Summer Steelhead 2021


Active Member
Good snowpack, bank-full rivers running that wonderful shade of green backed by lush green forests with last winters snow hanging on high above. All hail the greatest fish to swim our waters. Gunmetal black backs, clear fins, snow bellies, tailwalking sometimes at eye level.... It's one of the few fish I pursue that I'm not just a spectator just enjoying the day, i want to leave the river with a feeling of achieving something special, whether your knees are wobbly, vomit stained vest, smile a mile wide, or just plain living the steelheaders dream, whatever...

Feel free to post anything you want about Summer Runs, not last year's spawners, but the real deal. For some reason when May roles around, I start getting anxious!


WFF Supporter
Best of the best. In 50 years of fishing for steelhead, I estimate that about one in five, or 20% of the steelhead I have hooked have ever run into my backing or put on enough of a show worthy of mostly unearned fame of the species. But those early summer runs, from late April to early June are the fish that consistently lived up to the steelhead reputation. One or more sizzling runs into the backing and many adrenaline fueled jumps.

In hindsight I don't much regret having been an impoverished student who bought used fly reels for $3 each at Goodwill. If I'd had a 1495 Pflueger Medalist on my rod, some of those hookups would have made for much tamer stories. Instead I have the memory of a hot E Lewis springer that exploded from below a log jam, pulling line so hard and so fast that it compressed the line remaining on the reel spool to wedge the flanges outward, bringing the whole experience to a sudden conclusion. And of course the fish got away. And then there was the first week of June NF Stilly fish that took off downstream, through the riffle to the next pool in a few seconds. The cheap reel didn't stand a chance as the handle broke off, and the pawl dissolved into metal shavings. Nonetheless, with the reel in freespool but my hand on the outside of the spool I gradually worked that fish back upstream to the most downstream point I was able to wade and eventually landed the fresh run 8 pound steelhead.

These days the hookups are few are far between. And I fish with reliable equipment, and while a hot fish is exciting, it lacks some of the equipment predictability of the past.


Active Member
Doubt I'll have time but the local crick sure looks tempting right now.

Agreed they are the most awesome fish in our rivers (with the possible exception of spring chinook). Early summer-runs are the closest thing to turbo-charged saltwater fish swimming in freshwater. Some of the most memorable ass-whoopin's I've had happened about this time of year.


Active Member
A buddy hooked a late June summer right behind me on the Sky, the fricken thing went airborne and his reel made a loud screetch/clatter which from my POV sounded like it was melting down. That fish went the length of the run, down into the whitewater below and started to spool him. He releases all pressure on the fish and it starts swimming back towards the tailout from below. We are exhilarated and whooping it up as his line went slack and the monster was gone. This fish was upper teens if not 20, which is damn big for a summer run.

I never got to fish the SW rivers for "springers" but could only imagine. With all the hatchery reform shit for winter, I wish they would plant summers in every ditch, creek, and river. Summer fish provide opportunities May-Oct


Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater....Know Grizzler
I watched my buddy John catch a 8 lb wild OP summerrun on a dead drift size 10 elk hair caddis, hexagraph rod and a size 2 silver Ross Gunnison.
I was standing above him and looking down when the fish took the fly.
I would have sworn it was a 6” smolt the take was so delicate. He set the hook and his rod just flattened out. The fish shot straight upstream and went right up and over a two foot or so drop into the hole above. I ran upstream yelling like a little old lady for John to chase it. It did a 90° right turn and shot right onto the bank. It immediately turned around and wiggled back into the river then shot straight back downstream over the drop into the hole he hooked it in.
I was lucky enough to be there and witness the whole thing as well as tailing the fish. God damn, not the biggest fish but what a show.

I’ve had some great fights from some hatchery summer fish in the past as well. They sure put winter fish to shame when it comes to eating quality.
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bk paige

Wishin I was on the Sauk
"I’ve had some great fights from some hatchery summer fish in the past as well. They sure put winter fish to shame when it comes to eating quality"

Those June Sumner runs where some of the best eating fish I have eaten!
The 2 hottest steelhead I have tangled with were around 6 pounds and both on the SF Sky around 2009.
This fish was on the main stem and had zero quit in the top 3 steelhead. It was one memorable fish that I got to touch and an annual fish on my daughter's birthday 6/6 (I always needed to get away from the squealing for a few, lol) 2012 I think.


Picked up a hatchery brat the next morning, damn I miss x mass tree!


Active Member
Those early 3-salt hatchery summer runs were as a group on the line were the best performing steelhead I have had the pleasure of catching. They certainly debunked the idea that hatchery steelhead were poor performing fish on the rod.

Those 3-salt fish tended to enter the river during the first part of the run (at the time the peak entry time for the run in general was late June). Late May early June was the peak time to encounter those fish though I caught them as early as late February (earliest I ever saw one was valentine day). They aggressive behavior began with the take with any mistake by the angler often ending in victory for the fish. Good what great fish - the only fish that comes close to them were the freshest of the Skagit wild winter (say before mid-February.

Those great 3-salts now large exist as wonderful memories for us old timers with the PS hatchery summer steelhead now being mostly 1 and 2-salt fish often entering the river prior to the stream openers. Also with the dramatic increases in marine mortalities in Puget Sound like all of the regions steelhead they are a lot less abundant. Todays anglers have no chance to experience what we once consider to be the norm. As hard as it may for some to believe during the peak of PS summer-run fishing (mid-July to August) in the late 1970s/early 1980s my catch rates on waking dries on the NF Stillaguamish were higher than my late 1970s catch rates on mid/late September on the Morice.



5X Celebrity Jeopardy Champion
I hooked a crazed SF Sky summer run that tore up and down the pool jumping repeatedly until it back flipped onto a rock hitting its head. I landed it and saw that its scalp skin was hanging lose, exposing part of the skull. It seemed stunned for a bit, then revived after a moment and shot off back into the pool. They can be great fighters no doubt.


Active Member
Back in the days before streamflow "cheating" via internet cfps real-time graphs, when you had to risk a drive to a river without a real clue and hope to not find it fully blown out, it happened for me. The trip I ran into my first summer run. This was one of the big tricky peninsula glacial rivers and it was in July I think. It had rained for a few days.

We had light gear and the goal was to tangle with bluebacks/SRC's and nothing more.

We arrived and the river was BIG and flowing near Winter levels. Even our favorite sidecreeks were very high. We eventually found water and footing that was to our liking and began fishing the lightly soupy colored hole. I hooked a fish that was very heavy right away. Was not going to be anything trout size. It did not even panic, it sort of plowed up the creek and I slowed it not.
Once it reached the heavier water at the top of the big pool it must have decided to rid itself of it's irritant as it showed itself in one fantastic headshaking high leap.

I had caught a lot of trout and salmon by that time in my life, but the sight of that fish was like seeing an alien. Supreme being stuff. Big, super long and silver and metal. That was not like anything I had expected, and, after it broke off, I was actually relieved.
There was no way I had the ability to slow that fish down and feared for what would have happened if it did not break off and I followed it upstream. Probably would have assaulted me!

Great fish, the summer runs !
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