Was flyfishing with a friend yesterday on the North Santiam River just east of Salem, Oregon. We were on our way back downriver after a long morning of catching small rainbows. We got back to the first hole we fished and stopped once more. We fished it for a while and we were getting ready to leave. There was a large boulder completly submerged but a good vantage point to cast from because it was right in the middle of the river. I took one step up onto the boulder and as I looked down on the other side I saw a huge steelhead. I couldn't have been more than four feet away from it. After I cleaned out my shorts I backed off the boulder slowly and got a few paces away. I started to cast using a little trout fly because thats what I had on and I thought he was going to spook. After about five minutes I realized that he wasn't going to spook and that he wasn't at all interested in anything that I had to offer. I waved my friend over and we both took turns with different flys back and forth. After about 45 mins the fish disappeared. I'm just a beginning flyfisherman so when I saw that big lug in the water I flipped. My buddy has caught big trout all his life in southern Oregon and he's an experienced flyfisherman but neither of us could get the fish interested. Any suggestions are welcome.
Great story, I can see the bright summer flows in my minds eye and that ghostly summer run holding like liquid steel in the currents.
My strategy is simple - be where the fish are at first light and dusk. Of course I still work them hard during the day, and they will take, but for each one you get during the day in hard fished waters you'll get many off hours.
If you are getting sedge hatches try caddis patterns of all phases from pupae to emerger to adult. A quick and dirty option is the muddler minnow fished dry.
Try very active flies with bunny strip tails, or subtle shrimpy patterns. Standby flies include dark spey flies like the Black Heron and those with caddis highlights like the Lady Caroline. Signal lights and Skykomish Sunrises, Freight trains, Purple perils are all great choices.
One-fish targeting is one way, but playing the odds is another. I like to work a stretch where there are potentially several holding or moving steelhead and increase the odds. I've caught sighted steelhead before and it's a blast, but the odds are against it. Better off to work the greater concept of the river's structure and likelihood of fish in a given stretch than to waste all day targeting dour visible fish. Of course if that's all there are in a river then I waste all day fishing to dour fish, but that's another story ;)
Spend some time fishing the whitewater with a muddler bobbing around in the pocket water at dawn some morning. Be ready for a torpedo trout to explode on the offering.
Welcome to steelhead addiction }>