20 lb Steelhead

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by thewaker, Jan 8, 2007.

  1. Todd Ripley

    Todd Ripley New Member

    I've caught a fairly good number of legit 20+ fish, and touching on the various topics in this thread, I'll say this...

    1. There is a big difference between a real 20# steelhead, and what I refer to as an "internet 20# steelhead"...those are the ones caught by guys who typically catch five pound hatchery fish and think they are nine pounders...when they get a taste of their first fourteen or fifteen pound wild fish, it is so much bigger, and fights so much better, they think it must be a twenty pounder. Now that it is late winter, I'm already amused in anticipation of seeing lots of those "internet 20's" showing up on all the BB's.

    2. None of the 20#+ steelhead that I have caught would crack the top ten "hottest" fish I've ever caught...they're almost all big bucks, and fight more like big chums or Chinook...but I can tell you this, they still fight hard, and they are still a wonder to see when you get one that big to hand.

    3. I was fortunate enough to catch two trophy fish this past Monday...an 18 and a 20, both within less than two hours of each other...and here's the kicker; they were both hens. I've never caught a hen over 20, and only a handful as big as the 18. The fight from the 18 was absolutely phenomenal, and the fight from the 20 was pretty good, but more bulldog than the 20. Both jumped multiple times, though, and seeing hens that big get out of the water is a sight to behold...the 20 did two full splats, but the 18 did about 30 yards of cartwheel directly after the hookup...wow, to say the least.

    3. I fish well over 100 days per year, and I fish with some really good fishermen, and between us we usually get one or two every year...except last year, when we landed nothing that I would call a legit 20# fish...but fishing was so good last spring that I don't feel the slightest twinge of disappointment in not landing a 20.

    4. For sheer excitement, I'll take a 14 to 16 pound fresh wild hen over anything else...but for sheer majesty in your hands, it's hard to beat a slightly rosy 24 or 26 pound buck!

    5. Last note...most people don't fish with the proper gear, or fish the proper rivers, or proper pieces of water, to consistently catch big fish...yeah, the 20's all have to cross that two foot tailout to get upstream, but don't count on finding them all stacked up there for a week...

    Fish on...


    P.S. None of the 20# fish I have caught have come on a flyrod :(
  2. East Fork

    East Fork Active Member


    How many man hours might go into catching a 20lb steelhead? I realize it varies by year, drainage and tackle used but any kind of an estimate would help frame the discussion.
  3. Ryan Nathe

    Ryan Nathe Member

    What Otter said...
  4. Todd Ripley

    Todd Ripley New Member

    EF, I can only speak for myself, but I'm only going to look at the time frame between Jan. 15 and Apr. 30, since that's when the chances of catching a 20+ fish go from "blind luck" to "reasonable"...

    In those 15 weeks I usually fish two or three days per week for the first month...up to mid-February...then four to six days per week from that point until the end of April. Call that an average of 63 days...at 8 hours per day, that's about 500 hours.

    Last year that 500 hours garnered me exactly zero 20+ fish...but I'd say it usually gets me from one to three, depending on the year...

    Those last two weeks of January are usually spent on the OP...the Sol Duc, specifically, as that is the most consistent January river, if you're talking wild fish. February is spent on a couple of local PS streams...and then March is back out to the OP for the month (all the larger streams), followed by April on the Sauk and Skagit.

    That schedule is pretty well fixed, unless rivers are blown here and good there, or vice versa...

    So...that's about 500 hours spent on streams known to have 20+ fish in reasonable numbers...as reasonable as such a thing can be, I guess.

    That stretch of time is good for anywhere from 75 to 125 fish, again depending on the year...and usually one or two of those is a real 20+ fish.

    I guess if you look at it that way...I fish specifically in streams that have big fish, aiming to catch those big fish, and it still takes about 300 to 500 hours to catch one 20+ fish...which is probably about 1% of the fish I catch during that time period.

    Pretty thin odds no matter how much time you spend out there...flyfishing, of course, often makes that an even tougher proposition, but not always :)

    Fish on...

  5. bigtj

    bigtj Member

    Then there are guys like me, who in my first trip to the area you generally described, in 1995 caught a 16-lb hen and a 21 pound buck in the same day. Another friend of mine fished in the same area, one time, and out of a group of ten guys fishing 4 days, was the only guy to catch a 20-lb fish. Which goes to show, on average it takes a long time to catch a 20-lb steelhead, but ultimately it all comes down to luck (although skill definitely helps your luck). Heck for that matter it's conceivable that one guy could do one steelhead trip in a lifetime and catch a 20-pounder, while another can fish for 300 days a year for 20 years and not catch one. Not likely, but shows that there is a degree of luck involved in the whole equation.
  6. East Fork

    East Fork Active Member

    Todd: Good answer. Thanks. We have some of those fish in SWW too. Most are native so you don't see a lot of pictures of them but they are there. Perhaps not in the numbers you see on the OP but there are enough around to if not target them, to at least be prepared for them. Luck happens and if you are ready for it, a guy can get one. Or 2 :)
  7. Todd Ripley

    Todd Ripley New Member

    I think you're right about luck playing a big part, but I love this quote by Thomas Jefferson (I believe it was TJ)...

