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I'm sure guys who fish over 75 days a year have seen something this, but it was a first for me. Made my season. I pass it along for your vicarious enjoyment.

I was fishing the soft inside of a long, bend in the river. Facing downstream, I've got the main current on my right, bank on the left. With about 60 feet of fly line out, I'm watching the line make its gradual sweep from current to bank. The fly is about 2/3 of the way through its sweep when there's a explosion on the surface about 7 feet to the left of my fly, that is, in the water the fly is moving toward. It's the unmistakeable blast (and back) of a steelhead in about 2.5 feet of water, but my fly isn't even close . . . .Half a second later and the fish was on that fly like white on rice. Big wild buck, B-run headed for Idaho I'm guessing. I won't forget that scene for a while.

Speaking of wild fish, everyone knows that though hatcheries outnumber natives, the natives dominate the hook rates. But this year it's been especially noticeable. Out of the 11 fish I've landed on the D this year, only 1 has been a hatchery: everyone I've spoken to has a similar story.

Anyway, you guys have any especially memorable takes from steelhead, wild or otherwise, over the years?
 

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your question

If you fish for steelhead for any length of time, you will have some 'interesting' experiences. So you are likely to get a lot of replies. I'll give you two. Back when I was SH nymphing I had hooked a fish in an area where it would be difficult to wade to shore to land it. So, I brought it to hand. But the slimy thing shot out of my hand and before I could get my hand away, the little egg fly I had trailing the stonefly nymph the fish had taken got driven into the ham of my left thumb. It is remarkable how quickly one can find the nippers when tethered by a hook in your hand to a 6 pound locomotive. Still makes me wince to think about it.

Then there was the time the screw on the hub cover of my cheapy reel fell off while fighting a good fish, leading to the spool falling in the river. While it wasn't easy and there was line all over the place - I managed to land that fish.

Your experience may be a bit unique, but it seems that as long as I keep fishing I keep having unique experiences. And yes, I may have landed 10 fish this summer on the D, only one ended up on my card. The natives are rebounding.
 

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A take I'll never forget!

A while back, maybe 7 or 8 years ago. I was standing about knee deep and casting to the far bank. Setup for a double spey and as I was delivering the forward cast there was a huge boil right where my fly was anchored. I couldn't stop the cast at that point so I pulled the fly away from the fish. The fish was no more than 10ft from me so I stripped in a ton of line and flipped the fly upstream. She took again only this time she was hooked. I was standing there looking up into the sky at the fish I'd just hooked, she was over-my-head in the air. I had a ton of line laying all around on the water and a hot hen right next to me. Luckily, she quickly tightened all the slack line. It was by far the most memorable of any take I've ever experienced.

Should add, it was a hatchery fish, skamania hen. She ended up as a wedding gift for a friend, I gave her the special brine and smoking treatment.
 

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About 12 years ago on the Snake I was fishing a favorite first light run where the seam was a good ways out. Fishing had been slow and I was hoping for a fish before we had to break camp and hit the road. My purple muddler was swinging through the sweet spot right on the seam when the rod almost left my hands. A violent grab and then nothing.

Cussing I pulled line in and checked the fly - still there. Then, even though I had little faith in such a violent take coming back. I went into my follow up routine. Strip in 10-12 feet of line and cast again. On the next cast let half that out and cast again. Finally, on the third cast let it all out and make the cast. On the third cast, in exact the same place, a fish slammed the fly and went airborn. A typical Snake hen tore all over the pool before finally coming to hand.

I had already thought to myself that there must have been two out there. Much to my surprise though, when I unpinned the fly from her right side jaw, there was a 1/4" still bleeding slice in her left side jaw. This little wild hen had not only crushed it once but twice. She is still one of my favorite Snake fish that I have had the pleasure to catch.
 

