One person's view of our sport [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: One person's view of our sport

05-13-2004, 04:04 PM
Is the fish of a thousand casts in trouble? As those who truly love the sport try to come to grips with disappearing resources, runs in trouble and an apparent federal policy that will largely say that wild fish are no better than factory clones, it also now appears that the sport is becoming trendy. I heard today that a local community college is offering a steelheading class. Every week there is this article promoting this miracle fly or this super effective presentation. Recently I heard that a popular magazine will start a special edition focused on specific fishing areas. This issue is promised to have detailed maps to show you where the fish are.

All this got me thinking about the future of the sport in the age of instant gratification. Can the sport survive? Sometime ago I put together some thoughts on my view of the experience of steelheading. I say the experience because to me, it is much more than the sum of the catching. I figured it might be interesting to dust it off and see if the members agree with me or feel I am simply a “traditionalist” that has lost touch with what true steelheading has become.

I have steelhead fished to one stage of addiction or another for over 20 years. I have managed to catch more fish than I probably deserved but usually less than I wanted. I have seen the highs of good days and the lows of bad years. From lucky streaks to fishless months, I have enjoyed them all. I’m not an expert nor do I believe I know it all. The only guiding I have ever done is “hosting” a couple of charity trips a year. The only article I have ever written about the sport, I now regret because it only served to increase pressure on a river I care deeply about. I have been lucky enough to devote much time and effort to steelhead conservation and will always hold that cause near and dear. The friendships I have made through the pursuit of the wily steelhead I count as some of my greatest possessions.

Through it all I have learned there are no magic bullets in steelheading. The facts as I see them are as follows. Technique matters some and in a general sense, fly selection doesn’t. There is no substitute for time on the water and fish in the rivers. All things being equal, certain people catch more fish than others.

There will be good days and there will be bad. I believe the fishless day is not a failure if you covered your water well and enjoyed your time on the water. The occasional fish is just the bonus. Regardless of some claims you read or hear, you will be skunked more times than not. A fish a day average is still the measure of good fishing. If you can’t come to appreciate the failures, maybe steelheading is not for you. And finally, if it seems to good to be true, well, you know the rest.


05-13-2004, 05:01 PM
You pretty much summed it up for me. I don't know what I could add. You are dead on about the best part of steelheading is the people you meet while on the river.

I was lucky when I started fly fishing for steelhead I had a couple of very good steelhead fly fishers show me the ropes. These people have become some of my closes friends and even though hundreds of miles and more then a few years time seperate some of us we still stay in touch.

05-13-2004, 05:19 PM

Right on! There is no wasted time in pursuit of steelhead with the fly. There are so many wonderful things to experience when pursuing them from the friends and gentlemen with which you share a run or day with to the environs steelhead are found in that any day in pursuit of steelhead is a day well spent.

The myths of how a good steelhead flyfisher hooks a fish nearly everytime out that are being bandied about in such profusion lately do a great disservice to newcomers to steelhead. Every experience steelhead fisherman I know has had far more fishless days than days with fish hooked and landed. Maybe that is why so few people fly fish for steelhead pretty much exclusively and why there is such a large number of those who pursue trout while making only a few steelhead forays in a year.

Big K1
05-13-2004, 07:13 PM

I agree totally. A how to magazine with detailed maps is
complete BS. Part of steelhead fishing is learning your
home waters by putting in the time by finding new runs and
fishing them thoroughly. I enjoy meeting other two handers
on the river. A class in steelheading what a joke. The best class
is time on the water. Magic fly hahha that is funny. The magic fly is
the one I tie on everytime I go out. At least I think it is.


05-13-2004, 10:32 PM
Monsieur Tip,


Like many the 'essence' of steelhead and the sport of pursuing them is permanently interwoven into the fabric of my life. As the seasons change, and when the time is right, my migrational urges are uncontrollable. Family, job, money, etc. are all twisted to allow full immersion into the spirit of the 'experience' and all it's magic.


North Island
05-13-2004, 10:34 PM
Very Poetic,

In these days of rapidly declining steelhead runs I am having an increasingly difficult time rationalizing the time I spend attempting to pull a rare species around by it's jaw.

Does this amount to harrassment? . . .or worse.

I love to go steelheading but maybe it's time to face facts.

N I:(

05-14-2004, 12:43 AM
Very good points indeed and I do believe that the sport may not be as strong as it once was (but what do I know...I really havent been around all that long) due to dwindling runs BUT...

it seems that objects of your other concerns, eventhough they are valid, have been faced before.

If I remember right, I took a couple steelhead classes way back in the day (10+ years ago), one of which was offered by the local school district.

