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Steelhead fishing... Just the mere mention of it excites the soul. It is like gearing up for a knock down drag out gang fight along the riverbank. Donning brass knuckles and chains... preparing to get it on.

Who is this steelhead you speak of? Well... he's this tough OG who will kick your ass in a heartbeat 10 ways from Sunday. Let's just say he's the wisest and most respected gang leader in the piscatorial world. He is cultured, yet street smart. He has traveled far and wide with an unmatched defensive skill set to elude and outwit adversaries throughout his travels. He is lightning quick and surgically precise in his movements. He can change his appearance when he needs to lay low and has many battle scars from the University of Hard Knocks.

Just a little Sunday afternoon thoughts and letting my mind wander to what I wish I was really doing today.

I love steelhead fishing!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
The hardest days are not when you lose an awesome fish but after three, four, or more fishless days all you get is a little bump for your effort. Its like a ghost passing through the room.
Last winter was tough and your words sum up my season. A few taps and a couple of decent grabs, but no hookups. Makes it all the more sweet when everything comes together. Can't wait for winter steelhead season.
 

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Gang fight? Brass knuckles? I don't know about all that......….

I just like to fish and these are some really nice trout. There aren't a whole lot of them here so you have to really put in the time to learn where you might find one. It's that part, putting in the time figuring it out that I like. I've been doing this a long time and have never had a bad day at it.

 

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I've never had a steelhead hit when I expected it. It's always been a surprise...and I've never released one when my heart wasn't pounding.
No other fish does that to me.
AMEN !!
I hear you loud and clear brother !!

However one day, you may be introduced to Salmo Salar and you will have another species of fish that will turn your life around :):)


Mike
 

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AMEN !!
I hear you loud and clear brother !!

However one day, you may be introduced to Salmo Salar and you will have another species of fish that will turn your life around :):)


Mike
You are so right Mike. I've never fished for therefore never caught a Steelhead. Chasing Atlantic Salmon for over 40 years has been my addiction and passion. I can't compare the two, but I do know that AS make the heart pound, the take is always an unexpected surprise, the pure pleasure of the careful release cannot really be put into words for me and of course the places where they are found are incomparable for beauty and mind/soul fulfilling peace.
 

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Hmmm, I think I might want to fish where Ghostrider408 fishes. I've been fishing for steelhead since 1969. Oh, I read the magazine story many times. It goes something like: Suddenly the water exploded in front of me as the rocket fast silver flash, wearing his ambassador's red sash, slashed through the water's surface grabbing my swinging fly as he arced skyward before commencing his downstream run, spinning Hardy's gear wheel to a high pitched scream, emptying the spool of line, then backing . . .

Yeah, maybe on the compute game "Virtual Steelheading," but in real life? Not so much. I long ago concluded that steelhead are the most over-rated gamefish I know about. And I've caught steelhead through much of their native range in WA, OR, ID, BC, and AK, both coastal and interior inland varieties.

On the whole I've observed that about 20%, only 1 in 5 steelhead are "hot." A hot steelhead is one that is magazine or internet worthy. The actual take may be vicious or quite subtle. Meaning that it makes strong and long runs and jumps clear of the water multiple times. The other 80% I can play and land, or lose, on the length of line I was fishing when the fish was first hooked. Meaning that 80% of steelhead make short runs if they make any runs at all, rendering the 150 yards of backing on my reel spool nothing more than a spacer so that my fly line isn't wound in such small coils.

Interior steelhead, as pleasingly trouty as they are, are especially prone to this disappointing behavior. They rise, take the fly, and I immediately reel in several turns of line, and their short runs fail to take out more line than what I had originally cast to make the hookup. Then proceeds some back-and-forth tug o' war bulldogging that may or may not include some jumping. A lot of those fish can be landed in 2 minutes and sometimes less, although a respectable number of them are stronger and pull hard, and can take close to the one minute per pound of fish rule of thumb to land. That can be tense, and exciting because of the size of the fish.