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In western NY our rivers go through a lot of shale. When you have a few inches of water sliding over a shelf and dropping into deep water, I like to cast into the shallow and let the swing carry the fly over the drop. A coupe years ago, I did just that, and a split second later a fish exploded up from underneath, cart wheeled across the surface and was gone. Nothing landed, only a brief burp on my reel, and still made my day.

Last year on a western river, my skating muddler was being molested by either smolts or resident rainbows, and I thought, How is a steelhead ever going to get a chance at that fly? And on cue, an enormous snout appeared and sipped it down like a rusty spinner. And then he went crazy airborne when I lifted the rod. That one I landed.
 

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Tangled with a wild summer hen this past July with my Tenkara rod while drifting a size 12 yellow hackle for trout in about 1.5 feet of water. The take took me by complete surprise, as she exploded out of the water making several runs. If not for the low water, I wouldn't have been able to keep up with her on my fixed line as my rod was bent almost to the cork. Picture a middle aged man dancing on slippery rocks trying to corner the fish. Landed and released. Saw her from the bank a couple weeks later in the same spot, while I was hiking the area. :)
 

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Nothing quite like the surface take of a wild fish. But - one memorable for me happened several springs ago on the Queets. I tend to keep a loop hanging between the reel and top hand pinched under forefinger. On the usual take I pinch down on the line and let them take until they hang themselves. Not that one time on that one fish. The loop simply disappeared with a slap against the cork like I had never heard before. The Perfect groaned like never I had ever heard it groan before and the fish exploded to the surface some considerable distance further upstream than what my line lead me to think. All of this in a fraction of second which made the previous two days without a tug worthwhile. The river blew-out early the next morning and I bugged out of there grinning from ear to ear. Each and every fish is special to me and when I reminisce on so many fish - none match that one 4-salt buck.
 

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Salmon River

I was on the Salmon in upstate New York. The fish were not biting much, but when they did it was spectacular.

I worked one run hard. A solid take, three jumps and the fly shot out and straight back at me. I can still see it all clearly as if in slow motion. The fly hooked me on the edge of my eyebrow, just above my glasses and below the bill of my ball cap. Not only did he spit the hook, he hooked me. I've said that at least a dozen times re-telling the story.
 

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My favorites are all surface grabs and among those, the most memorable are those wild steelhead that just come up with big, explosive rises that displace enough water that it leaves no doubt that it was no trout. I also love those steelhead that come back to the skater multiple times on the same swing, becoming increasingly determined to kill the fly. I also love those surface grabbing steelhead that take going through multiple fly changes before they finally get on the hook. I had a steelhead this fall in BC that came up for my skater with a bulging rise in soft water. It took five fly changes and when I was just about to give up and move on, ultimately a #4 black/blue little wang turned the trick - don't know why that steelhead somehow wanted that particular fly. It was sure exciting to hook that steelhead after all that work! Often enough, it pays to stick with a player and I tend to put a good amount of effort in getting those "comeback" fish since I work hard enough to locate each willing steelhead to begin with.

As my good buddy Adrian says these days (my best paraprase) "The tug may be the drug, but the surface steelhead attack is like crack"!

Todd
 

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I had finished fishing a beat on a river at a big giant pool. It was over grown and no place to really stand and fish the pool. Except for one rock. It was very, very deep so I figured, what the heck, there should be a fish in there. I extended my leader to 16' and tied on one egg pattern and a big split shot. Third drift went past me about 8' out. The indicator blipped and I tugged. Stuck on a rock! Wait a minute, the rock is moving upstream. I had @ 60' of line at my feet so I started winding like crazy. The fish just moved steadily upstream, no head shakes, no nothing. As I came tight on it it came up and rolled.:eek: I thought "Oh ****!" It went back to the bottom gave me 3 head shakes and turned for the middle of the pool. The next 2 seconds were the best of my steel heading career! The fish accelerated hard and came out of the water. My jaw dropped as what I guessed at a 40" fish cleared at least 15' of water while spitting my fly right back at me.

Simply Awsome!
 

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quite a few come to mind but three are most memorable.

