I love the fall season for steelhead fishing and for the past three years my good friend and fishing guide Rob Hrabik (@Sierraflyguy) and I have ventured out in October for the “Fish of a Thousand Casts.”
This year was exceptional fishing for us despite the low fish-counts. We were up early swinging skaters with a dropper. We covered lots of water and kept moving. This is the key to steelhead fishing, covering lots of good water with effective casts and take a few steps. Move!
Years ago my girlfriend built homemade panniers for a bike tour across Tasmania. She had limited supplies, because at the time she was working in Antartica and made due with two buckets she grabbed from the McMurdo Station kitchen. They work great and three years ago Rob and I decided to leave the raft at home and use bikes instead to camp out. Why? You can go back up-river. But what about a jet boat? Simple….expensive, don’t’ have one, and I’m a sailor who uses wind not petrol.
We primarily covered the surface skating flies or used a “hoover” poly-leader to swing flies just under the surface. Variations of green-butt skunks and freight-trains in purple seemed to get the fishes’ attention. We did hook up twice using sink-tips. I connected to a nice steelhead with a black leech pattern that popped off and Rob hooked up with what we believe was a king salmon who broke off.
After a week camping on the river our good friend and fly fisherman Randall Kaufmann invited us to his home on the D. We spent a few days with him and I learned more in two nights around the dinner table from Randall than in the past three years since I started my pursuit of steelhead. He even tied us some flies to use and they were successful.
Steelhead fishing is awesome. They say, “the tug is the drug.” I guess you have to experience it to know the feeling, because it could literally take years to catch one on a swinging fly, yet we go out again and again fishing for them usually skunked at the end of the day, because we want that “tug drug” again.
Get out there and get a fly in the water. You’re not going to catch one otherwise. Go out with somebody who could show you the ropes to get started. Explore, observe, ask questions, read books and listen to those who are successful. You’ll eventually find one and when you do your life will forever change.