming into holding water.

Several frantic casts later, I hooked it, and after a battle that sent me running down the bank of a river where there is no room to run, I landed my first steelhead on a fly rod.

I was excited; I mean bugling a bull elk excited, stalking a big four-point excited, or dropping a pair of Canada geese in the decoys excited.

It was a moment when all those years of youthful frustration were suddenly lifted, and I was filled with a high I still haven't fully come down from.

Never mind that it was a hatchery steelhead on a homely stretch of river next to a highway on a soggy spring day when the fish's days were numbered.

I was proud, and remain so to this day. I had finally caught what is arguably one of the hardest fish to land on a fly.

I also unknowingly joined a cult of steelhead fly anglers, which is a twisted group that will stand in a river and cast a sharp hook into blowing rain or snow. We will peek out from under a thick fleece hat and a Gore-Tex hood, squint into the wind and say "Is that all you got?"

We tie flies that are replicas of artwork and lose them by the handful to snags, even though a few wraps of chenille and a plume of marabou could accomplish the same thing.

We speak foreign-sounding words like Stillaguamish, Skykomish, Umpqua and Kispiox, and daydream about Canada the way most people daydream about Hawaii or the Bahamas.

We watch the Internet for fish counts, river temperatures and listen for rumors and tips about a hot steelhead bite, even though we know good timing and outhouse luck is better than any insider knowledge.

So this weekend, instead of sleeping in, I will be on the Boise River at daybreak trying to entice a steelhead with a fly.

The river is not exactly textbook steelhead water. It's small and brushy, and the fish arrive by truck instead of swimming upstream. But they're still steelhead with all their glorious quirks, like eating shrimp when they're hundreds of miles from the ocean and can't digest them anyway.

You won't find me elbow-to-elbow with other anglers. I will hike until I find a likely looking spot for a steelhead to hang out. I will cast dozens, if not hundreds of times and at some point both my hands and feet will probably go numb from the cold.

I will probably lose a bunch of flies to submerged logs and sticks, and hook a lot of leaves drifting downstream. If past experience is any guide, I am more likely to catch suckers than steelhead.

If I were a rational guy, I would stay home and clean up my hunting gear and catch a college football game on the tube. But the thought of missing out on hooking a steelhead would haunt me like a belated Halloween nightmare.

I know they're in the river, and the only way I know how to get them is get out and fish hard and hope for the best.

Because when it comes to steelhead fishing, hope trumps reason every time.

Roger Phillips: 373-6615
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Troutski

Troutski

Moderator
Joined
Dec 22, 2006
Messages
1,983
Location
Springfield, Oregon
Funny thing...

Funny thing...

Isn't it funny how many of us are in the same story....you probably explained 80% of the membership addiction :shock: I am getting off work tomorrow morning and instead of going home and sleeping I am going to my favorite creek and will probably get the fish of a life time and be to tired to enjoy it...NOT:cool:. Any way thanks for explaining my views in your story.

Chuck
 
R

redhawk50

Member
Joined
Jun 24, 2008
Messages
137
Location
Canby
Tell me about it. I am officially at the point where I am trying to figure out how to get on the water more to get my first steelhead. Came here from the midwest and all I hear is after your first steelhead "do I go somewhere where I know I will catch trout or do I go for steelhead with the chance of them not even being there...steelhead it is" I am looking forward to being able to debate that in my brain. Going to get me a steelhead this winter run... please:)
 
C

Catch 22

Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2009
Messages
35
Location
The real O.C.
I love this quote so much I added to my sig line. It sums it up for me as well.

Many men go fishing their entire lives without knowing it is not fish they are after.
~Henry David Thoreau
 
Last edited:
H

halibuthitman

1
Joined
Feb 12, 2009
Messages
3,042
Location
on the edge
cool old thread, and it offers the oldest steel head question in the book... Do we hook the steel head, or do they hook us-....
so just one more cast, you'll get him, with one more cast..........
 