My first trip to the N Umpqua in the late 70s - had no clue what I was doing so finally gave up and went way up river and broke out the little 5 wt and was throwing muddlers to resident trout. Cast across a log in the river and line hung up and muddler started racing across the current and I just got hammered - steelhead jumped maybe 4 or 5 times before breaking off.

Number 2 was a winter fish on the Wilson fishing with Scott O. I just got ripped and the fish was immediately into my backing then turned around and raced upriver - slack everywhere for which I was heavy chastised and came unbuttoned

but one I actually landed - a 32' wild fish took a skater on the Grand Ronde (also with Scott) - cartwheeled way down river but finally got it to hand - this is the one in my avitar
 

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My most memorable surface rise from a steelhead occurred during a trip to the Clearwater river in Idaho in the fall of 1980 and still haunts me to this day. I already was quite familiar withe steelhead on the fly and even responses from fish to both to skated and riffle hitched wets as well as dead drifted dry flies presented in the classic upstream style. However nothing prepared me for the response that I got from what looked to be a fish in the low teens that decided that my riffle hitched Lady Caroline was worthy of investigation.

I was fishing the tail out of rather a large pool and watching the fly carve it's arc, the swing was nearly complete when the fish suddenly showed but the rise was spectacular the fish complety clearing the water in the manner of an upside down U shape and coming down on the fly in a vertical manner. I would like to tell you that I remained calm and timed the hook set perfectly, such is not the case, at the last instant my rod arm jerked spasmodically and I felt the fish briefly and then it was gone. I have seen this rise form many times from juvenile steelhead when fishing up stream dry patterns but never before or since from an adult steelhead. Certainly an image that remains vivid after all the intervening years.
 

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All great stories! This thread is worth resurrecting. When I'm stuck doing something I'm not completely thrilled about, I'll attempt to relive my experiences with surface steelhead explosions...then a big grin followed by a chuckle comes over my face. If someone was around they'd think I was crazy.

Wild fish take? Grande Ronde...I was skating terrific all morning long with beautiful conditions last Fall. Overcast cool morning following a light drizzle all night. You would think perfect for surface activity, right? Runs that should have given up our treasures were glaringly quiet. Little Wangs, Thompson River Caddis, Steelhead Muddlers, Greaseliners all swung to the bank unmolested. This was my first time on this beautiful water and my anticipation was as high as it should have been. But to finish out that morning session devoid of any activity was a bit disappointing.

By Autumn steelhead lunchtime (2pm-ish) the skies had cleared and the sun was washing out the colorful canyon walls. I sat down on the tailgate of the rig to rethink my game plan. I'll have a beer and open up a can of corned beef and try to stay in the shade. Maybe the bulk of the steelhead hadn't made it up this far on the river yet? Should I drive down river a few miles? Should I fish the runs I just fished with a wetfly just to make sure no one was home? I'm terribly indecisive, so after the last drop of beer disappeared I just drove down to the next promising run (which on this river is every dang run that you see).

I walked down the trail to a stretch of water and realized that the large boulders around the trail would surely extend into the run itself. This was gonna be primo steelhead real estate. Sure enough the first few tentative steps into the water agreed with my assumption. Tough wades with the right flow is steelhead friendly. One doesn't just wade down on this hole, you'll have to navigate around big boulders while watching your skater...the kind of run that makes you guess where you will try to tail a hot fish.

Armed with a glass rod decorated with a GreaseLiner, I started in excitedly. Confidence was renewed even with the sun blazing down on this water. With boulders all over, there wasn't one place to focus on...everything was good. Midway down the run, in the chop between two large boulders the GreaseLiner came under duress from a large piscatorial species. Kaboosh! Heart rate from 50s to 120s in a split second...you know that feeling. But then my line never tightened and the GreaseLiner showed up bobbing to the inside water. That attack was so aggressive I even thought maybe that fish would chase the fly to the shallows, yet nothing but calm after the storm. I think "He'll comeback", a recast with the same length of line...GreaseLiner dancing between the boulders...nothing.

