Where would you got in WA for steelhead

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Brad1212, Sep 8, 2013.

  1. Brad1212 New Member

    Posts: 4
    Santa Cruz, CA
    Ratings: +1 / 0
    If you, like me, were driving down from Canada where you got turned on to swinging flies for Steelhead and, unlike me who doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground, knew Washington steelhead waters, and could hit any of them for a day or two, where would you go?

    I'm most interested in walking and wading on my own, but could be persuaded to spring for a guide if it would get me into waters that I'd want to come back to on subsequen trips through to Canada.

    I promise I won't move here and Californicate your waters. This is just a passing through occasionally kind of deal.


    And now a brief trip report:

    My wife and I (who actually got us into this whole fly fishig thing a few years ago) fished our way through Montana (Henry's Fork--spectacular, very tough, Bighorn (nearly skunked despite 8K fish per mile), Stillwater, Boulder River, Yellowstone) up to Fernie. We've been fishing the Fernie drainage for the last few summers but this year found it running high, dirty and convoluted after June's heavy rains. Worse, we went on to the Livingstone and Old Man in Western Alberta and found the picture-perfect cutthroat-overrun pools of last year washed out and horribly altered.

    Not knowing what to do, we packed up our trailer and headed out for this place I'd read about: Smithers. I understood that the Babine had great rainbow fishing. We got to Smithers to find that the Babine was closed due to spawnin Kokanee. The other big game in town is, of course, steelhead fishing. Undaunted, we went to Oscar's, the local fly shop, to hire a guide and get some instruction. At Oscar's, however, the told us that there are no guides for day trips. They're all employed by lodges and fully booked.

    About 200 phone calls later, we located a guide who took us out on the Bulkley in a jet boat and patiently taught us a couple of basic Spey casts. We fished a variety of water in wildly changing conditions and had a great time. Near the end of the day I hooked into a big, tough, smart steelhead. Closely following the guides instructions I fought this beast for about 15 minutes and got him to the net three times. Sadly, that third time he decided he had enough, turned, splashed a huge tail and was gone. If I'd caught that fish, I'd never have had to fish for steelhead again. Sadly, I didn't and now I understand Melville's Ahab a lot better.

    We went out with the guide again, this time on the Morice and had another great day with a couple of bumps, but that was all. Then we walked and waded around Smithers for another week and hooked one more steelhead for all that effort. But something about long casting down stream and watching the wake of a skated dry keeps you focused, because, after all, didn't Ahab see Moby Dick one more time?
    Nooksack Mac likes this.
  2. ICHI Member

    Posts: 38
    Oakland,CA. / Des Moines,WA.
    Ratings: +5 / 0
    I'm from Cali and no one told me. You gotta find high n low. But where I go now you can limit every day....... Wha?! Whoo said that?!...
  3. BDD Active Member

    Posts: 2,239
    Ellensburg, WA
    Ratings: +223 / 2
    Brad, your story is pretty typical for steelhead fishing I think. Often what you are paying for in a guide is not lunch, stories, or a knot tyer. Rather, it is gleening the knowledge acquired from years of fishing the same waters. Just got back from the Skeena after 5 days of fishing. Without some local knowledge about the area rivers, it would have proved a daunting task. Just finding put ins and take outs for floating can be challenging without local intel. Or knowing which river channel to take. One wrong mistake in a jet boat can lead to disastoruous results. That is what you are paying for when getting a guide. Or you can do it yourself. It just takes years rather than days.

    Regarding your question, hard to pick one. Even with Washington's depleted steelhead runs, there are way too many possibilities to pick one river for a day or two. Timing and technique would be the first things to narrow down in your search. Once you establish those two objectives, it becomes a little easier to figure it out.
  4. Salmo_g Active Member

    Posts: 7,603
    Your City ,State
    Ratings: +1,719 / 0

    Some good info, but critical details are lacking in your request.

