Saturday, February 23, 2013

I May Never Get This Steelhead Thing Right

When this pursuit started back in October 2009, you remember that wonderful trip to the Deschutes, the so called guide said that you have to use "this" fly. Taken as gospel (the guys was a guide already) I fished "this" fly there and here. It looked something like this.

Purple Angel
Purple something or other

I get back to Sacramento and attempt to fish this on the American and nothing. So I research and find out I should be fishing this:
Estaz Egg Sucking Leech Fly |
Egg Sucking Leech

I get one bump the first time out and think I'm on the right track. Then I meet a former blogger, again on the American, and he's back to the purple something above. So I'm swinging the purple something and a similar burgundy something and nothing.

Years later (OK maybe two years) I stumble across an article that says you should fish Steelhead like Rainbow Trout because for all intents and purposes, they are the same fish. Spoons would be good, the article said and specifically a Little Cleo 3/4 oz. silver with a #2 Siwash hook. OK, off to Cabela's for (online) three ( I always do fishing stuff in 3's) 3/4 oz. silver Little Cleos and #2 Siwash Hooks.

Little Cleo with #2 Siwash Hook

 I take my big Uglystik (7ft) with 8 lb. test and fling said Little Cleo. Nope.

Then a month or so I come across Ray, you remember Ray from the January 30th post and it's a San Juan Worm with an orange egg dropper. I've got this box of egg imitations and I put on the triple egg orange one. Good, got a couple of good hits. Now I'm on the right track.

Glenn goes down last Wednesday and comes back with the report that they are hitting on Caddis Emerger pattern. This is just one of the gazillion styles out there.

Fly Tying Pattern Archives - Caddis - Caddis emerger - tan - Fly ...

Sifting through my fly boxes (remember I'm still Entomology stupid) , I can't find anything that looks like a Caddis Emerger so I go back to the orange egg. When I get to the river yesterday there are about 15 guys covering all areas of the spot we usually fish. The only space available (and that's probably because that's where everybody crosses to the island [the spot on the right]) is here:

Not having a Caddis Emerger pattern, I fish my trusty orange egg. Down at the point on the right up there, this guy's is reeling them in one after another. Finally a spot clears on the opposite side of the river and I walk down there. I ask what he's catching them on and he says a Caddis Pupa. One of the gazillion patterns of Caddis Pupa.

Caddis pupa - Fly tying patterns step by step catalog
Caddis Pupa
So you see the dilemma. You have to fish wet flies. You have to fish the egg sucking leech, You have to fish the silver Little Cleo. You have to fish the orange egg under a San Juan Worm. You have to fish a red egg pattern. You have to fish a Caddis Emerger. You have to fish a Caddis Pupa.   

Do I use a spinning rod (with silver Little Cleo)? Do I use a fly rod with intermediate sinking line to help get the fly to the bottom? Do I add a small split shot? Do I use a fly rod with floating line (what it seemed the guys were using yesterday). Do I use eggs, leechs, Wooly Buggers, Caddis Emergers, Caddis Pupa? I was lead to believe (from the "guide" up on the Deschutes) that wet flies were the only way to fish Steelhead.  

"I'm so confused". That's from Vinnie Barberino on Welcome Back Kotter.

Not really, I just needed to whine a little. I plan on sitting at the Northern California Trout tying bench and see what I can come up with in a, something that looks like, Caddis Emerger and Pupa patterns and maybe give it a try next week. We are running out of Steelhead time.

They also consider the Zugbug as a Caddis Larvae pattern and I have some of those. We'll see. One last time this year.   



  1. Whether it is a Steelhead or Rainbow...who knows" Here in WA the guiding principle is...22" and over, Steelhead. Under 22", Rainbow Trout...go figure.
    I went Steelhead fishing last year at the confluence of the rivers at Lewiston, ID/ Clarkston, WA. The big favorite is Shrimp soaked in various secret recipes like Mike's Garlic stink...and does it reek!...don't put it in the cooler with your eats and drinks! Slip bobbers and bobber stops are used to hold the bait about 2' off the bottom in 20'-25' of water. What is odd is that one or two boats out of maybe a hundred mol are catching fish. One might be right next to one of those boats, within 15'-20', and not even get so much as a bite all night and all day long. There again, go figure.

  2. Mark, you are trying to hard, my friend! Relax some as you make another thousand casts, change flies, leader, weight, presentations, etc. etc. Unless, you are willing to stop as you can no longer handle the pain from needing Rotator Cuff Surgery from swinging all those flies in the current, don't give up! This is advice from someone who knew when it was time to get out of the Steelhead game while I could still lift my arms.

  3. Mark, you need to relax a little. Take a trip to your local hardware store and buy me a California plunger for my collection.

  4. Mark again a great article/story,when I first started fly fishing for stellies(1977),I was told,& read that they don't feed in the river,well we know that's not true,my point is the valley stellies(american,sacramento,yuba,& feather) act more like trout than steelhead most times,there R times when you can catch them on anything,but most times it's harder than hell to figure them out,my greatest sucess was nymph,with a egg pattern trailer on the swing,my 2 favorite nymphs R prince,& hares ear #8 or #10,just my point of view.

  5. now i know great lakes steelhead are a bit different but they are just as humbling. i can go days without even a bump, and then lose that first fish... it can take me to a bad place quickly

    just remember, they are fish with a brain the size of a pea, they act on instinct alone. do what your most comfortable and confident with and stick with it!

    got your package, thanks

  6. Wet flies are the way to go. And that first fly should do it.

  7. It only takes one time. This could be the one. Choose one of those big nymphs, get it deep, and keep it out there. It's not skill, it's a miracle.

  8. Mark, hire a knowledgable guide on the water you want to fish. This will shorten the learning curve and build some confidence.

  9. glennmelanson58@gmail.comFebruary 26, 2013 at 7:15 AM

    Being that you are my good friend and I am really getting tired of teasing you, my goal is to get you into fish this trip buddy. Wrap you ankles and don't forget your lunch again, we are Steelhead'n and you will be shouting..."Fish On Glenn, you incredibly handsome bastard"...

    Your buddy,