Why Steelhead?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by NomDeTrout, Mar 8, 2010.

  1. NomDeTrout

    NomDeTrout Fly Guy Eat Pie

    A question that was brought up amongst my friends...
    I noticed that particularly in WFF and various other fly fishing forums, there is great emphasis on the history and lore of steelhead fishing. It is almost as if an entire culture has formed around steelheading. Similarly, we see this for Atlantic Salmon in other regions around the world. I've met some dedicated steelhead fisherman who choose not to fish for anything else but only fish to swing flies for steelhead.

    My question is...here in the PNW, our options are very much open to us...including various pacific salmon species. So why is there such an emphasis on steelhead but often not on salmon? They make similar journeys and are beautiful fish in many ways.

    So for you dedicated steelhead fishermen/women... why steelhead?
  2. KerryS

    KerryS Ignored Member

    It is sort of liking riding a hardtail Harley. If I have to explain it to you, you will never understand.
  3. alpinetrout

    alpinetrout Banned or Parked

    It goes a little something like this....

    In the olden days in the British Isles, fishing for Atlantic salmon was a very elite sport, reserved for nobles and royalty. Salmon were the property of the Crown and something for the common folk to covet. When colonies formed in North America, suddenly the average colonist had access to fishing and hunting opportunities that they never had in their homeland. As a result, they got to play dress-up and pretend to be distinguished and sophisticated upper-class types when they cast flies to Atlantic salmon on the east coast of North America. When the colonists made their way to the Pacific coast, they found that steelhead behaved in a very similar manner to Atlantic salmon and provided a worthy substitute to fulfill their lust for nobility. This attitude toward steelhead has persisted to this day, which is why we can continue to find grown men, under the guise of steelhead fishing, continuing to play dress-up in their tweed caps and waxed cotton coats while smoking cigars and sipping single malt whisky, occasionally taking a break to catch much fewer steelhead than those anglers who diversify their quarry and take advantage of the many other fishing opportunities available.
  4. chromeseeker

    chromeseeker Where's the Bucket?

    Good question!

    I've fly fished for steelies for over 20 years now but over that 20 years I've been able to take advantage of fishing for other species as well (both cold and warm water) in the PNW. If I were to have limited myself to just steelies over that time frame I'm quite sure I'd have slit my wrists and looked for a warm tub to crawl into.

    Why the intrigue with steelies and not salmon?? I think it's a couple reasons. First, steelies tend to be more responsive to the fly than salmon. Also, there is an edge of snobbery to many of those who chase steelies with the fly rod. Not rampant snobbery, mind you, but just enough so that it's noticeable. They think that if they can fool a steelie into hitting a fly, they are at the peak of the angling mountain--an air of superiority, if you will. The fact is, steelies aren't tough to catch on flies, it just seems that way because the numbers have dropped and the ratio of hatchery fish to wild fish has gone up and hatchery brats are less responsive to the fly than their wild cousins. Plus, more pressure on the fish these days than in the past since we're living in the "internet age".

    Heck yes, there's more than salmon and steelies to pursue here in the PNW. And when you get right down to it, some other species require more thought/focus on the part of the angler. That's why I can now go multiple trips without a hookup from a steelie and I'm not disappointed----because I know I still have other fish species to pursue!

  5. Luke77

    Luke77 I hope she likes whitefish



    Whether it's true or not, I'm using it. I've often pondered the very same question. I personally like catching both.
  6. KerryS

    KerryS Ignored Member

    Obviously alpinetrout and chromeseeker have never met any steelheaders from Skidrow Woolley or Clear Lake. Nobility? Snobbery? Now, that is a hoot.
  7. Brady Burmeister

    Brady Burmeister Active Member

    WTF? The lure and appeal of steelhead is hard to put into words, but i don't think the fact that they have captured the hearts of so many anglers is due to a "lust for nobility" or need to "play dress-up".

  8. NomDeTrout

    NomDeTrout Fly Guy Eat Pie

    This is absolutely amazing! A little history lesson really enlightens things up. Like Luke said, i don't know or care if it's true, it's a great story to tell.