    When? There are 12 f'n months in the year, and where I pick to go in WA varies by hundreds of miles depending on what day or days I'm planning to fish. Since you're a Californicator by any yardstick, I could just tell you to go to Blue Ck on the Cowlitz, which is a one-point-only walk and wade proposition. But that would be mean. However, if you have something that floats, or hire a guide, the Cowlitz is a pretty good bet a lot of days of the year.

    Boat? You said you prefer walk and wade, or you might hire a guide. I take this to mean you don't travel with any floating device of your own. That's OK, but it's critical information in the way that it limits your options.

    Another: hatchery or wild? If you're wanting to tangle with wild steelhead only, that further limits your options, but knowing that makes a shitload of difference regarding recommendations.

    I'm not sure what your impression of steelheading in WA is, but just to get you up to date, it's generally in the toilet. We teach people on this website about steelheading all the time. Basically, steelheading is pretty easy. But it's more like hunting than fishing, finding a steelhead, and finding one that wants to play, is the hard part. Successfully fishing for steelhead in WA requires a strategy pointed toward success. That, or shithouse luck. Not being the lucky sort, I bet on strategy every time. Hence the further questions.

    BASS_TURDS likes this.
  5. tinman207 Active Member

    Posts: 187
    Ratings: +157 / 0
    Haha!.....shithouse luck is now my new favorite phrase. I must use it in a sentence before the day is over....
  6. Danielocean Steelhead Virgin

    Posts: 1,510
    Ratings: +673 / 0
    Where would I go..................to the airport. LOL Seriously, I have been wanting to try the Olympic Peninsula for a while.
  7. Nick Clayton Active Member

    Posts: 2,999
    Ratings: +1,307 / 4
    I tried reading this thread but couldn't get past the concept that someone already living in Canada would want to come here to try to catch their first steel
    Olive bugger and BASS_TURDS like this.
  8. Brad1212 New Member

    Posts: 4
    Santa Cruz, CA
    Ratings: +1 / 0
  9. Brad1212 New Member

    Posts: 4
    Santa Cruz, CA
    Ratings: +1 / 0
    Thabnks BDD and Salmo for your replies.

    I'm currently (9/8/130 in Leavenworth visiting my daughter. I've got the next several days to hit somewhere in Washington between the coast and the Cascades, Seattle to the Oregon border.

    I like the idea of wild steelhead, and I'm not a boater. If I took a guided day--which usually but not always means a float--I'd prefer it be in waters where I'd learn a few places I could come back to walk into and wade.

    Regarding steelheading being in the toilet in Washington, isn't it just my (our?) luck to be on the downside? Coming down through Canada I met a guy on the Horsefly River who'd just come back from a week on the Dean. He'd been going there for a decade and just had the worst visit of his career. Last year in a week he and two buddies hooked somewhere near 40 fish in five days. This time, the same guys, same lodge, same guides, all good fishing days during the heart of what is normally a good part of the run--they hooked 14. And his hosts admitted that they'd never seen the catch so poor. Blame it on climate change, fisheries management policy, whatever, it ain't getting better anywhere.
  10. Klickrolf Active Member

    Posts: 600
    Klickitat, Washington
    Ratings: +166 / 0
    Brad's from Santa Cruz Nick, though Canadians are always welcome here.
  11. Old Man Just an Old Man

    Posts: 21,826
    Dillon, Mt
    Ratings: +1,733 / 0

    Here's one for you. It would be Shithouse luck if I could get up off my ass and go fishing.
  12. gabe0430 Banned or Parked

    Posts: 93
    Ratings: +31 / 0
  13. Evan Virnoche Guest

    Posts: 0
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    i would say klickitat if your down south, skykomish for north, and op for a small number of summer runs
  14. Jim B Flyfishin' and homebrewin'....priorities ?

    Posts: 149
    Tacoma, WA
    Ratings: +28 / 0
    BASS_TURDS likes this.