Idiot's Guide to Hooking Steelhead on the Methow

David Holmes

Formerly known as "capmblade"
Idiot's guide to Steelhead on the Methow

I present two methods which enabled me to hook-up with two good steelies on the Methow.

Method #1. "Almost there, almost there," I said under my breath as I got about 2/3rds of the way across the Methow. I was trying to cross upstream of a pool so that I could fish its tailout from the deeper side. Even though the water was both faster and deeper than it looked, I couldn't bring myself to turn around and walk to the bridge, that would take all of 5 minutes!

With about 15 feet to go, I lunged out into the deepest part of the river. The point of no return had been crossed. Immediately a branch came out of nowhere and caught my boot but I found I could still move by dragging my leg behind me. The current was pushing me toward the pool and I redoubled my efforts to drag myself and the branch across. My arms were flailing around like a little girl running. Somehow the river got even DEEPER and I was about to yell out when the branch feel free and suddenly I was at the far side. Whew!

This is when I noticed that something was pulling on my line, which had been dragging through the water about 30 feet downstream of me. I put tension on the rod and was rewarded with a huge splash. I had a steelhead on!!! I yelled out to my buddy Brent, who was fishing downstream and he looked up in time to see the fish splash again.

The fish seemed to get its wits about it and began to swim slowly but determinedly upstream toward me as if to kick my ass. As he passed me I tried to pull on the line (I don't really know what to do in these situations). The fish would not budge -- he must have been HUGE. All of a sudden he did a crazy ivan, rising to the surface, flipping out his tail and then diving back into the current. My green butt skunk came flying back at me. Fish gone.

So if you haven't tried limping across a fast, deep water and flailing your arms around like an idiot... well, apparently it works.

Method #2. Downsteam two pools later, I approached the tailout in a much more stealthy fashion. I had swapped my green butt skunk and sinktip for a full floating line and size 6 October Caddis. I cast to the far side of the tailout and skated the fly about halfway across it. A dark brown shape flipped up to grab the fly with a meaty splash. Fish on!!! Again, the fish settled down and slowly came toward me. This was shallower water and a smaller fish -- perhaps 25". The fact that he was on my line added to his awesome beauty. He looked just like a giant trout! Bright red color with a silverly strip down each side. Big eyes and a triangular face. He pulled away from me and my caddis came flying back to me with its hook bent open. Doh.

Well there you go. I have yet to actually land a steelhead on my 8wt but that day I got three chances and blew them all (the third fish broke off my tippet).


Scott Behn

Active Member
Don't feel so bad, I've been addicted since around '87 and I still have yet to bring one to hand.

I've gotten so used to the chase and disappointments that I don't know what I'll do if and when I do get one to hand.
I'm going to get shot for telling this story.

Not the Methow, the NF Stilly instead.

9/25/04, my first trip for steelhead.

Swung a spey through the pool above Fortson's. Didn't see any fish.

Went down to Fortson's (with Boxcar). The one guy there was fishing a nymph under an indicator so I figured I'd try that too. All summer long shooting the bull in the flyshop in MT I kept saying, "I haven't read anything that convinces me that steelhead won't love a #8 Matt's Golden Stone, especially when they've seen lots of swung flies and/or have been in the river a long time."

So I tied one on. The fly in question is a highly impressionistic stonefly nymph. Grizzly dyed tan chickabou tail, brown/gold flash chenille abdomen, golden orange squirrel thorax with a tan dyed grizzly saddle hackle wound through it, gold beadhead. Basically a flashier modernized version of a Brooks' Golden Stone, invented by tyer Matt Minch of Gardiner, MT.

Make my first cast, about five feet off the deeper bank, where I knew the rip rap and deep water met. Just off that log where the bank cuts away, the indicator went under. Ten minutes later, I had a 28.5" hatchery buck in the shallows.

I had been steelheading for two and a half hours.

Of course, I figure I won't get another one for ten years or so, but hey...