    Great response chromeseeker. I've personally not been at this steelheading thing for long at all. I've had my share of fun with catching salmon and trout but I have to admit...maybe I'm brain washed into thinking that steelhead are the ultimate fish species, but damn it I can't seem to think about anything else morning and night. Perhaps it's the tease and if i had caught many steelhead, i wouldn't be as obsessed lately but my endless chase with no fish to hand seems to have tweaked my brain a bit. My friends always ask me why I drive 3+ hours to fish a river by myself and not catch anything. To be honest I don't have an answer to that question. perhaps some of the more experience steelhead veterans do, but for me... swinging flies for steelhead is talked about so much that I've convinced myself that there is something to it that I need to experience more and more. I agree, there are more fun things to fish for and to many outsiders, the whole "cast, swing, step" routine looks boring to many. I've done my share of bass fishing where there are endless ways to catch them. Technique after technique, they're all fun...but I'm still asking myself why swing, step, swing, step is so fun to me.
  9. James Mello

    James Mello Inventor of the "closed eye conjecture"

    Some are like this, others aren't. I pretty much fish for steelhead cause I get to do exactly what I want. I end up catching the fish on my own terms, in very pretty scenery. I do know the kinds of folks Alpine are talking about, and they do exist to the detrement of the sport. But most of the folks I fish with do it cause they want to, not cause it's cool. Honestly, if you want to get another species in place, take a look at the east coast during Striper season...
  10. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

    Nom de Trout,

    That you ask the question assures that you would not understand the answer. Sorry. The other posts attest to the same. I think it's one of those things you get, or you don't. Methinks Kerry probably does.

  11. Evan Burck

    Evan Burck Fudge Dragon

    because i'm never going to become famous for being the world's best squawfish fly fisherman
  12. NomDeTrout

    NomDeTrout Fly Guy Eat Pie

    Oh come on Salmo G. That's a copout answer and you know it. I understand that its hard to put into words but others have pitched in with their ideas. Sure maybe I don't get it, I'm new at this stuff but people aren't born with some god given gift to understand the answer. I'm assuming its the experience put in and the stories we all share that makes people "get it" but for the purpose of having a fun discussion, why not give it a try at answering the question?

    and the question was posed for the purpose of a discussion, not so someone can explain to me or give me an answer why. Maybe I dont "get it," I just know I do it because I like it.
  13. NomDeTrout

    NomDeTrout Fly Guy Eat Pie

    Evan don't give up your dreams. Best squawfish fly fisherman is not out of reach. I think you can do it.
  14. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

    Nom de Trout,

    No cop out. Give it a try for 10 years or so, and then ask the question again. If there is an answer, the answer is that no one can answer the question for you.

  15. NomDeTrout

    NomDeTrout Fly Guy Eat Pie

    Fair enough. I certainly understand the whole idea behind not having an answer but for yourself.
    I undersatnd that there are things people that no one will understand. I guess fly fishing in itself is like that when I discuss this with my gear fishing friends. Or even fishing in itself is something people don't get.

    I often get the:
    "so you don't catch more fish... its more difficult to cast...you're limited in many ways... so...why fly fish?"
    "you can goto QFC and buy a salmon, so why fish?"
    I have no answer for them that will help them understand other than that I enjoy it.
    the whole "its the challenge" idea is one I hear often from other fishermen..I dont particularly find it completely accurate though not untrue.
  16. KerryS

    KerryS Ignored Member

    I am not much of a word smith so I am not even going to attempt to put into words the reason steelheaders fish for steelhead. Read Trey Comb's book Steelhead Fly Fishing. If you can't find your answer in that book, you likely never will.
  17. Chris DeLeone

    Chris DeLeone Active Member

    If Alpine could Chum for steelhead he would probally do it more.

    I fish because I like the water, the places they live and that I have to gain a passion and skill to get fish. I like to fish in the winter Feb, March and April because its harder. I go fish the basin rivers but they don't hold the passion as much as the PS rivers for me. The PS fish are beautiful, strong and you have to work for them.

    I also love the grab, the pluck or the pull - a vetern steelheader knows when its going to happen and loves most of all when they didn't. They work on their kraft in 38 degree water and weather that sends trout fishermen home to tie size 18 whatevers. Some steelheaders don't have to get fish, we swing flies and move the fish to our offering - because that is how you get the GRAB.

    Thats it, Simple - Kerry and SG are right you either get it or you don't
  18. miyawaki

    miyawaki Active Member

    Because they're never easy.

  19. Evan Burck

    Evan Burck Fudge Dragon

    and here we go again
  20. Jake Bannon

    Jake Bannon nymphs for steelhead....

    You can say that again.