S

skunk

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 28, 2009
Messages
822
Location
Knee deep in it
"But the thought of missing out on hooking a steelhead would haunt me like a belated Halloween nightmare."

That sums up this insane addiction for me!
 
Y

youngbuck307

1
Joined
Mar 5, 2009
Messages
801
Location
SE Portland, Oregon
I have almost been left a few times due to how much I get caught up in fishing... Seams like we have a really big fight 4 times a year.... I'll get to caught up with the new run of fish each season I don't think about how much i'm not at home..... But within the last year she's sees it's something she can't chang so just puts up with it now.
 
H

halibuthitman

1
Joined
Feb 12, 2009
Messages
3,042
Location
on the edge
I try to never put fishing before my family, friends or work... I need those things everyday... thats why I have to cancell a lot on trips, things come up and fishing simply has to take its place in the back of the line-
 
Y

youngbuck307

1
Joined
Mar 5, 2009
Messages
801
Location
SE Portland, Oregon
If it's my daughter or fishing I always pick her but if it's girlfriend or fishing..... I'll go fishing normaly. I try to work with her though. And hey not the right one for me if she can't put up with me spending countless days on a river bank each year
 
S

skunk

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 28, 2009
Messages
822
Location
Knee deep in it
That's why I probably don't catch many fish, family first, that and I'm still a beginner: probably always will be learning.
 
G

GDBrown

Well-known member
Joined
May 28, 2009
Messages
1,480
Location
Hillsboro, Oregon
I try to never put fishing before my family, friends or work... I need those things everyday... thats why I have to cancell a lot on trips, things come up and fishing simply has to take its place in the back of the line-

Your wisdom is showing again! Thanks for reminding us where our priorities need to be. I finally learned that kids are only kids for a little while. They are your children forever only if you spend time with them as kids. A wife needs love and time with her husband or she will find someone else to fill the hole. Done right they both learn that time spent fishing can make dad or husband more tolerable to have around. Love your kids and your wife.

GD
 
I

ibfishin

New member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
11
Location
Forest Grove
As to logic and steelhead fishing, I am as obsessed with steelhead fishing as anyone. I fish the Wilson, most frustrating river I have ever fished. 5 years yet to land one. But I go! every chance I get. My wife has stopped asking if I catch anything. So this year I have built a 8wt fly rod to make things even tougher! Now thats logic! And still I go! And she still does't ask!
 
M

Markcanby

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 26, 2009
Messages
785
Location
Oregon
You have yourself a smart wife. Not mine she ask me every time "Did ya catch any" I guess thats better than when I get back from hunting when she ask "Did ya catch any" To witch I replay yep but had to let them go they weren't big enough.
 
M

metalfisher76

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 17, 2009
Messages
1,055
Location
pdx oregon
Good read. Simply put: UUU, YA...STEELHEAD RULE!!
 
F

FishFiddle

Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2010
Messages
213
Location
Albany
If it's my daughter or fishing I always pick her but if it's girlfriend or fishing..... I'll go fishing normaly. I try to work with her though. And hey not the right one for me if she can't put up with me spending countless days on a river bank each year
This is a great thread, and Ybuck ya need to find one that loves it as much as you do and when you take her along she out fishes you 80% of the time...'It's better than Christmas', just ask Damon if you don't believe me!!
 
M

Markcanby

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 26, 2009
Messages
785
Location
Oregon
This is a great thread, and Ybuck ya need to find one that loves it as much as you do and when you take her along she out fishes you 80% of the time...'It's better than Christmas', just ask Damon if you don't believe me!!

Yep I should have married April Vokey when I had teh chance.
 
F

FishFiddle

Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2010
Messages
213
Location
Albany
Yep I should have married April Vokey when I had teh chance.
I feel for ya!! I coulda gone on the road with Reba but she wouldn't give me enough time off to go fishing and ya gotta know I hate those groupie chicks climbing all over ya!!:cool: 'The road less traveled':D
 
Top Bottom