Understanding Steelhead

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Matt Hutch, Oct 6, 2010.

  1. Matt Hutch

    Matt Hutch Member

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    Afternoon guys,
    Got another big question for you. I've recently gotten into steelhead fishing and I just learned how to spey cast, so I've been trying to learn as much as possible about that style of fishing and steelhead in general. But it all is so confusing to me. I have so many questions about steelhead in general, and I was wondering if there are any good books that go into detail regarding steelhead and their habits. For example, what determines how many years a fish spends in the ocean before it returns to the river? What are their eating habits when they are in rivers? How do you tell the difference between a steelhead smolt and a rainbow trout? I imagine that we don't really know the answers to a lot of my questions, but there has to be at least some insight into what the answers may be. I have a book by Trey Combs on steelhead fishing but it was written twenty years ago so its a bit out of date. And he has a bunch of chapters on different rivers but none on the rivers that I fish (the Grande Ronde and Methow mostly). Any good suggestions?

    Thanks,
    Matt
     
  2. Evan Burck

    Evan Burck Fudge Dragon

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    Dec Hogan's "A Passion for Steelhead"

    As for the title of this thread: It's an oxymoron
     
  3. KerryS

    KerryS Ignored Member

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    Trey's book may have been written 20 years ago but for some equipment advances the fish and the rivers are the same, they don't go "out of date" perhaps extinct but not out of date.
     
  4. stewart dee

    stewart dee Guest

     
  5. ak_powder_monkey

    ak_powder_monkey Proud to Be Alaskan

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    Steelhead are about as confusing as women... Any man who claims to understand them is only lying to himself
     
  6. Jmuss

    Jmuss New Member

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    A good video to check out is Lanni Waller's Steelhead Legacy. It is old but his techniques are still sound. Great detail on how to read the river as well as work the area. You can get a copy at Orvis.
     
  7. Plecoptera

    Plecoptera Active Member

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    +1 on sticking with the Trey Combs book. The equipment stuff is a little outdated and the flies are more of the "traditional" variety, but there is some great info on steelhead and their life history & diversity. It should easily answer all your questions.
     
  8. Evan Burck

    Evan Burck Fudge Dragon

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    I really feel that Dec's book covers the timeless bases that Trey's does, but isn't as outdated in the other areas.
     
  9. JS

    JS Active Member

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    That's probably the biggest truth I have heard all day. No offense intended at all, but I can speak for myself and many others in saying that we have put in TIME, time like you can't even understand if you havn't done it, trying to "figure out steelhead". I have been fishing for steelhead for over 10 years, specifically in eastern wa/or, and I still hook fish in places that they shouldn't be, strikeout in the juiciest of juice, and go days without fish. It's a journey, not a destination, bro. Live it, learn it, and love it.
     
  10. JS

    JS Active Member

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    Oh, and maybe somebody can help me out here.....didn't Andy have a good article on here about nymphing for steel? I seem to remember one. If you can find that, read it, that dude is a steelhead god.
     
  11. Andrew Lawrence

    Andrew Lawrence Active Member

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    - Read everything that you can get your hands on from stock reports to books that some might consider antiquated. (These will, in the very least, help you understand and appreciate the development of our sport and its traditions.) You can find a lot of older material at the library. Also, there is a lot of information available on the web if you are willing to search for it.

    - Listen to what other people who you come into contact with on the river have to say. Sometimes a piece of seemingly insignificant information can turn out to be very helpful later on.

    - Observe and pay attention to how more experienced anglers fish and where they fish.

    - Do not hesitate to contact WDFW regional offices if you have questions.

    - Be openminded.

    - Be inquisitive. (So far, I don't think that you have a problem with this one.)
     
  12. johnnyd

    johnnyd Member

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    You should check out John Hazel's "Spey Fishing Steelhead" DVD. It's great, it really turned some lights on for me. Lani Waller's "A Steelheader's Way" and John Larison's "The Complete Steelheader" are very good books that no one mentioned yet.
     
  13. powderglut

    powderglut My Kind Of Wave

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    Amen!! If you can't handle disappointment, swinging flies is not for you!
    All the Lani Waller videos are extremely useful. And Dec Hogans book is as good as it gets. One of these days I'll even probably buy it!
    No doubt Hazel's DVD is very good spey stuff, but if you've met him he's just not that easy to like. I won't go further. All I can say is find some nice water and swing your fly thru it. Believe me you will know whether you hooked a steelhead or a rainbow.
    Yaaghhh!!! I've got chrome fever!!
     
  14. Preston

    Preston Active Member

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    To answer a couple of your questions, the length of time a steelhead spends in sat water is probably determined by its genes. Steelhead populations in most rivers exhibit a wide range of fresh/salt habits, usually going to sea at two years and remaining there to feed for two and sometimes three years before returning to spawn.

    Steelhead do not feed in the rivers; they may take things into their mouths and even swallow them but they do not consistently "feed" in any normal sense of the term. For instance, in the rivers you mention, a fish may have left the ocean as early as May and not spawn until January or later; during this time it will survive by consuming its own fat reserves.

    A steelhead smolt may be differentiated from a resident rainbow by the fact that, as it undergoes the process of smoltification, it takes on an overall silvery coloration unlike a non-smolting rainbow. This occurs in the spring as the smolt is preparing to migrate and migrating to the ocean; the color change is an indication of the the physiological changes taking place which will allow it to survive in salt water. Prior to smolting (as in the fry and parr stages) there is no way to tell the difference between a steelhead and a resident rainbow.
     
  15. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    Matt,

    If you want to understand more of the biology and ecology of steelhead in addition to the "how to fish" books, pick up a copy of The Behavior and Ecology of Pacific Salmon and Trout by Thomas Quinn.

    Sg
     

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