tidal steel


Active Member
The last time I did it was about 3 years ago. the bait bite quit so I got the fly rod out and landed two in an hour. herman creek estuary on the oregon side above bony on the columbia. people do it at drano but I don't think it's as good as herman creek area. they also did it at white salmon before the dam came out but it was fairly easy when you had a few hundred fish swimming around all day long. many people that did it for a long time and would fish flies all day would catch 25 to 35 fish on some days. most of my friends were bait chuckers so I mostly would just have the fly rod in the boat for when the bait bite would quit, the flies could kick some serious butt. my best was some 14 fish in about an hour and a half before I reeled in and put the rod away because my bait buddies weren't catching any fish. sometimes it's the only way to catch the steel when they get spooked or have been in the fishery for a few days to a week. I like just going in the afternoons the last two weeks in Aug. first week of September during the week. the hot sun will drive fresh schools in this arm of cold water from around 3 to 7 pm this fishery gets busy so afternoons during the week are best. kind of hard to beat with 70 to 90 degree weather. it's a great fishery for kids also with the good weather! these limits where with bobbers and bait for my daughter and her friend, they loved this fishery for years!!!
kelsey n derena n herman creek.png

Already told a friend that took up fly fishing with me last year we will do it this summer. people in this area should take advantage of this fishery. you can fish just outside two points of land in the columbia with a washington lic. and with bigger boats put in at stevenson and come across the columbia. smaller boats can put in at the herman hatchery (at cascade locks) and row out with toons and even float tubes but we like drifters with motors with this fishery.

I'm also trying to get the mouth of the wind river dialed for this kind of fly fishing but for some reason those fish do not like the technique. If anyone needs info this next summer just shoot a p.m.
hope this doesn't seem like a high-jack but it is estuary fishing just off the columbia not the salt. if I did offend "SORRY"

PS. the girls are standing in the gravel ramp (road) at the hatchery.

When using bobber/bait were you just trying to mark fish, then float a bait through at that zpproximate depth? I've a friend that keeps telling me about fishing lower Columbia sandbars with bobber and bait and using like an 8'-14' leader below his float and having similar success.

Either way (bait or fly) it all makes sense. Find fish that are chillaxin' and offer em' something to chew on.


Active Member
Small slip bobbers with a one once weight. you can fish from 5 to 30 feet with slip bobbers on the main line then a swivel to a 3 ft. leader but at herman it's only 8 to 12 feet deep so it's not hard to target the steelhead. with sinking lines a scientific anglers system two uniform sink (the old ones not the +) it was a 16 to 20 or 22 slow count down then most people would just pull slowly with a steady slow movement. I would do 3 to 4 inch fast strips with a pause in between, working it as slow as others and keeping it in the level of the fish but the short strips would get better takes (harder) if I wasn't catching any I would do the slow retrieve without strips.

If you need more bobber fishing with gear maybe a P.M. would be best.


Active Member
we fished Bush point back in the late 70's. seems i always had to go a little light on the lead or you would hang up on every rock in the water. long hot pink skirt with spin & glow. with the water being pretty clear the colors and flash were to get the fishes attention. and that's the name of the game. they move around and can cover a bunch of ground in a hurry.
it can be a long day out there with the wind and casting your ass off.
i would try the OP if you can. other wise maybe look for Sea lions they might give away a location if there is fish around.
not related really but fishing the lower Washougal in the summer. the summer runs would come in like clock work out of the Columbia to a certain hole near the mouth of the river almost on time every afternoon. they would hang out for a time and then move on. of course the locals were there waiting for them. this was the late 70's & 80's.


Proud to Be Alaskan
This all reminds me of what I call still-water steelhead. did it for 10 years off the columbia in cold water bays. not salt but still water or very slow moving water. all we ever used was comet flies, I would always fish small sizes like mentioned in 8 or even 10 double bead eyed brown hackle orange body brown tail and the other was a purple, pink body version tied the same way both with maribou tails. s.a. scientific anglers system 2 lines in 8 wt. and when water would be pulling from the columbia (moving water) you would have to use a system 3 for better control of line and fly. long leaders. just like they used to do for chinook off the rouge in the bay, they used to use mostly comet flies out there too. if suspended intermediate clear lines just like lake trout fishing. we fished over stacked fish moving in the columbia that would pull into the coldwater bays that rivers would dump into. working comets slowly with 3 inch strips keeping the flies at the level of the suspended fish. 20 fish days is not uncommon. I would think it would work the same in tide water or salt. good thread!
This sounds awesome

