First Steelhead on the Fly

Snoqualmie Boat launch Oct. 2002. I was tossing a 6wt swinging an egg pattern (peachy king) I let it swing and sit in the slack water next thing I know I feel a subtle take then I set the hook and C-YA! Line went zinging down the river. I think the fact that she wrapped herself around the line may have helped me conquer my first chromer. She wasn't a big fish whopping 22" but this was the confidence booster I needed. The cool thing was a G&F officer stopped by after the fact and checked my fly and fish to make sure I was playing fair. I didn't have a camera on me but he did and generously took a picture of me and mailed it. I was Stoked!
I caught my first one 3 summers ago, my first year of fly fishing. It was probably total luck. I was down in Hood River and I stopped at the fly shop there to ask about fishing for them (since I had no clue). They asked what gear I had, so I told them I had a 6wt and only a floating line. They sugested a few flies (big dumbell purple leech and egg flies) but they told me I wouldn't get anything because I probably wouldn't be able to get the flies deep enough on the swing with only a floating line. Well, I believed them but I thought I would try it out anyway. So I went over to the White Salmon River and started drifting the leech with the egg fly as a trailer. On one drift, suddenly mine line stopped and I set. I thought it was the bottom, but within seconds a nice steelhead was jumping out of the water trying to shake out the egg fly. I was able to get him in and even though he was small for a steelhead (4 or 5 pounds) I was still totally exicted. Unfortunately I didn't have a camera with me becuase I didn't think I would need one.
I'm coming up on the anniversary of my first fly caught steelhead. I was going to school at Washington state and had made a few trips to the Ronde and the Snake. On one trip to the Ronde in early october, I fished the first day about five miles up from the confluence with no success. Later back at camp some old timers gave me a green butt spey and told me to swing it on a floating line. The next day I hiked back up to a hole where the day before a guide pulling plugs took two fish out of the tailout of the run I had been fishing (real nice of him I might add). On my second cast the water boiled where my fly was swinging. About ten minutes, and five leaps, later I released a 23 inch native hen.
My first one was exactly as I hoped it would be, spring '97, a nice bright Skykomish native hen. I was swinging a fly through the Reformatory hole when the rod was violently almost jerked out of my hand. Line screamed off the reel as she headed for the Snohomish, taking out most of my backing. After many long runs, head shaking, and chaos, she was finally at my feet, a bright bullet of around 13lbs. My buddy videotaped the whole battle, I occasionally watch it before I go out for winter steelhead. I had been trying to land a Steelie on the fly for a very long time and was getting close to giving up. They haven't really come all that much easier since then but after that I knew it could happen to me! :beer2:
Great topic, and you probably won't believe my story but here it is:

I spent a lot of time plunking and bouncing with spinning gear and I had reasonable success, but a steelhead on the fly was always in the back of my mind. In 2001 I got serious about the fly thing which included tying. I bought a "kit" on e-bay and started learning via books and videos.

A friend of mine told me that his dad was catching steelies up at Ringold on a golden spey fly so I had to tie one. I headed up there and spotted some really good looking water. You know the kind, walking speed with some boulders. I took a position about 30 feet above the biggest boulder, stripped about 30 feet of line and tossed it. The fly had just barely hit the water and BOOM! 15 minutes later I was looking at an 8 lb buck with awesome summer colors.

How good is that (probably more like luck)? I was in heaven. First cast on a fly that I tied. It just can't get any better. Been slayin' ever since (photo is NOT the first, but still a beauty).

