20 lb Steelhead


Tight line takes ain't no fakes!!
How many legitimate 20+lb steelhead has anyone caught lately, as in the last 3-4 years? In this day and age,with wild runs depleting, mismanaged rivers going to heck,and other environmental and oceanic issues, it seems to be a harder and harder goal to achieve. I know they are out there, in places like the Oly Pen, Skagit, Sauk, Clearwater, and of course BC. Oregon and California coastal rivers have them also. I'm just wondering, what other peoples experiences are with hooking and landing truly large steelies on the fly. I have gotten close one time with a fish that was 37X20,a little over 19lbs acording to the formula. That's after 23 years of chasing the son of a guns. I know there is a 20 out there swimming somewhere and I need to feel it!

Please do tell me some stories!


Steve Buckner

Mother Nature's Son
I got this fish in 2005 - I did not tape it but 3 of us estimated it to to be approx. 40 inches. I would guess it weighed in the low twenties. This is my biggest fish to date. It was caught and released on an OP river. The fish took a #4 orange G.P. spey on the swing.

In 2004, I guided a gentleman who hooked another fish that was at least this size but we never did land it. The fish jumped at least 6 times about 3 feet in the air or better and took my Tibor for a spin. It was one of those fish that was uncontrollable and in the end, the fish wrapped the fly line around a log and broke the fly line.

Here in Washington, there are fish caught over 20 lbs. every year and there are fish in the 30lb class caught in nets. 20 lb. fish are fairly common in B.C., I have some friends that may catch 2-3 in that weight class during any given trip.

During the winter/spring of 2006, I didn't see any fish over 14 lbs. or so with the average at about 7 lbs.. Not sure why they were so small last year for me. I saw a number of fish caught by guys backtrolling plugs that were in the upper 'teens during that '05 season.



Active Member
Not I. And I have no friends who have. At least not in the last 10 plus years....do they really exist? Silvers...well yes


Active Member
Not I. And I have no friends who have. At least not in the last 10 plus years....do they really exist? Silvers...well yes


Tight line takes ain't no fakes!!
Nice fish! I have read a lot of your posts and seen pictures of a lot of your fish in the gallery. You are probably a real good measure of what an experienced guide/angler can do in big fish water. You catch big fish and from what I can tell, a fair number of them too.My point is, being a guide,you spend as much time in big fish water as anyone probably and until 2005 had not landed a 40 inch fish. I'm not knockin it just trying to prove the point that on a fly in the States, they are harder to hook and more importantly land, than some people would lead you to believe.

Once again thats a huge fish and I'm extremely jealous!

I got a 37.5" X 19" (maybe a shade under on the calculator, but I call it 20 since I held it) in February '05, and a 39" X 22" in March '06. Both of these fish were thick bucks caught nymphing. My best fish swinging have been in the 13-16lb class, I apparently can't get the big dogs to move far for a fly, maybe this year????????


BTW Steve that is a beautiful fish.
Whatever Pete, I look at the picture of the 39x22 everyday that I'm at the shop.
I still think those are modest measurements. What's 07 have in store?
For me, I only catch small steelhead, even in the winter. This year will be different...20 pounder, can't even imagine.
Closest I have ever gotten was on the Sauk and it was mid teens, I cant imagine a 20+lb steelhead in a river like the Sauk with a single hander and with big heavy flows.... heaven....
I rarely fish winter runs with a fly anymore. My biggest steelhead on a fly is under 10lbs. I've landed a couple of 17's on gear and lost one last spring that may have been over 20.


Active Member
Thewaker -
Based on the angler reports I have been seeing from the north Puget Sound region there has been an explosion in the last 10 or 15 years in the number of 20# steelhead being caught (nearly all released). It seems that 20 pounders are as common today as fish in the upper teens were 20 years ago.

I agree that some rivers are more likely to produce those exceptionally large fish; examples being the Skagit/Sauk and some OP waters. It also has been my observation that the truly exceptional fish are more abundant some years than others. Perhaps the single most exceptional year in my angling career was 1983 - which accounted for nearly 1/2 of the 20# plus fish that I have personally caught.

In the last decade I have fished the Skagit system quite a bit (almost exclusively with a single hand fly rod) and as a result have lucky to hook a few steelhead. In the period have brought several to hand that would easily exceed 20 pounds.

Tight lines