I shortened up the line maybe 15 ft in case that fish moved upstream and all was quiet until the line progressively got to the initial length...GreaseLiner fluttering between the boulders again....KabOOSh! Another huge explosion! I grinned...but wait...that fish missed the fly again! "Chase it! Chase it! Chase it!", I demanded of my quarry. Of course my skill in telepathy was found wanting. The steelhead stayed put...why leave his prime real estate to chase a hairy cheeseburger?

This is where I lose track of the following event. I don't know if I shortened up the line or just recast that same amount of line out (most likely I just recast the same amount of line out to get that fly between those boulders again). A single spey with the fiberglass rod and the GreaseLiner sailed out to meet its doom. One last skate between these boulders is all she could take. You tease the big cat long enough you're bound to get smacked for real. The large summer buck gave it's final "KABOOSH" on this fly (each take not at all diminishing in its aggressiveness). This time the fly disappeared in its jaw and the old reel screamed its glee to play a fish once again.

He was hot and cartwheeled downstream tailout near the opposite bank before you can say "JW Young Reels made in England". As soon as he paused, I put the glass to him which he didnt like and he made a run upstream leaping higher up in the run than where I expected him to be. It was not an easy fight with neither of us giving up too easily. I corked that rod, and he bent my hook. He tried all his tricks out far and in close, but with the forgiving nature of fiberglass I eventually thwarted any tippet breaks or thrown hooks. I tailed him amazed at his long inland journey and respecting his wild attitude. A fullly functioning adipose crowned him as the glory of these western anadromy.

I actually raised 7 steelhead in that hole that afternoon, and this large feller was my second fish to hand...I don't even remember much about the first fish surface attack. I do remember the one I lost at that same tailout in that session, though. Haunting.

Cheers, you crazy steelheaders!
Adrian
 

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Great story my friend!! That was the afternoon before I got over to meet up with you, I was a day late! Awesome recollection of the events we most look forward to. As we has discussed, winter steelheading is not drudgery and we have even been skating for winter steel when mild conditions allow, but summer and fall is the time of year when surface methods really shine. Those surface attacks are often on the brain of guys like us who are afflicted with the addiction for surface steel - everything from the initial appearance of a surface player to the subsequent rises, culminating with a tight line and screaming reel keep us going back for more. As Mark Stangeland recently said of me and applies to you too - "the wake runs deep".

Blessings,

Todd
 

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All these accounts just make me wish we had Steelhead in the UK!

Our nearest equivalent I suppose would be sea run browns - which locally we fly fish for at night [I mean full dark, not twilight] & that can lead to some interesting experiences; certainly fishing a big deerhair surface lure in the dark when you here the "Cloop, Cloop, Cloop" of a fish swirling behind it as you're figure 8 retrieving the line to work the lure, & wondering if it will take, is pulse quickening.

The violent wrench followed by a huge crash on the surface & a hot "sewin" [as they are known on the Welsh rivers], which may be in double figures, going mental out there somewhere whilst your rod bends downstream - but the fish has drowned the line, swum past you & is now jumping all over the place upstream of you & the reel is screaming, well it's highly addictive....Also if I'm out every other night until 3 am it explains why I'm so knackered in work the next day.

The most memorable take? Easy, I was fishing a 10 ft 7wt single hander with a sink tip & a big [1/0] single; I was well into the back cast with the line just starting to break free when the fish grabbed it & was instantly NAILED on; it was also extremely upset by this &, whilst not huge, at around 6 lbs. it was big enough to turn, shoot off down the length of the pool then double back & jump upstream of me against the other bank whilst I was reeling as fast as possible trying to recover about 40 yards of line & backing. I landed it eventually, but pound for pound that was the most pissed off fish I've hooked in home waters....& in the dark....

Still wish we had Steelhead though.

Regards, Tyke.
 

