Fly Fishing for Steelhead

The sleepy look of 5 a.m.

This weekend I had the privilege of taking Emily aka The River Damsel out for two days of fly fishing.

Our first day of fly fishing took us to an un-named river fly fishing for big brown trout. In typical Rebecca fashion, the batteries on my camera were dead and I didn’t have backup. So the big browns that were caught shall remain in memory forever…

I may have scared Emily off from ever going fly fishing with me again with this next twist, but for our second day of fly fishing it was deemed Steelhead time and in order to do that, we had to leave town at 3:00 A.M. I’ve never heard anyone refer to Steelhead fishing as a leisure sport, and Emily took this first Steelhead initiation like a trooper…with a smile. Off to the S.F. of the Clearwater we went.

"Just Happy To Be Here"

Now, since we are generous fly fisherman, we decided to bring along another angler with us for Steelhead day. He didn’t even grumble about the 3 a.m. wake up call, nope, not at all. In fact, the only words out of his mouth all day were, “Just Happy To Be Here” ….

Kirk Werner of the Unaccomplished Angler tagged along with me everywhere on Saturday. If truth be told, he was a bit needy in the fact I had to carry him down rocky embankments, hold him up out of the water while I waded through the swift areas and even went as far as strapping him to my chest just to keep my hands free and his feet dry.

Now, I can’t believe I’m going to admit this next part, but it sure gave Kirk a thrill, so I’ll mention it. Only I could be out swinging for Steelhead and catch my nemesis. A whitefish. No, make that…a freaking Whitefish. Emily said, and I quote…”That’s a bad omen.” And sadly, I’m sure she’s right.

Mr. Kirk and Mr. Whitefish share a moment....

Although I was dying a thousand fish deaths inside for hauling in a whitefish on a steelhead day, Kirk–Mr. Just Happy To Be here–was so excited that he accidently took his first dunk in the water for the day. Whoops! But he wanted in on the whitefish action, so after rescuing him from floating away, I obliged.

Fun Times, Fun Times….

The Steelheading was tough on the first river we went to, so we made a change of rivers and headed south to try our hand at the smaller steelhead on the Little Salmon River.

Lunchtime for Kirk

Beer Time For Kirk




However, we did have to make a pitstop for waterlogged Kirk who was hungry and thirsty.

The River Damsel.....Unaccomplished Angler....Outdooress

And then we did a little sightseeing……

Hanging Out

And then I strapped Kirk back into the fly pack and we were off  Fly Fishing for Steelies again….

R-Dub Special

When Emily first came to town she gifted me a little box of Steelhead flies she had acquired from some great fly tyers. In the last hour of the day I reached for that box and pulled out a Lightening Bug that Rory from the blog R-Dub Outdoors had tied up and put it on. I’m glad I did….

And now, for your viewing pleasure, a steelhead on the fly. I have to formally apologize to Kirk though, I know it was a bad friendship move to unceremoniously toss him to the ground when this steelhead took me through the first fun phase of the catch, but well… must make sacrifices in times of great struggle….
Thanks for coming up Emily and Thank You Slayer for driving us and the video!


In hindsight I probably should have skipped a part two in regards to my Steelhead fishing. I do not have the coveted grip and grin photo to display. I do not have the “I landed this whopper and it was kick ass” story. What I have is a whole lot of Steelhead caught and quickly lost from a super charged experience. The stuff fanciful Fish Stories are made of….

As mentioned in the previous entry, it was clear I needed to find a fly fishing safe zone. The problem was anything that remotely looked like a fish-able pool of water, a fishing camp had already been established on it. It should be mentioned that the section of river was at the top section of the Little Salmon, located at the top of a long steep canyon. Translation: Ultra Swift, Ultra Rapids, Ultra Swirling vortex of Boulder designed Raging water.

So I embarked on a journey of one, fly rod in one hand, diet coke in the other, to discover a small piece of fishing opportunity to call my own. I walked down river, smiling at the curious glances and surverying the river for anything that looked like I could 1) cast into and 2) might be a small holding place of Steelhead gold. When I saw the rolling back of a Steelhead behind a decent sized boulder and a small channel of swirling–but calmer–water I scurried down the rocks to give it a try.  

My choosen pool was teenie compared with some of the bigger holding pools, but it wasn’t human occupied–BONUS. It was maybe 10 feet in length and 5 or 6 feet wide. On either side of my channel it was raging water so I held my fly rod and line up, over the current and cast my streamer carefully. Three inches too far and it was sucked out into the abyss of the white water crush.

So yes, I admit. I was a tad worried about what would happen if I actually hooked a Steelhead, but figured I would deal with that problem if it materialized. Third cast….it materialized. 0 to 100 mph in .03 seconds.  One second I’m trying to keep my fly from going wayward into the black hole of current. The next second, marked with an ’oh shit, this isn’t good’ sound of fly line ZINGGGG, I’m trying to keep one rather pissed off Steelhead from making a break back to the ocean without breaking my Fly Rod.

I lost that battle and quickly–snap!–if I might add. Not to be discouraged, I quickly tied another fly on for round two. So ya. I admit. I was a tad worried the same thing would happen, but holy hell, that quick jolt to the fisherman circuit board was thrilling! I excused my slow reaction time on rusty reflexes, the shock factor (my own) and tight fishing quarters. Round two: Several casts, fish on, repeat above scenario –fish off in less then 20 second. Same goes for round 3,4, 5 and so on…….

It’s not like I was having a bad time, it was exciting. Every hook up meant FISH! The glorious sound of Fly Line zinging off into the abyss and me, the lowly fishergal, doing her best to contain a situation that had all the odds stacked against me. Fisherman logic came into play of course and I started to think like a mathematician. For example: If you take one 6 lb Steelhead and allow it to break into the crushing current that surely adds 1,000 lbs of pull to the fishes advantage, it’s no wonder it feels like I’m trying to bring in MobyDick with dental floss tied to a swizzle stick.

I quickly realized there’s a reason, in this section of the river, that the spin casters would yank their fish to the top water and hydroplane them across the water with their 50 lb test line as quickly as possible. If the fish managed to get even a nose into the big current they could swim away with a “not this time sucker” tone and be 60 yards downstream before the fisherman could say, “Oh crap.”

During my whole trip, I did try every trick I could think of to land just one single (just one I begged the Fish Gods) steelhead, but nothing worked. Maybe a better Fly Fisherman with heavier gear could have pulled it off. Maybe if I had the ability to follow the fish down the river I might of had a chance, but wading one step into that river reeked of You WILL Die. Chasing a fish down the boulder bank meant breaking a leg, or ankle, or accidental slip into the drink of death.

So instead of a grip and grin photo. You get one video of Steelhead jumping. I crawled out on a rock (the things I’m willing to do for you guys!) above a waterfall to catch a few action shots. The beginning, yes, well, I know I mentioned it before, but I HATE having a camera pointed at me. Add in driving up a winding canyon road with my hand doing a death grip on the ‘oh shit’ handle of the truck and what you get is the tense me. Thank you Robert for putting the video together (and your commentary)