Active Member
haha! yeah that's the way it goes. I had a buddy visiting from NYC a couple years ago late Sept. On the way to the Skagit we stopped at Hazel to look at the fish in the pool. My buddy sees a few steelhead holding against the bank (big whoop, they're always there, pounded all day everyday with everything from flies to treble hooks and worms). So he ties on his "go to" #6 bead head black bugger, walks down, first cast (perfect cast btw) hooks and lands a nice buck steelhead. FIRST CAST first steelhead. So there ya go. not excatly a wild fish on a swung fly in April, but still...

mike doughty

Honorary Member
A buddy and myself were fishing the san juan river, the fishing hits a slow spell, he decides to light up a smoke, puts his rod between his legs, lights the smoke, grabs the rod again and wouldn't you know it, fish on. funny how things pan out sometimes.
Idiots and steelies

It must be like women trying to get pregnant unsuccessfully so they spend thousands and adopt and then bang they're pregnant.

I was fishing for whitefish in froggy water on the Sauk with smakk beadhead nymph a few Aprils back and ended up with a big native chromer. Go figure.

6WT rod, 7x tippet, mickey finn casting for trout to some degree but really just working on my casting. Hooked into my first Steelhead. Of course on such a light tippet he broke me off after a few minutes but I quickly got the bug. I will be fishing for them again this winter once again in the hope of one at the end of my line. They are something else and a king of a fish.


Active Member
capmblade said:
Idiot's guide to Steelhead on the Methow :D
:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

excellent story!!! You were up there yesterday?? My old man and I went. He caught and landed a 11 pound nate and a nice 18" trout. I came home empty handed for the first time in 8 outings :beathead: . There went my ego :rofl: . I think its time to hit the Ronde until the Kings finish business :confused:

Mike Etgen

Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here
Tree Bass

This one makes the leap from steelhead to bass and from flyfishing to gear, and I didn't personally see it, but the story-teller is one I trust...

He was floating Walker Creek, a rather pristine piece of water that flows through a scenic piece of the southern Appalachians into the New River in western Virginia. His eleven year-old step-son was with him; a great father and son day.
He casts his floating Rapala to a shaded area close to a bank and loops his line over an overhanging branch. His Rapala is hanging from the branch just above water level, and is immediately nailed by leaping smallmouth bass. Somehow he keep the fish hooked, manuevers the canoe into position, untangles his line, rescues the Rapala, and releases the fish.
Then he casually turns to his stepson and says, "I meant to do that, of course..."


David Holmes

Formerly known as "capmblade"
Scott Behn said:
Don't feel so bad, I've been addicted since around '87 and I still have yet to bring one to hand.
Scott -- I've heard about guys who've been after steelies for 20 years and never caught one. You only have 3 more years to go and you can join that hallowed hall of men!

To Longs for Cutts -- yes you should be shot. But really, I pity you for not knowing the exquisite pain of trying, trying and trying for months and months and then finally getting one on. It is almost a religious experience for me sometimes.

Having three on in one day is certainly a confidence-booster for me. Next time they won't get away! :)

I had a similar experience this morning on the Snoqualmie. I lost my footing at the end of my cast after my line landed on the water. I stiff armed a rock on the landing. Somehow I kept the rod off the rocks. When I recovered I had a cutt on!


Idaho Resident Craftsman/Artisan
Well today while I was fishing with backyard we were shooting the shiz and he was putting on a clinic as always and I decide to take a whiz so no sooner had I dropped trow with my left hand on my machine when wham Fish on!

And it made me laugh so hard that I tried it again an hour later and it worked!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Who woulda ever thunk!????? hahahahaha

MAC the: don't ask me for help! Find your own good luck charm!!!

Gabriel Burgi

doesn't live in WA anymore :(
pwoens said:
There went my ego :rofl: . I think its time to hit the Ronde until the Kings finish business :confused:
Hmmmm....the Ronde.....Fished it all weekend with not-a-one steelhead hooked or landed....but I'll post the full report later.


Active Member
Gabriel Burgi said:
Hmmmm....the Ronde.....Fished it all weekend with not-a-one steelhead hooked or landed....but I'll post the full report later.
Thats cause you were fishing the section that was closed :rofl: :p
pwoens said:
Thats cause you were fishing the section that was closed :rofl: :p
I spent the whole weekend down on the Ronde as well. And I must have been fishing the "Closed water" too. Over breakfast at Boggan's I was talking to a guide and he told me that the fish are on strike this year. Apparently the guides and the fish couldn't agree to terms and failed to renew thier contract. Unions... ;)