Kamchatka, Russia. You aren't allowed to fish for them there, any longer. Sept 2001. The Sopachnaya River.
I'd been fishing for just 20 minutes with my partner for the week, a guy old enough to be my father. Fortunately, a year earlier I had tangled, for the first time, ever, with many large chum on a Fraser R tributary so I knew how to handle and turn a heavy fish, in heavy water. I learned the HARD way, though, having only caught a 5 lb fish up to that point, ever, on a fly. Dick tied into a 16 lb hen that fought like a hellion. Ten minutes later I hooked one the same size. The fight was disappointing using the chum as a standard of comparison. No jumping and relatively easy to bring to bay. It was an ironically fitting specimen, I thought for my first steelhead in Russia - the fish was badly scarred by two long gashes on one side from teeth of a predator or being jammed against the side of a net from which it somehow, miraculously, had managed to escape. Even the fish there reflect the drama of their country's tormented history, I thought, gazing at it's gently heaving flanks. My px of it was/is decapitated because I had jammed the fingertip of my waterproof gloves through the shutter a few days before in my excitement at landing a huge trout on another astonishing river, the Zhupanova, and thought, wrongly, I'd manged to fix the damned thing. It was the ONLY frame to even partially develop. Fortunately the guide held it down low enough to get the bottom 1/3 of the frame and bottom 2/3 of the fish! I naively thought that the rest of the week would be as incredible as I had heard some tales of. Other, more sober souls, had warned me of planeloads of frustrated fishermen returning home.
The weather was horrendous - bitterly cold, and the fish wouldn't move to the fly. The group coming out the week ahead had been nearly completely blanked. Lines, line guides and reels froze up almost immediately for a few hours each morning. Dick went the rest of the week and didn't touch a fish, and returned home, unhappy. I was more fortunate.
It was cold, hard, difficult fishing, and perhaps fitting being made to endure such adversity, given the specie's legendary reputation for elusiveness, but, my God, the fish there were/are simply immense if you are fortunate enough to make contact with your fly.
I've been ruined for life, I suppose, by that first experience.
If the Russians ever permit steelheading in Kamchatka's rivers again, you should certainly give it a go.
I've been consistently and repeatedly skunked, here, on the Olympic P. rivers, ever since.
I did catch a 14 incher on the Pitt R in lower B.C. lolol That was my B.C./N American "first".
Those huge creatures remain completely docile once turned on their side in very shallow water. Strange. I wonder if large N American steelhead are so readily managed, once brought to shore.
First on a Fly, Autumn on the Methow, muddler minnow, 6 wt rod, floating line. The buck came from behind the fly near the end of the swing, water bulging as it nosed up to the fly, grabbed and ran upstream when I set. After 10 minutes, he got pissed off and ran downstream into heavy white water. I Ran alongside of him 100 yards down a class 4 white water cataract to finally land him in the pool below, bruised shins and wet from slip sliding down the boulders, but miles of smiles.
Boy, I still haven't caught a steelhead on a fly...and it isn't from a lack of effort, certainly may be a lack of something else. But hey when I do it will be caught on a fly, I know that for sure.


the Menehune stole my beer
Salt Dog that is one of the coollest looking fish I've seen in a long time.....bright ones are great but there is something about a deep red stripe that gets me going!

I think Capt Awesome asked who caught their first on a 5 wt or less?.........I'm in that club and it happened by accident on the S. Fork Sky years ago while trout fishing. It hit a H&L Variant dry that was starting to skate at the end of a longish dead drift. I saw the chase, the big gaping piehole open up and suck in the bug and the turnaway onto a tight line. I just about peed myself and by some miracle I landed it. Small.....about 4 pounds......but my first. You never forget your first eh?

nice thread! :)

Old Man

Just an Old Man
How about on a 4wt. I did it but it wasn't a pig. Just legal,21". On the Foss River. Was doing the trout thing and was catching cutts about 12" to 14" long and having a ball when he hit it. A size 14 Black Humpy. I can still see it in my minds eye. Quite a thrill. Yes on a dry,on the top.


P/S I guess that I lie just a little bit about my catching ;)
I hooked into my first steelhead just a few days ago while fishing the Green River. I was swinging a size 2 purple woolly bugger with my 5 weight on a floating line. Just when I was about to leave I wanted to try a spot I had already covered, it just looked to fishy to walk by. It was a nice slow run sprinkled with large boulders at the tail out of a huge deep green pool. On my second cast into the run the tip of my fly line sunk down about 3 feet, I thought oh probably stuck on a rock. I gave a nice tug and to my supprise saw a silver flash as the fish darted towards the boulders, then down the river and then up the river. It then broke through the water surface with a amazing jump that left my jaw dropped, my heart raced as I watched my first steelhead put on a nice show. I was convinced I would lose this fish, my 5 weight was maxed out to the butt section and my drag was screaming. But soon enough I hoarsed him close to me and grabed him by the tail. Two guys with kids stood behind me watching, they seemed just as exited as I was, I took my camera out of my pocket and they were nice enough to snap a pic for me. The fish took off out of my hands as I revived it, speeding off back to what I had interupted. It all ended quicker than I had wanted but the memory is as fresh as ever. :D
I was fishing the S.F. Toutle using a #6 Black Boss.......I was trying to look like I knew what I was doing because the guy that just fished through 10 minutes ahead of me was sitting up on a high bank watching me.......I went to pick up my line for another cast and a maybe 5 lb. buck hit hard coming out of the water.......Never the less I peed myself, landed him like a pro and all the while screeming like a school girl........He was beautifuly colored (I figure he had his last salt) and he is forever etched in my mind......