First steelhead


Oregon Member
I was 15 when I caught my first steelhead on my 6 weight fly rod. 6 lb leader, floating line, reel with no drag, etc., bare bones. I felt as if I achieved the greatest feat of any human in the history of earth. I finally landed the fish and it was getting dark in the canyon. It was a very warm day but was starting to get cool. Bats were starting to fly around and you could see them against the blue-black sky. Nobody was around to witness my monumental and spiritual achievement but I felt so elated I did not care. I was so happy I probably would have said that day that I could now die a happy man. Since that day I fly fish probably 95% of the time and 100% of the time I wish I was fly fishing. I tie my own flies, incorporate things I've learned about my rivers and my fish into my patterns, and I feel more connected to the whole thing. That being said, I love to catch fish and I still think I'm going to catch one on every single cast. Of course, I don't. I usually catch them when I decide to take a gear rod and always tell myself "Oh yeah, he was hanging below that rock in 3-4 feet of water, could have got him on my spey rod..."
This post on another thread got me thinking. There are a lot of things in life that you forget--the combination to your locker, the name of that girl you dated back in your teens, and more recently your anniversary--but you never forget your first steelhead and you can recall it in vivid detail when the subject comes up around the campfire.

Mine was more than 30 years ago on an Oregon coast stream that's now closed to fishing. It was a really cold December day. I hooked him on a copper colored Metric spinner. The water was so cold that the little 8 pound buck didn't fight much. But I still remember the rainbow stripe along his side and the feeling of elation at finally catching a fish I'd pursued for almost four years.

Just a couple of years later, my first fly-caught steelhead was on the Siletz, a summer fish and very active. She seemed to jump so much she spent more time in the air than in the water. That was a definite turning point in my fishing because, once I put down the spinning gear, I have pretty much stuck to the fly rod for all my fishing.

Wasn't long after that when I caught my first waking-fly steelhead. It was on the Nestucca, and also a summer. She took a riffle-hitched Silver Hilton. Seeing a torpedo wake suddenly appear and begin to overtake my fly, it almost killed me to wait for the take.

In the many years since, there are very few fish that I can specifically remember. They mostly run together, a jumble of pleasant but indistinct memories, the sum total of which now forms my own personal understanding of what a steelhead is: the nuances and complexities, character and behavior that are this magnificent fish.

But, I never will forget my first.

How about you?



Oregon Member
Lack of response has me guessing a topic like this was already done. If so, sorry. I did several searches and couldn't find a past one.


Not to be confused with Freestone
I'm pretty sure this one has been covered before, but reminiscing is always fun. 1974, American River, under Watt Ave Bridge, Sacramento, spinning rod with night-crawler.
I'll play, down stream from the Rock Port bridge, river right on a gob of eggs and an okie drifter. I was 10 yrs old, cold as hell and the fish was a 5# buck as red as a fire engine. My Dad did not want to keep it( throw the son of a bitch back were his exact words), but to me it was beautiful, and in the end he relented, which is why, even though he was a tough S.O.B. I loved him, I miss him deeply
I've yet to land one, but had my first real hookup a couple weeks ago on the Hoh while fishing with Porterhaus on a trip with Jim Kerr.

Fight lasted only a minute or two before the fish threw the hook--but it was absolutely awesome and I remember every second of it. 2 or 3 reel-screaming runs, a couple jumps, and a big F you as it took a final twisting jump and spit the fly back at me.

Afterward, sitting in the boat, I asked Jon to hand me a beer--he and Jim both cracked up laughing when they saw how shaky my hand was as I took the can from him.

I can't wait for the next one, and can't wait to hold one in my hands.


Just call me Jon
Afterward, sitting in the boat, I asked Jon to hand me a beer--he and Jim both cracked up laughing when they saw how shaky my hand was as I took the can from him.
ROFL... "I'm so keyed up right now!" Classic moment in Jason's fishing career. Glad I was there to witness it. And for the record, 20 minutes later he was still having seizures.

I got my first WILD fish to hand on that trip. Had one earlier that broke the hook in half after about a 5 minute fight (must have been 30+ lbs. right?). Second one hammered my fly and immediately took off into Jason's line. Jim was on it like a hawk...bent my rod so severely I thought for sure it would snap, cut the line, and rowed to shore. After a few minutes, many runs (including a nutmeg through Jim's legs), I got my hands on a dream fish. My grin says it all.

