What's the best way to land a >20lb Steelhead?


I hope she likes whitefish
Tag for responses since I have no knowledge of such fanciful dreams as "landing 20 lb steelhead". You should start a thread on what NOT to do to land one. I can write a book on that.
Wha... Wha... Huh... [wipes drool]

Honey, honey, wake up! You were having a nightmare. You were shouting and yelling... Sounded like 'no, no, not the dog! He didnt do anything. Take me... Take me... I'm the one that ripped your lip'

Oh darling, I was just about to land another of those 20-pounders...

Jack Devlin

Active Member
I know what Matthew Crawley would do; he would hand the rod to his gillie whilst expressing his boredom for the whole process, and then he would withdraw to the castle for a wash-up and drinks.
Seriously, a twenty pounder has only happened to me once and that was twenty six years ago on the Deschutes in Oregon.
Plenty of room helped in that case. I got lucky. Fish got way into the backing on a Hardy St. John. My nail knot held. When the fish went way downriver, the guide told me to bury the rod tip and let the current take my line downstream. In a short time, the fish started working his way back upstream and soon was opposite me. We did this a few times with me gaining line on the reel each time. Finally, the fish was pooped. The guide tailed the fish.
Of course, a twenty pounder in smaller water would be even more of a challenge. Often not able to chase up or down river. Hold on. Perhaps jump in after him.?? I like plaegreid's bear technique.
Wait till it happens and play it by ear.

Jack Devlin

Active Member
Hook fish
Grab nearby bear
Throw bear in river
Bring fish to bear
Bear grabs fish
Punch bear, take fish

Please note that this is only acceptable if the fish is a hatchery brat that you will keep as the bear will remove the fish entirely from the water.
As good a plan as any.


Well-Known Member
Like with any steelhead. Put max pressure on it, only longer. You don't need a massive amount of room. A 20# steelhead is only a foot longer than a regular steelhead. No need to over-think this. When the fish is done, it's done. Roll it onto its side and lead its nose as close to the beach or shore as possible. Strip some slack line off your reel, holding it with your rod hand, release the line as you tail the fish, lay rod in safest available place, which is most anywhere since you're obviously alone doing this, and no moreon is going to step on it. Grab camera and take photographic evidence. Grab tape and measure length and girth to deal with all the doubters. Remove fly from fish, revive if necessary, and release. Then yell out some appropriate mantra to the deity of your choice.

Swam through three pools. Passed my rod under a downed tree. Hand on leader. Got the length marked on my rod and her girth using my hands . Reached back for camera and the fish spit the hook right in my face.
February on the Hoh.

So to answer your question. Anyway you can.


Active Member
I agree with Salmo g - like any other steelhead. Take the fight to the fish keeping it off balance. When it wants to run allow it to do so with just enough pressure to keep from over running the reel. As so as it stops immediately take the fight to it again taking the line as the fish allows. If in a tough spot once the fish stops a run gently put a decent bend in the rod and slow walk upstream; the fish will follow though it may stop and even shake its head (pause and once it settles down resume leading the fish upstream). Once you have gain the needed space again take the fight to the fish. If you want to shorten the line just walk back down to the fish and pick up the line without putting undo pressure on the fish.

By working to take the will to resist from the fish rather than playing it to exhaustion even relatively large fish can be "landed" surprisingly quickly. I just slide my fish into the shallows leaving the fish on its side in several inches of water with the head pointed towards shore. It is then a simple matter of reaching down to remove the hook and sending the fish on its way. By breaking the will of the fish there never is a need to revive a steelhead (even the mythical 20 #er). If in a high bank situation or a debris laden shoreline I will stand in deeper water and slide the fish pass me and tail the fish (short leaders and handkerchief landed across the palm of the tailing had helps).

The only hard parts in landing a 20 # steelhead are the obvious; finding and hooking one (duh!) and not letting panic take over when you see the size of the fish.

BTW my hook to landed ratio of 20# plus steelhead is better with the fly rod than gear.