Crushing Take and Solid Summer Steelheading on the Town Run

I’m not totally jaded . . . .  On a flyfishing trip for summer steelhead while I’m not completely stoked with one solid grab and a hook-up, I’m not exactly bumming either. Fortunately, I haven’t had to content myself or my clients with one grab or one hook-up too many times this summer.

Strong numbers of steelhead over Willamette Falls, over twenty three thousand, have the town run fishing better than it has since ’04 and I have been watching clients cart fish off to their rigs wistfully wishing for a steelhead to call my own. Recently, I had that chance and fished with Shea, our oldest. I had a lot to do to get ready for the trip, principally, tie a few experimental flies (not recommended to experiment on clients) and squeeze the most recent report out of a friend.   During our conversation my buddy aked if I had checked the levels.

“Going up. Pretty fast”

“$$#@^&(*!!, I guess it’ll have to be a gameday decision.”  But I knew we would go no matter. I wanted to fish with Shea and I wanted to fish this particular fly . . . .

The fly I had in mind is nothing original in terms of color scheme, it mimmicks a nasty jig that gear anglers, myself included use to great success. Nor were the materials original or style unique, a traditional hairwing pattern. I definitely did not invent this thing though I did think of it.

Shea and I put in early and focused on the yum zones without any grabs. I tried to chat her up and keep her sprits high. We saw fish rolling in a tailout but they wanted no part of us or our death machine. The sun hit the water and even my hopes began to wane. Any instant can change everything I kept telling Shea, mostly to bolster my own spirits.  I had forgotten the sunscreen and could feel my neck being coooked in the noon-time sun, Shea’s cheeks were red with sun-burn and I was doing the cost-benefit analysis in my mind. Crap, I’m going to be in BIG trouble if I bring home a sun-baked kid smelling of a steelhead skunking. We really needed a fish to make my mistake palatable.

We swung our flies in a likely tailout and finally Shea’s Thunderhead MOAL Leech got grabbed. She reeled quickly bringing the fish all the way to the boat but when he saw that he got serious and rampaged all over the tailout parting Shea’s fly from her leader.   We continued to swing across the tailout and got grabbed again but this time it didn’t stick. I decided to try Mr. Experimental.  The fly wasn’t in the water ten minutes before it got yanked, hard, and I was into a nice steelhead. The fish was hot, I stopped her in the tail-out and she bolted upriver but eventually rolled over and Shea did yeoman’s work with the net:

Town Run Summer Steelhead

Town Run Summer Steelhead

After the required bleeding we were back in the water.  We were swinging again, my rod with the experimental hairwing was set, the reel under the oarsman seat, the top end over the gunwale when the fly was crushed, annihilated, ravaged and savaged by a steelhead that had a mind toward atomizing the poor thing.  Instantly, my reel which had been stowed beneath the oarsman’s seat landed on the flyline deck where Shea’s quick reaction time saved it from ending up in the river.  Wow.  She handed it back to me and the fish was way in the tailout, I applied the brakes and the fish broke off. 

I sat for a moment trembling on anchor trying to get my mind around what had just happened and deal with the carnage that was formerly my set-up when not thirty seconds after the second fish and I had parted company, “FISH ON!” Shea yelled in a tug of war with another brute that ended up getting the best of her. 

Like I said, I’m not jaded.  One steelhead in the hand and a father-daughter trip neither of us will soon forget.   Who’s complaining?–KM

This entry was posted in Fishing Reports, Lower Willamette, Summer Steelhead. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Crushing Take and Solid Summer Steelheading on the Town Run

  1. M00n says:

    Hey, that fish has big yellow boogers hang’un out its nose……

    Way to go Shea, way to go….

  2. Rick Allen says:

    Good read brother, glad you found em.

  3. Troy says:

    What are we bait fisherman? The weak sauce man, fuzzing out your pattern is for folks who think there is only ONE way to catch steel. I’ve never seen that from this blog, I definitely never expected to either. Since I’ve got into flyfishing I have noticed that 99% of guys are so willing to help you catch fish because they know it’s hard enough to hook and land steelies. Not trying to complain but that is incredibly weak. Don’t post your “amazing fish” if you can’t be proud of the fly you were using.

  4. gregH says:

    Nice report… and nice tee-shirt brother – where can I get one of those??

  5. Steve says:

    “Town Run??” What’s that??? 🙂

    Ton’s of fish in there. We boated 3 lost one other yesterday.. Fun stuff.