Maps of rivers??....Hell, Fishing Holes has been doing it for some time and Pero did it for many years (in a classier form yes, but rivers maps ARE river maps).

Magic fly?...Remember the Teeny Nymph??

However, given our 'instant gratification' culture and the need for information overload, the objects of your concern are just magnified.

And there is atleast one young punk that will forever cherish and uphold the tradition of the sport (even if he fishes glorified dink floats occasionaly) and value the exerpience of the sport in much the same way that you and many of the others here do.

Do not worry too much my freind...and June 1 is just a couple weeks away! :)

05-14-2004, 12:44 AM
except,,don't tell anyone about the 1 fish a day deal,,certainly a mile down river,,you would have been throwing `magic',,no ,you're right,,absoluteley,,i've noticed the average age,on the forum here is approximateley,,,30-60,yaeah,,that's a wide spread,but,it's enough years that most folks appreciate just being here,there,,,out there,;)

Mean Mr Mustard
05-14-2004, 12:56 AM
If you took my view and packed it in ice for six hours it might resemble North Island's.

It disturbs me that one would want to pound their chest as they relentlessly pursue the last of a dying race. Time better spent being an advocate, in the true sense, for steelhead. Wish I could be more candid but my hate mail in-box is already overflowing.


Anyone remember the movie, "Silent Running"?


05-14-2004, 02:40 AM
Change is inevitable. There are several "Pioneers to steelhead fly fishing" still poking around the rivers today. They have seen some mayjor changes in the quality of the sport.Attitude is everything. I say ,Be thankfull for what wonderfull experiences we have had on the rivers,in our lives. Do what we can to protect the runs we have left. Try to pass on the Attitude of good stewardship, toward your favorite rivers,to someone new in the sport. I have seen alot of changes in the 25years of steelhead fly fishing I have partaken in, and I work hard at trying to stay positive. The sport is getting even more challenging! ;)

Sharp Steelie
05-14-2004, 03:30 AM
Being able to selflessly help others is very

What good is treasure if you can't share it.

Mean Mr Mustard
05-14-2004, 03:36 AM

The more you post the more I believe you are, in reality, Madonna! Your treasure is getting old, girl...

:( :( :(


05-14-2004, 09:49 AM
I recently took a trip to an Island that has a collection of small rivers that contain very limited numbers of steelheads. For some time there has been a limited amount of commercial sport guiding on these rivers and for the most part the individuals involved acted responsibly and ethically in there pursuit of success for there "Dudes". However recently several new entrants to this business have been advertising to get more and more customers to pay and play, they all but guarantee results and have found a few very unethical ways of making good on the virtual guarantee of fish.
There has been a local unwritten rule regarding the use of "Indicator fishing" and some places it was considered OK and in some "well maybe in that one hole" and in others "No way in hell".
There are also no closed waters but no one ever even considered going into the tiny creeks that the fish spawn in to harass them for a few photos!!!!!!
When you add these two acts together its about as far removed from what the "Fish of a 1,000 cast" is as one can get in the angling world.
Yeah Tip I really do think that this thing of ours is changing but I still make my personal choice to obfuscate and hide the best of what little I know from those wanting a free ride. After all the ride is free unless you adhere to the adage "time is money"!

North Island
05-14-2004, 10:11 AM
I would like to refine my view.

All steelhead streams should be "fly fishing only"

I can say that here, can't I?

N I:)

05-14-2004, 10:31 AM
Sink Tip, well spoken words & reflections on the sport. My steelhead experience(s) now are best summed up this way.
"Fishing is a condition of the mind, wherein one cannot possibly ahve a bad time" Zane Grey, 1924 (?)

05-14-2004, 07:03 PM
My comments may seem a little cynical, but I will let it out anyway.

What comes first the sport or advocation? The sport is easy to come first after all the game of fair chase is what motivates us and the enjoyment of the environment the fish lives in. What is harder, is being an advocate for the fish, because it is not really considered a past time and often infringes on the other aspects of our lives plus there is no profit to be made in it.

One thing that seems to be increasing is anglers trying to figure out a way to make money in the sport, more concern for numbers of fish in a day and more anglers fishing in a shrinking area of opportunity.

Frank Moore, at a recent WSC meeting, stated to the effect-one by one a river is exploited, closed or the fishing becomes poor, most fishers will complain about the river and move on to another river to fish.

05-14-2004, 09:33 PM
Who knows? You gotta believe the mags and the Internet attract the self promoters. I know there's a new generation of folks figuring it out for themselves, enjoying the challenges, fully aware of the rewards. I personally know some of em. They don't do much posting on the internet. I know plenty of guys who have quit steelheading due to lack of success as well. If anything, the game is more difficult and the new initiates even more in tune with the "benefits"... don't give up hope. I agree with Sparkey that the self promoters have always been there- now they are just in our face.

