First Steelhead on the Fly

Well after reading a post by Salvelinus regarding his first steelhead the other day, I got to thinking about my first steelhead on a fly. I caught her at South Junction on the Lower Deschutes in Oct 01. I was fishing for trout at the time and of all things she took a size #16 Zug Bug. She was a bright 26 inch fish, and one that I will never forget.
Where did you guys catch your first steelhead on a fly? What fly were you using?
That is too cool. That fish must have given you a run for your money on trout tackle. I imagine the only thing more exciting than a steelhead is an unexpected steelhead.
Well, Steelie Mike, since you ask...

It was morning at Dutchman's Flat, a well-known camping/raft launching area a few miles up the Deschutes above Maupin, Oregon. My buddy and I were working the near water. I was swinging a little Lady Caroline with a floating line when a small hen attacked, ripping the fly apart. (I still have its shredded remains in a place of honor.) I released the 4 1/2-pounder and continued fishing, with a swelling heart and a burgandy-body, dark mallard wing spey. Less than half an hour later, a hatchery buck twice the size of the first steelhead took my fly. That one spent most of its energy, so I kept it.

My friend, fishing behind me, asked if he could fish the same water, since it was obvious that steelhead were present and The Bite Was On. Half-kidding, I said "No! I want more!" but yielded the place of honor to him. No more steelhead responded.

As the October sun came over the canyon rim, I sat on the bank, dizzy with one of those rare occasions when it feels like one's life has changed. I've broken through, I thought. The mysteries have yielded to my persistance. From now on, I'm a real steelhead fly fisher.... What a joke. The mysteries remain, as dense as perpetual fog. But I was half-right: I'm still a steelhead fly fisher. :thumb:
I dont really count my first one due to the fact that it was a total accident. fishing for salmon and low and behold a steelhead takes my leech.....two years later after I started trying to get them I got the one I consider my first (tried to catch) steelhead on the upper hoh. it wasnt the biggest, brightest, hardest fighting fish but it's one of the fish that I will remember till the day I die.
My first Steelie on a fly was on the EFL swinging a Freight Train.That was so cool. My Best Experience was using a Dry on the Washougal. I was swinging a Bomber, Man that was the coolest to watch that monster slam that baby! :)

Old Man

Just an Old Man
First steelhead on a fly,well lets see. I was fishing on the West Fork Foss for anything that would hit what I was playing around with. I was having a ball catching Cutts that day,when wham,I tied into a steelhead. Was using a 7'6" 4 wt not expecting anything bigger that a 10"er. It wasn't a monster by all means,but it was a steelhead 21" long. I believe that the fly I was using was a dry. It was a Black Humpy,size 14 or a 16. Not to sure as my memory is fading.

That fish was the only one I ever kept. It was a hatchery brat because the fin was clipped. Sure tasted good after being caught out of that clear cold water. And in the middle of summer.



Workin in a sweet mullet
Mine was a native NF Stilly Summer-Run fish, who took a size 12 yellow stimy on my buddies 5 wt. I had been chasing this pod of fish for a week, and hadn't been able to land a fish. I had brought Grant along and set him up fishing the structure for cutties, (so that he wouldn't piss me off by hooking up with MY steelhead) but when this fish wouldn't take my bomber, I asked Grant if I could borrow his rod for a second (to help him with his casting.... ;) ) and that steelhead took Grant's stimulator and the rest is history. I had lost one fish there the day before when my braided loop snapped on my shooting head. That was also the last day I trusted a packaged braided loop.


Active Member
Mine? ten years ago at the tender age of 21. I was taken to the Hood river by a veteran steelheader where I proceeded to hook five and land three. I have to admit I was dead drifting a gorman egg with a corkie, but I didn't know any better, hence the tender age thing. I remember thinking... this is a piece of cake, what's the big deal? If only it was that easy, but again thats half the allure for me. Well, I'm two weeks away from the Clearwater and I can't wait to leave trout fishing in the dust, swinging wakers of course.
During the Deschutes (OR) Stonefly hatch of '03, I was in school working on a Business degree (still haven't finished it, but that's another story for another thread) and didn't have alot of time to fish. The hatch was well over by the time I was able to break free to fish (beginning of July if memory serves). I had a miserable day that day nymphing, and nothing was rising to usual dries. All the good riffles up above Maupin were pretty much taken (there were guys queing up for the evening midge/PED hatch... at 2 o'clock!) so, on a lark, I drove down to the run across and down from the Oak Springs hatchery. I had a couple of decent hook-ups fishing prince nymphs but I snagged on 3 casts in a row and broke off most of my tapered leader. I only had about 3 feet left! I tied on a 6 ft section of 2x to the butt and continued nymphing and my success rate went way up. Energized I tied on some smaller tippet to try to fish some dries but, predictably, discovered all of my smaller (size 16 and up) dries fished like crap. No duh, right? I tied on my biggest stonefly dry I had at the time- a size 8 MacSalmon that doubles as a hopper. I found that the large tippet was able to make it turn over just about perfect. It's getting close to that good part of the evening that makes the Deschutes so great (about 30-45 minutes before dark) and I'm about to tear everything down and put together an improvised tapered rig for the evening hatch when all of the sudden BAM! a depth charge went off underneath the fly and my 5w line starts shooting out like it's silly string. After a brief battle, I'm able to pull it back in. It never occurs to me that it's a steelhead until it gets near the bank. It was about 26 inches, maybe even a bit larger than that. It was still pretty bright, probably summer-run. To be honest, I can't remember if it was hatchery or wild (when I tell the story to anyone face-to-face, the fish is always wild, 5 inches bigger, and was brought in with a 3-weight rod and 6x leader on a size 22 midge) but it was so awesome. I've caught a couple other steelies since then (both while trout fishing on the Klick) but I'm still an avowed trout fisherman until I decide to see the "error of my ways" and take up the "self-flagellation" that is PNW steelhead fishing.

I've often wondered what the percentage of fisherman are who caught their very first steelhead on a 5w or less...
My first steelhead on a fly was by all means a random lucky hookup and even more lucky that i was able to land him... I was fishing for trout in the Green River Gorge ..early august 2001... using my 5wt rod..with a crappy graphite composite reel..which had no drag what so ever... well anyways had on a size 14 or 16 royal coachman.. and first cast into this big deep hole..a monster fish nailed it..and i just about shit my pants... i had no clue what do to.. so i just played him as best i could.. he made some huge runs and jumps.. luckily this pool was long enough that he couldnt use any rapids or log jams to break me off... anyways long story short.. after 45 minutes and a little swimming after him down stream i landed a 36inch steelhead... which was my first taken on a fly... I will never forget that fish!


Caught my first on a stillborn chironimid, size 6 that was the first fly I every tied, on the McKenzie River in Oregon. She was 26" and chrome bright. Nearly missed her because she took it on the pickup and I thought I had snagged the bottom. Then I felt her weight and saw her flash on the edge of the fast-moving run. She fought well and then I realized that I was perched upon a rock above the water and had no way to get to her. Let's just say it was worth the dunking to bring her in. I'll never forget that day, I haven't had a hit of adrenaline like it since.

NF Stilly, Octobter 2002. My first day fishing the river and I was set up for searun cutt's. I came up on a pool with fish rolling and thought they were big cutts. I tried swinging a dry for a while with no results. Switched over to a #8 pink comet left over from fishing pinks on the Skagit in '01. I tried dead drifting it and thought I snagged it up in the rocks on the first cast. Of course rocks don't jump and soon I figured out that searun cutts aren't close to 30" either. I really didn't even consider it was a steelhead until I had it in-hand.

Rod :beer2:

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