    No secrets here folks…

  6. TT says:

    Amen Troy, that`s bush league! Isnt the point of this blog to support its customers? The ones that are willing to spend a little more of our hard earned money to support our local shop. Covering up the fly like someone is going to capitalize on it before he gets his U.S patent submitted for it is a slap in the face to us all. Apparently there is a the divide between us small time amateurs and the big time,professional, too good for us guides is larger than I thought it was. Thanks for rubbing it in! =)

  7. Karl Mueller says:

    Jeez Troy. Hiding the fly was sort of a joke. I told you one of two or three patterns that worked that day. You are definitely right, there are tons of ways to catch steelhead and those fish on the town run will eat pretty much any black or purple leech you put out there. Using smaller more traditional black or purple patterns when it gets lower is conventional wisdom. The post says we hooked fish swinging in the tailouts on a Thunderhead MOAL leech. It pretty much lays out what you neeed for success right there. We don’t keep many secrets here at the blog but sometimes we choose to omit something, for example, I’m not going to make a list of my favorite small winter steelhead streams for thousands of people to see.

    A small bit of sleuthing would lead to the other fly . . . which I want to play with a little. I’m under no obligation to spill all of my guts because I write for the blog. If you cook up a fly that gets whaled on like that its first time out there you might hold back just a little too-not that it is hard to find what I was using. For the record, I never called the fish “amazing.” It was a nice fish on a fun trip with one of my kids, that’s all.

    No offense was or is intended. I wanted to write about a fun fishing trip that I took with Shea. So I did. As for the fly, experiment a bit, it might get hammered!

  8. Rob R says:

    Excellent drama, Troy. If I was you, I’d take a swipe at him. Call his Mom names, he really hates that.

  9. Rob R says:

    Bush league is where it’s at, TT. We make every effort to stay deep in the bush. Got no use for the majors. Too many commercials.

  10. Jessie says:

    Isn’t part of the fun trying to figure out what the fish want? It never hurts to get some direction, but it takes something away from the experience!

  11. David Jensen says:

    Karl slammed me in another forum where I posted about running the Illinois in a wood drift boat. Being a hockey player, I was looking to slam him back! Man, not here about this. I thought Karl’s post was timely about the state of the Town Run, and more importantly a beautiful piece about him fishing with his eldest. I took the disguise on The Mueller Special to be funny. Thanks, Karl, for the post.

  12. Troy says:

    I was actually calling it an “amazing fish.” It’s a gorgeous fish, man. I’m not the kind of guy who ever writes on blogs or wants to cause stupid drama. I just think it’s weak to hide a fly and basically agree with TT on the amateur bit. I have only flyfished for about 2.5 years and absolutely love it. One of the biggest things I love about it is the fact that savvy vets have been willing to give me info that I wouldn’t have gathered otherwise. I have even had guys give me flies out on the water because that’s what happened to be working and I have done the same for other guys as well. I don’t know man, you definitely could out-fish me 9 times out of 10 but I don’t want to feel that way when I’m looking at awesome pics of a guys fishin trip. I’m not mad at you but I suggest showing the fly next time just to make us lowly fisherman feel like we’re in the game. Thanks,

  13. Marc says:

    That large yellow piece of foam works well, think I’ll give it a go.

  14. Karl Mueller says:

    Dave-I did? I’m gonna check that out . . . sorry.

  15. Dave R says:

    It’s that new yum-yum yellow foam skater! Notice how, in the second pic, the fly has an up-turned lip on it. It’s a REAL BEAUTY!
    All joking aside, I’ve been fly fishing for just under a year. Personally, I don’t have an issue with not being shown a fly. To me, that’s part of the mystery that is fishing. Keep in mind, what works today isn’t necessarily the same as what worked yesterday, or that will work tomorrow. What is important, is that you get out there when ever you can.
    It’s not always about which fly, it’s more about how that fly is presented, and how many fish you put that fly in front of, aka “putting in your time”. I don’t expect to be spoon-fed every bit of information. Some things are best left up to the individual to figure out themselves.
    Karl, great read man, and it’s awesome that you and your eldest had a great day together on the river. THAT is what is important.

  16. Karl Mueller says:


    Are you sure that was me? I searched through that forum and didn’t find that. Could it have been MD?

  17. G Hatten says:

    Could’ve been over on the Wooden Boat Site – I remember a little “dust-up” concerning the Illinois over there… Mike Dearing perhaps??
    Took my daughter and her boyfriend out on the Town Run last night for a quick float (visiting from the midwest “catfish country”). He caught his first steelhead and was THRILLED!! Purple Mole Leach strikes again. (I like purple on the Willi and pink on the Mac). That fish is on the smoker today… just showin a little NW “river hospitality”.

  18. David Jensen says:

    Wasn’t it in Wooden Boat People? Anyway, some one wrote in asking about challenging trips to prepare for a Grand Canyon assault. I wrote back with the Middle Fork of the Salmon and the Illinois as being far more difficult than the Rogue. Anyway, someone responded (and I gave you credit or blame) that I was irresponsible to suggest the Illinois was doable in a driftboat. He invited me to join him and his raft next Spring (to drown?). I accepted his criticism by agreeing nobody should undertake a trip like that without adequate preparation, but noted we did it, and that one of our trip members had done it at least once before.

    More importantly, tossing MOAL’s Friday on the McKenzie

  19. Karl Mueller says:

    That wasn’t me . . . whew!

    Good luck!

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