05-15-2004, 04:42 AM
North Island,
just for fun you should take your point of view over to the FishBC site and watch what happens. Perhaps you should lather them up first with a profound statement like "There should be a bait ban on all wild Steelhead rivers."
I love that site-way more fun than here ;)

North Island
05-15-2004, 09:11 AM

Agent provocateur?

N I:hehe:

05-16-2004, 10:31 PM
Guilty as charged:devil:

Sharp Steelie
05-17-2004, 12:47 AM
Whistler - NI. Actually know of a couple rivers where
the gear/bait anglers wish the fly fishing would be
banned. Fly fishing can actually produce more fish than
the gear fishing.:hehe:

05-17-2004, 12:49 AM
...especially when the fly angler is fishing a fly with a long tail made out of floss.

Sharp Steelie
05-17-2004, 01:06 AM
Oh Sparkey, maybe just maybe there was other
fly fishermen and the fly of choice just happened to
have saddle hackle fibers for the tail with no 4 strand
floss at all! Sometimes it takes just a little bit of
passion to be effective - you should try it sometime.
Who know's, you might just get a few more takes.

05-17-2004, 10:33 PM
not that i'm particularly known for my rants, etc. but it's been a while since i posted, this is as good an opp as any!

Tip -
Right on! all the things you described, that's why I do it as well! and for so many more reasons - those gawd awful cold-ass days on the John Day, in the middle of January, swinging for steelhead through patches of slush, hoping against hope that the fish someone found last week are still there, and against all odds, will hit. And of course they don't. But I wouldn't trade the day for anything, because of the sunrise I saw, the flock of mallard that flew by, and the quiet and solitude of the day. It's the time spent with friends, old and new, on the Salmon River 10 hours from where I live, enjoying each others company, in pursuit of the fish of 1,000 casts, and coming up two casts short... it's trying to find that damn mystery line that sings through that sage 9140 greenie of mine and proves the Peter S-C's and Flytyer's wrong, that its not a spineless piece of **** (in gest fellas! :hehe: :hehe: ). Its those days of trying over and over again to master the double spey/circle spey/single spey, and then one day, it just happens, and all is right with the world. its the hours spent on each spey fly I tie, knowing i'll probably loose it on the third or 4th swing through my favorite rock garden. it's gambling on the Hoh River this spring, drive 10 hours to get there, have a long weekend of NO rain, all sunshine, companiment of wonderful friends, and hooking and breaking off my first two steelhead on the swing with a two hander (or single hander for that matter...). And smiling and rejoicing, even in the "loss" due to rookie stupidity, of that momentary connection with something so much bigger and more of this world then me alone. It's all those things. Everyone of us could add to this list....... It's more than the fish, it's EVERYTHING... if it were JUST the fish, i suspect many of us would have moved on to something else a long time ago... So cheers, Tip, for what you shared as well as the others.......

05-17-2004, 10:57 PM
And kinda where I thought Tip was going with this thread. Some have touched on it here and on other threads... Steelhead flyfishing is getting popular!! Like the general sport of flyfishing, ever since "A river ran through everything" (to borrow a St. Croix add...), fly fishing has been trendy. Its now "trendy" to be a fly fisherman/woman. Think about it - it's perfect! remote, exotic, wild places to explore, gear and gadgets to spend small fortunes on, trips to make others around you envious, expensive gear (like spey rods??) that become literally status symbols of what someone can afford to drop a dozen benjamins on... And the end result, more and more people on the river, sharing the same runs and rivers. And in some places, its getting pretty damn crowded!!!

I was going to start a thread on this a while back, got side tracked. The question I have is: How much is to much? I think about my job in a large federal land management agency, where we have this mission of "multiple resource management", which interpreted by many, pretty much means being able to do EVERYTHING the public demands of federal lands on every damn acre. Needless to say, things have the potential to get more than a little crowded. I think and observe similar mentalities in fly fishing, and now, steelhead flyfishing.

Conservation organizations will tell you that the best way to make a natural resource, place, etc. valuable and protected is to enhance the public's interest and "ownership" in that resource. So theoretically, to get the public behind initiatives, such as wild fish release regardless, or protection of watersheds from harmful management practices, you need to get them involved. and they are, and its getting damn crowded!! We now have problems of low holing, rude boaters, me first mentalities, etc. People are loosin' tempers, and everyone's experiences are suffering. One of my biggest reasons for getting into steelheading was the ability to get away from crowds and enjoy the quiet and experience of the river and surrounding country side. But depending upon where you're at, any more steelheading is almost more a contact sport than a solitary wilderness experience...