    "I'm a firm believer in Luck, and find that the harder I work, the more of it I have."

    ...luck will come your way more often if every factor that is under your control is aimed at getting the job done...you can't magically make the fish appear, or make it bite if it just won't do it, but you can fish streams that have big fish, in the areas that are "big fish water", using flies or lures that better at getting down into the big fish water, and are best at getting a big fish to take a whack at it...after that, it is just all luck, but there's plenty of work to be done to boil it down to the "luck factor"...!

    Fish on...

  8. HauntedByWaters

    HauntedByWaters Active Member

    SWEET JESUS!!!! What do you do for a living to have that much freetime???.....PM me........I don't want everyone changing to your profession at the same time.........;)
  9. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

    Todd's a "kept man." His sweetie takes care of him, and he fishes, and fishes, and fishes. It's the best racket, for those that can get in.

  10. PT

    PT Physhicist

    Nothing wrong with that.:thumb: Nice to see him on the board.
  11. TomB

    TomB Active Member

    nice to see you on the board todd
  12. Jeremy Floyd

    Jeremy Floyd fly fishing my way through life

    In 1992 I caught a 22lb Steelhead (with roe) when I was a senior in high school on the Snake River by lower monumental. It was 42 inches and my dad and I took it to the store to weigh it on a meat scale.

    I have never seen another one that big, or even closefor that matter, and I have fished steelhead every year since except for the two I spent in the Persian Gulf.

    The biggest Steelhead I have seen caught since then was a 15-16lb buck my buddy Rick landed from the Van Duzen seen below. It was his first time EVER fly fishing... Lucky bastard.


    This one shows it has broad shoulders.

  13. Todd Ripley

    Todd Ripley New Member

    This "kept man" has to work all summer, pretty much seven days per week from mid-May until October...but I more than make up for it in the late winter and spring!!

    Fish on...

  14. Ken II

    Ken II LIB

    just some tid bit....A local legend by the name Harry Lemire landed a 20lb steelhead on a dryfly in the winter! many years ago.
  15. PT

    PT Physhicist

    You work until October or thru October? Just trying to figure out if that's a full 4.5 months or 5.5 months per year.;)

    Just razzin....
  16. Todd Ripley

    Todd Ripley New Member

    On the road that whole time...until October...work at home and fish when I can October thru December, work a little more in January than in December, and then mid-February until the end of April is full on steelheading time...One day per week I come home to make phone calls and put out fires concerning work, shop for supplies the next morning, and head back out...

    Unfortunately that May til October work time is 7 days, and 24 hours, with a few scattered days off in there...

    Fish on...

  17. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member


    Not sure where you heard that, but Harry has been a friend of mine for over 30 years, and if he caught a winter run on a dry fly, especially if it was 20 pounds, I kinda' think he would have mentioned it sometime, just in passing at least.

    He did take a large summer steelhead, 23 pounds I think, on a dry fly on a Canadian river in 1973 or 74. I've seen the mount, and it was a beautiful fish.

    Now Todd, you're going to give everyone the wrong impression suggesting that you work part of the year. You don't get out as much in the summer, so true, but you do "got it good." Just taking the opportunity to give you some crap.


    Salmo g.
  18. Todd Ripley

    Todd Ripley New Member

    Steve, I wouldn't trade it for the world...work hard, fish hard!

    Fish on...

  19. HauntedByWaters

    HauntedByWaters Active Member

    Salmo, you haven't been doing your reading. This IS the fish he is talking about. In Trey Combs' books "Fly Fishing Steelhead And Flies" (That may not be exactly right), Harry L. gives an account of that day in the flies section. It is with his large black dry pattern (can't remember the name). Anyway, a great read and Harry specifically says that normally he would have let the magnificantfish go but in this case he decided to whack it and taxonomize it because how many times does a 23lbs steelhead take a dry in one man's life?.......ZERO.......Unless of course you are a living legand.
  20. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

    I believe that the fish in question was caught by Harry on his Lamire's irresistible. The fish was 38 1/2 inches long and weight 23 # 2 oz and was caught on the Dean River. Yes the fish was mounted. Oh by the way - it was caught on August 17, 1973.

    The story is on pages 91 and 92 of Trey's 1976 book.

    Any 20 pounder is a special fish and one on a dry is doubly so. The fish above again points out that if you wish to encounter such fish spending time on big fish waters and being lucky help tip the scales in your favor.

    Tight lines