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!


Crowded With a Side of Steelhead

by Rebecca on April 22, 2010

in Fly Fishing

I think it was last Thursday, when I was asked, “Hey, do you want to go Steelhead fishing?” ……..35 minutes later I was in the truck and headed North. THAT is why I have the emergency grab and go camp totes. No muss, no fuss, just grab the minimal and get the hell out of dodge before something like responsible thought process takes the fun out of spontaneity. Works like a charm!

"Combat Fishing on the Little Salmon"

I don’t think I can get publicly scorned for mentioning the river I went to, so here it is. The Little Salmon River. Reports of record Steelhead numbers and gluttonous catch rates are hard to hide anyway. 

When we arrived to the hot section of the river, my sweet little Fly Rod with an intimidation factor of a willow stick faced a long line of Ugly Stiks as stout and menacing as Oak trees. Welcome to the combat zone.

The first night I was there I didn’t even wet my line. For one, there wasn’t a spare rock to stand on. Valuable real estate had been claimed earlier in the day and any move to overthrow the current King of that perticular granite was met with death glares and a hint of Marshall law.

Not that I would have tried anyway. In this situation the fact is, spin casters and fly fisherman can’t mix. With so many lines all cast across the river it creates a woven spider web that is precarious and sticky. While I observed, it seemed there was always two or more people ferociously trying to disengage their line from another. Several times during multiple fisherman tangle ups I couldn’t help but think, now that’s what a cluster fu*k looks like….

I’ve never sat around and felt self righteous about my fishing. Honestly, in my mind, I’ve always felt that anyone that is out fishing is all right by me, and I’m holding (trying) onto that mantra. But for one whole evening I sat and watched the show that is Steelhead combat fishing and felt completely separate from those fishing below me. I’m not sure if my feelings fall into the self righteous category, or if my thoughts simply fall into an opinion of a person who prefers the slower pace of fly fishing and utmost care of the fish themselves. Despite the fact we were all fisherman, I did not feel like part of the crowd that evening, at all.

The fisherman below me seemed so frantic about everything they were doing. Cast, reel, cast, get snagged up with other fisherman, untangle, cast, impatience, reel, hook a fish, haul it to top water as fast as possible, hydroplane it across the water, smack it into the rocks, sometimes someone would net the fish….sometimes all the nets were busy with other fish so just yank it up the jagged rocks, put foot on fish to contain it, rip out hook…Native Steelhead? Unceremoniously toss it (from 5 feet or 10 feet up the bank) back in the river. Clipped Steelhead? Toss it up on the bank to flop around (can’t give up the rock real estate) and let it die slowly.

It was exhausting to watch. The Pace. It was also heartbreaking for me personally and at times, frustrating (disgusting) the way the Steelhead were treated. I had a hard time keeping my catch and release practises quietly to myself and risked getting shunned (ass kicked) off the bank with a few vocal suggestions. I’m sure my Fly Rod case resting against my chair didn’t earn me any points, but I believe —again with the feelings/opinions— a little respect is deserved to a fish that just swam all the way from the ocean. 

This wasn’t about those who spin cast versus those who fly fish. It was about this specific group of fisherman, all caught up in a contagious frenzy (and there was fish on constantly), not slowing the hell down, taking a second to crawl down the rock carefully and taking care of their fish the right way. Out of the mob, there were a few who took the time to do things ethically and I appreciated those anglers. They were the counter balance to what seemed a hopeless and disturbing night. On that small front, not all seemed lost in the frenzy.

When I started this entry I didn’t know I would go down a righteous river bank. But there it is, spelled out in words from my observations. As for myself and attempting to stake claim to a Fly Fishing safe-zone of river, I did that and hooked many Steelhead. But I think I’ll save that experience for a new entry…..part 2.

I think I wrote plenty for one day.