And it's not just interior steelhead that are so doggish. Coastal summer runs after they've been in the river a couple months or so are like that also. And a lot of winter runs, maybe because the water is cold, maybe because they are hatchery slugs, maybe because they are small and I pull harder than they do, and maybe it's because steelhead are so over-rated as gamefish relative to my expectations. After all, I was young and impressionable when I took up this game.

And then there are those 20%ers, that 1 steelhead in 5 that makes an arm wrenching strike, then jumps clear of the water surface, maybe more than once, then immediately makes a run that shows me my generally unused backing line, and actually makes me work to regain the line, once, then again a second time. The fight, as they call it (I don't fight steelhead; I play them since fighting suggests some degree of mutual peril than is non-existant when I'm fishing) isn't any longer than it takes to play and land a typical doggish steelhead, but is it ever so much more interesting. Bordering on excitement, some might say. The experience doesn't raise my heart rate much, if at all, being of the calm nature that I am. But it sure keeps me coming back, searching for that not-so-typical, hyper-active steelhead.
 

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I’ve only been at this steelhead thing since September of this year and I’m inclined to agree with Salmo g. Not that Steelhead are overrated, rather the fight isn’t always there. I’ve hooked and landed several fish this year on the Deschutes, Grande Ronde, and the John Day since I started swinging flies and I’ve lost even more. I have yet to get into what I would consider a “hot” fish. Most tug pretty good and some have pulled 10-20 yards of backing, but nothing that surprised me. I don’t doubt that will change and am looking forward to a true “hot” fish. Still, that initial tug is fantastic and just the idea of hooking steelhead will keep me coming back.

Jake
 

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I’ve only been at this steelhead thing since September of this year and I’m inclined to agree with Salmo g. Not that Steelhead are overrated, rather the fight isn’t always there. I’ve hooked and landed several fish this year on the Deschutes, Grande Ronde, and the John Day since I started swinging flies and I’ve lost even more. I have yet to get into what I would consider a “hot” fish. Most tug pretty good and some have pulled 10-20 yards of backing, but nothing that surprised me. I don’t doubt that will change and am looking forward to a true “hot” fish. Still, that initial tug is fantastic and just the idea of hooking steelhead will keep me coming back.

Jake
Someday you'll be lucky enough to hook one a day's swim from the salt and get a chance to rewind a lot more backing onto your reel than you're comfortable with. :)
 

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The reason I love steelhead is that they are easy to catch. They response to fly just like a trout. They also run in different direction unlike salmon almost only shoot upstream.

But they are really pretty fish. With their presence, our rivers are charming.
 

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The reason I love steelhead is that they are easy to catch.

Man, I would love to trade places for a few days. We’ve had a sharp and steady decline in our Central Valley rivers over the last decade. It’s the numbers in the river that make each one special - not that I enjoy Klamath or Rogue fish any less, but the surprise just isn’t as great.
 

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To me, the mystique of steelhead is connecting for a few brief moments with a creature that has survived years of river life, navigated thousands of ocean miles that I can't even imagine, and then ran the final gauntlet of nets, anglers, and predators only to connect with me for a few minutes. Those few minutes can be incredibly impressionable, however.

On the flip side, I think the actual act of steelhead fishing itself can sometimes lend itself to a lot of over hype and dramatization. There are other quarry that are just as big or bigger, pull harder, are less pressured, and also live in beautiful locales. Also, I think sometimes folks like to embellish the difficulty of hooking steelhead. If you can find reasonable numbers in fly friendly water....they are not hard to hook on a swung fly and act like big trout.

But what is not over done for me is the fish themselves; their resiliency, determination, beauty, adaptability, and mysterious wandering ways resonate with me and makes them my favorite fish on the planet. I never get tired of seeing them or especially holding one for a few minutes and thinking about their journey and wildness....its certainly a special feeling, one that I hope never goes away.
 

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The fish of a thousand casts. Except when they aren’t. Sometimes they come months apart and others mere casts.
 

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Whats most amazing about Steelhead, is that despite every obstacle humankind can possibly think of to throw in their way, they are not quite extinct.