My first steelhead to a fly came in late September 1995 on the Bulkley river. I was living in HI at the time and planned my first trip to fish the Bulkley. I was keyed up to try for a steelhead on the surface after reading/rereading Dryline Steelhead by Bill McMillan. I had just began spey casting then as well and had a freshly built 9140-4 brownie. On my first evening of fishing on the Bulkely, I had a bright 8lb steelhead boil at the fly, missed, boiled at it again and missed, then finally she grabbed a third time (on the same swing) and the fight was on. I landed that fish and 5 more in the remainder of the week I was there and have been forever hooked on getting steelhead on the surface since then.

Winter, about 41 years ago. A small rural stream in Skagit County, not far from I-5. A Fenwick spinning rod, a Mitchell reel, a little net bag of roe and a bit of weight, which was enough to drag the stream bottom. A small hen picked it up. I was following the game plan I'd used for trout fishing: one fish on bait or hardware to make sure; then I put the above tackle away and fished only with the fly ever after.


Ignored Member
Don't remember exactly when but I was about 8 to 10 years old, so over 50 odd years ago; fishing the Rogue River below Gold Ray dam. I was using an old yellow Eagle Claw rod with a Mitchel 300 spinning reel fishing night crawlers on a drift rig for trout when I hooked into something big. I thought it was a salmon but my dad came running up when he seen the bend in my rod and told me I had a steelhead on. With his instruction I manage to land a 8 or 9 pound steelhead.
Last year on the Trinity River. I was passing through to Sacramento for a Vascular Surgery conference (yawn) and stopped in Lewiston. Tied on a tungsten headed red Copper John and waded into a riffle. I threw out a short halfhearted cast just to get my line out of the way while I waded in a little more, and when I looked up my indicator was gone. I set the hook and brought in a manky moldy 5 pound steelhead that must have just spawned. It was a very unromantic first steelhead.

I did manage too hook what I think was a rare "stillwater steelhead" in Stone Lagoon this weekend. It's a brackish lagoon that breaches to the ocean. Steelhead and cutthroat come in and then get trapped. I got it almost to the boat then it threw the hook.
Reiter on the hwy 2 side in 2000. Dime bright 6# hatch hen purple and white jig under a float with my old prized 7.5 foot fenwick HMX trout rod. Good times! Reiter combat in december was steelhead fishing for me until many years later when I learned that they do eat flies and don't only live at hatchery creek mouths.
Fifth grade. Spinning rod with Mitchell 300. Fishing the upper Lyre, as far up as the steel can go. September. Low clear water. Spot fishing I missed a fish I didn't see quickly enough. My dad pointed where to cast my small corky/yarn rig with a dab of roe. Threw it again, watching the fish I had just missed when my dad started yelling "there he is! Get em!" Didn't see the other fish dart out from behind the rock and pick it up. 8 lb hen. Jumped all over the tiny river. My dad sent the picture to one of those paper sporting news in Washington publications and I was so thrilled to see my black and white picture of me, shirtless, holding up that fish in the back of the mag. Still one of my favorite memories

Ian Broadie

Flyfishing is so "Metal"
Way back in yesteryear when one could drive in to the Mixer, a family friend took me there as a spur of the moment thing to cap off a steelhead camp at Howard Miller. He showed me how to cast these "shooting heads" with sink tips he made along with the these nifty marabou streamers he was tying. Lo and behold a 6-8 lb hen was sitting behind a rock, grabbed the fly, cartwheeled and took off down river at what felt like mach 2. One of my finest fishing memories... well memories period because that was 30 years ago or so.
My first steelhead was last year during my first winter steelhead season.I spent the whole season learning and losing fish, 6 of them.I was fed up with not landing fish but also content i had hooked 6 in my first season.On what i declared my final try at a fish a friend and i hit a small oregon coast stream that is not very well known.Not far into the day my friend hooked a fish leaving me in the dust,making me slightly doubt if i was going to ever get my winter steelhead.Half the day goes by and we reach a well shaded run with deep green water and a perfect seam running down the middle.Within seconds my friend hooks a fish only to have it break him off.As he started re rigging i sat there fed up with my performance knowing there were alot of fish around. i rigged up with a pink egg sucking leech under a thingamabobber and began to cast,the first drift was terrible but the second one was pure magic..i glanced over at my friend then looked back just in time to see my indicator shoot under the surface.I set the hook and yelled fish,and although i knew it had to be a steelhead the first minute of the fight reminded me of a chinook,i knew it was big.The fish towed me around and through 3 sets of rapids but i won the battle.. tailed,took a pic and back in the drink! my first steelhead; a huge beautiful colored wild buck,and ona fly that i tied to boot (note red head of esl in fishes upper lip)