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Hello.. Entertaining reading, gentlemen.. May I chime in with some trout?? I had been fishing a river up north, known for it´s run of spawning browns a couple of times, and finally asked the locals about catching them in the surface. As the trout average 6-8 lbs, they are fisheaters, so no nothing in the surface. Don´t think anyone ever tried. So the next trip the coming year I had dressed up some foam bugs, rubber legs and tail, on a size 6 single Wilson iron. Where the river entered a lake, I found the perfect glide. Just 10 casts into the glide, "gloup", a calm take and I remember the sound so well. 7½ lbs, enough to fold my ZA 7110 into the cork.
Used the same outfit the next year, even the very same fly, to grass a 9 lbs trout from another glide, and I was sure it was a grayling who took the bug that time. A snout simply pulled the bug down nice and easy.. 45 minutes later in a run I saw a flash just by my bug. Hmm, maybe too much nightfishing makes you a nobrainer, but my brain just told me a was a strange thing. Luckily, the arm lifted the rod, to hook a 8½ lbs brown..
To hook a seatrout on a mouse pattern in complete utter darkness is another thing. Short casts, swing the rod, mumble a song, it should be swimming between those rocks by now, and here we go.. in the dark. 13 lbs, all silver, another first. First seatrout in the surface, on a river that has held 6 WR for seatrout over the years. Had another 9 lbs, where the river runs into the sea. Memories of a lifetime.. Yours borano20
 

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Can you hear me now?

Great experiences borano20.. with luck, once or twice in a lifetime a guy finds something like that.

One of my most memorable 'hook-ups' wasn't Steel but an Atlantic on the Miramichi river, New Brunswick, Canada. We met with the guides early a.m. and started for the pool. I was in the lead and anxious to get casting, fishing a 10' 7wt Scott ARC and SA System 9 reel. As the guide and other fishing friends worked their way my direction. I'd reached the maximum cast length of about 80' and was watching the loop sail out and turn over not far above the surface.. at EXACTELY that moment a nice big bright Salmon jumped in that classic elongated parallel to the water form and I was hooked up simulataneous, reel absolutely screaming, the nearest guy wide eyed and shouting repeatedly "DID THAT REALLY JUST HAPPEN!!" The guide was quite excited and told me that he's witnessed fish take a fly just like that multiple times over his career. I was ecstatic, unbelieving, and lost in the surreal place that these oh so rare encounters take us.. In the end it was unfounded, after a strong battle he came to the net and was hooked high in the shoulder, just behind his gill plates. What a bizzare experience.. I only wish he would have took! All the same I often replay as day dreams.

Internal pic of my reel taken moments ago.. four years after the fact.

 

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Hey shotgunner, I noticed the lube spray pattern on your spool. That says something if noticed. I'd like to suggest he did take but he missed by a scootch, he expected his food to be dead drifted so missed by an inch or two due to the swing.
 

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It was August 6 years ago on a trib. of the Skeena, my third cast on the run, just a pal and myself at 5.30am on a 500 yd stretch. Swinging an articulated purple and hot pink fly on 15' of T17 just as the darkness left the river. The fly was 3/4 of it's voyage thru the swing when it hit . It ran straight down and across to within 15 ft. of the far bank I looked down at the reel and instantly realized there was 200 yds plus of backing outside my rod tip. I increased the drag pressure and immediately the largest Steelhead I had ever had the privilege to see rose out of the depths and up into the air. As this magnificent siver bright creature returned to the depths my 15lb. Maxima parted like cotton. That was the most amazing fishing experience of my 60 or so years of fishing.
 

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Haha. So I know this thread is suppose to be about Steelheads but... here is another one.

Kid you not, my buddy Ross hooked a 10-12inch Alaskan Rainbow on the backcast! He was in maybe a foot of water and for what ever reason had dumped a bunch of line behind him (the reverse perry poke? :D). Tried to reposition the line and couldn't for the life of him figure out why it wouldn't move until he realized there was a fish at the end of it.

True story. Ard can verify to this.
 
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