Yet.

I don't dare even lift one from the water anymore fearing it may contain the DNA needed to save the species from doom. But I still have some amazing snapshots burned upon my grey matter, even from this year.....
 

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To me, the mystique of steelhead is connecting for a few brief moments with a creature that has survived years of river life, navigated thousands of ocean miles that I can't even imagine, and then ran the final gauntlet of nets, anglers, and predators only to connect with me for a few minutes. Those few minutes can be incredibly impressionable, however.

On the flip side, I think the actual act of steelhead fishing itself can sometimes lend itself to a lot of over hype and dramatization. There are other quarry that are just as big or bigger, pull harder, are less pressured, and also live in beautiful locales. Also, I think sometimes folks like to embellish the difficulty of hooking steelhead. If you can find reasonable numbers in fly friendly water....they are not hard to hook on a swung fly and act like big trout.

But what is not over done for me is the fish themselves; their resiliency, determination, beauty, adaptability, and mysterious wandering ways resonate with me and makes them my favorite fish on the planet. I never get tired of seeing them or especially holding one for a few minutes and thinking about their journey and wildness....its certainly a special feeling, one that I hope never goes away.
I agree with a lot of what you say, it's like the famous Robert Traver quote about the beauty of the places that they're found (in reference to trout fishing). There is certainly a lot of purple prose used to describe the act of catching both Atlantic salmon and steelhead. Perhaps because a big fish taking a swung fly is full of a joy that is hard to describe.

I've not caught a lot of steelhead (I'm 5 for 6) but only one of those, a hatchery fish, was as disappointing in the battle as previously described, but with good reason. I'm lucky enough to have caught a couple of both steelhead and Atlantic salmon over 10lbs and I'd say the steelhead bent the same rod deeper, pound for pound, though the salmon perhaps fought longer. Salmon, at least in the UK, can be quite ponderous when hooked in a way that I've not encountered with steelhead. I'm sure there are saltwater fish that fight harder, but I'm not sure there can be many freshwater fish that do, if any?

It says something to me that steelhead can reach spawning grounds inaccessible to Pacific salmon due to their athleticism and that their latitudinal range is much greater than that of Atlantic salmon. They are incredible creatures as you say. Connecting with one, in those beautiful PNW landscapes, is an amazing experience. I'd probably go so far as to say it has been life-changing for me.

What they go through in biological terms to transition from fresh to salt and back again is a marvel. A natural re-engineering of their molecular biology. It probably helps that they're darned pretty too.
 

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I haven't touched a steelhead in two years now. Many hook ups in between, a lost fish at my feet this past spring, and some solid pulls and short battles this fall. Yet, I still can't wait until the next time I get out--and I know I'll enjoy every second of it, fish or not. It's just something about the places the pursuit brings me...and that wanting anticipation with each cast into a fishy run, bringing me back to being like a kid the night before Christmas.
 

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I don't get the whole mysticism aspect of steelheading.

They are a beautiful fish when pursued in their prime and especially when they have never seen the inside of a hatchery raceway or eaten a pellet.

The challenge isn't in getting them to bite it's finding one in rivers full of empty water.
that doesn't make they mysterious. it just means we have really screwed up their world big time.

I love steelhead and steelhead fishing but I do it only sparingly. I do not enjoy fishing empty rivers. Swinging a fly just for the purpose of being out on the river? I don't get that.
I have to feel like i have a chance to encounter a fish for it to be fun. I don't have to catch one I just have to feel like it's possible. If it just feels like it's not going to happen I'll pack up and go do something else.
What I used to love most about steelhead fly fishing was the people I met along the river. It used to be you'd meet people who had ideas and philosophies about steelheading and how to accomplish it and who loved exploring those ideas with others. Nowadays it seems that steelheading philosophy is reduced to how heavy of a sink tip you are fishing. We are in really bleak times both for steelhead and for steelheading.

where did all the good thinking steelheading gentlemen go? they've been replaced by company reps.
 
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