If I ever move south (god forbid) I will likely be doing this a lot

Jim Wallace

Smells like low tide.
I talked to a guy today who claimed that earlier this morning he saw a seal chase what appeared to be a steelhead up onto the rocks just a few yards away from where he was standing on the "wave refraction mound" on the inner tip of the South Jetty here. He said the fish then wriggled down between some rocks and back into the water. If steelhead are entering the Harbor from the south side, then they would probably have to swim right around the inner tip of the Jetty.

I know of a couple of other spots in the Harbor where I could go to cast for in-migrating steelhead, if my arm was in shape for it. But I'm keeping 'em under my hat.


Active Member
Leland et al.

Been a while since I visited this thread and there seems to be some interest in moving out from the tidal portion of the rivers to the open salt.

Steelhead in the salt on the fly has been done and with the developments in the steelhead fly fishing game over the last decades it should be even easier. On the Whidbey beaches the name of the game is being on the beach as pods of steelhead swim by on their way to the rivers. Right now is one of the best times to be attempting that game. For the fly angler going to school on how the gear guys achieve success as foundation for a basic approach. For those that might be interested here are some suggestions as a starting point.

Timing -
as stated late December is a good time. The fish are moving north to south on the island and it seems like the incoming tide moves more fish past a given location per hour so I would target the last half of the incoming tide (though as with any salt water fishing it never hurts to fish other tides).

Location -
the mirgating steelhead (at least those most commonly caught of the beach) are typcially swimming 3 feet more or less below the surface in 6 to 10 feet of water so you want to fish in locations where you can reach that depth of water with a cast from the beach (since most fish follow and take in only 12 or 18 inches of water your do not want to wade past your knees) Becasue the beaches tend to get steeper as the tide rises is another reason to fish around the high. Long time "hot spots" include Bush and lagoon points and Fort Casey. There are several other less know spots along the west side of Whidbey (you want to fish the west side to maximize the numbers of fish moving along the beach - most of the south Sound steelhead, Snohomish, Stillaguamish and a surprising number of Skagit fish travel south along the west side of Whidbey). I think I might start my efforts at Fot Casey (around the point from the ferry - to the NW). You want a spot where you can reach the traveling lanes with 50 to 80 foot casts.

Gear -
I would opt a 7 to 9 weight outfitwith a matching line with fast sink 24 to 30 foot tip. I would probalby use a 8 foot leader with a heavy and log butt section and 8 or 10# tippet.

Flies -
I would start with a large/gaudy/"leggy" fly in the 4 inch range. The intruder type would seem to be a natural place to start though I would use an unweighted fly - the fly line will achieve the depth needed and the unweighted fly in the conditions you will likely be fishing will much easier to cast.

Remember that with the tidal flow you are essentially fishing a river. Cast straight across the current, make a mend or two to alow the fly line to sink a couple feet. Fish the fly back to the beach with aggressive 6 to 12 inch long strips (think fishing streamers for large trout in stillwater). Remember it is commmon for the steelhead will follow your fly to the beach. As the fly approaches the beach swing your rod the side to finish the rerieve all the way to beach. I would couple a "cutthroat twitch" with that final swing to the rocks.

Line managementcan be a serious issue. Because the mostly like takes will be at your feet there will be 50 to 80 feet of lose line to deal with as a hot fish dashes back to the depths.

Anyway something to mull over on a gray winter day.

Best hoiliday wishes and may the New Year bring you tight lines

Jeff Dodd

Active Member
Ron Burnett, long time Puget Sound flyfisherman, landed 10 steelhead from the beach last winter. Most were wild fish he released.

Ron uses an intermediate line and Leland's popper. Most takes come between strips when the popper is floating up.


Active Member
Jeff -
Good stuff!!

Points out a couple things. First as always is the case with steelhead and most fish there are more than one way to "skin the cat". Secondilty it also confirms what the angler is looking for is some sort of reaction bite from the steelhead -whether it is the fly hanging/floating in front of its face or escaping into the shallows.