It's almost like we're loving steelhead, and the pursuit of that hollowed critter with a fly, to death. We need people to care and be advocates for the resource, but the more and more people that do, the loss of values associated with that resource. So how much is to much? When do we "shut the door?" Do we? Steelhead and steelhead rivers are a FINITE resource. Human populations are proving to be INFINITE, along with the effects, and use of steelhead and other resources.

Which brought me to my next quandry - i'm essentially bitchin' about the problem I represent... i'm really one of the newbies, only having pursued steelies with a fly for the last 4 years, last year with a two hander. I'm one of those newbies attracted to the sport (for the right reasons i hope - love of the resource) who's crowding out those of you who've been out there so much longer. I'm one of the guys that read the magazine articles, watched the flyfisher knee deep in the deschutes with a two hander, casting and catching wild steelhead, and was forever changed. but i still just added another body to the crowding waters...

Are we loving the steelhead to death, or more specifically, the things we LOVE about steelhead, and its pursuit with a fly??:whoa: :whoa: :whoa:

05-18-2004, 12:00 AM
Well put Mr. Feiger,
I really enjoyed reading your post, you love this for all the right reasons. I honestly believe the real experience is still out there. The classic quote 'diminishing returns give the river back to the fly fisher' really hits home for me. It seems that the wild only rivers with lower returns are where I find myself in search of a little solitude. That said, and I know as a shop owner I will be perceived as biased, I really believe that the more Steelheaders the better right now. We are at a critical point here on the southcoast and the Steelhead needs as many friends as possible. There are many issues(BC aquaculture being #1)that need to be confronted in the next couple of years or I think we will be the last generation to enjoy the experience described.
Brian Niska

Sharp Steelie
05-18-2004, 12:57 AM
Today was a wonderful example of the sport. Headed out
with a good friend. We had the entire river to ourselfs. Sighted
all kinds of birds - King Fishers, Blue Herons, Osprey, Stellar
Jays, Rufus Hummingbirds, Barn Owl, Red Tail Hawks, and
even a Golden Eagle - spring is in the air. As a double bonus
brought some early summer runs to hand! Now thats fly
fishing - being able to enjoy the Almighty's creation.

05-18-2004, 09:30 AM
HMMMMM, Sharpie a golden eh? makes me think one travelled inland for a little salmon fishing???? how did the water look?


Sharp Steelie
05-18-2004, 10:21 AM
Andre - ah, very perceptive sir! Running high but nice
color. We watched thunder storms build all around us
but never got nailed - pretty lucky! Funny thing - we
did not find a single springer! One of those days to
watch nature do it's thing - little bit of everything!

05-18-2004, 12:54 PM
you've `canned ' the Rogue.all the issues you mention exist here,i'm certainly a `new breed' cat,a having only fished with a fly the last several years,,i love fishing when it's tough,rainy windy nasty,why;,nobody around!,summers here can try your patience,this is why i figured i'd guide during summers,,this way i can sort of shepard people,you know tell em how it was,of course i won't mention the worms i used to fish with,!,and this is the reel reason for me,i'm not going to guide for big bucks,i don't think big bucks are there,it's more of trying to leave somthing for others,i feel the flyfishing community is WAY ahead in awareness of the whole picture of the watershed,,i wander around the river;banking it,,people see me in my gear,big ol' rod,i don't snear at them because they choose other methods,i start of with hi!,how's it goin',,,i try to pass on a good feeling about enjoying the river,recreation is important,,,yes jet skis suck!,,but,,,no,the doom ,gloom,?,,,only if YOU feel that way,i'm not turning my back on what i feel can be acheived,,but will never be,,if i'm not there:tsk_tsk:

05-18-2004, 04:49 PM
Hey SS if you were where I think you were you might want to check the Regs as I believe that is closed to Steelhead fishing until June 1st.


Sharp Steelie
05-18-2004, 11:33 PM
JJ, Thanks for the concern - we were in a open area. Funny
thing is we where looking for springers - found something

Sharp Steelie
05-22-2004, 06:52 PM
Hey Andre, found some more on Thursday - this time
think North of the border. Was a very nice surprise!

05-23-2004, 02:02 AM
SS, Fishing the May flyfishing only season on the Vedder?

Sharp Steelie
05-23-2004, 09:34 PM
Rich - actually mean't the Oregon/Washington State
line (border). Found fish in 2 seperate systems -
just good timing I guess. :cool:

06-15-2004, 03:04 AM
lots of letters(words) but yup

06-15-2004, 03:13 AM
i thought i was replying to a post that had nothing to do with flyfishing but on the wrong deal.

06-15-2004, 06:03 AM
Might have to break out a breathalizer for posting new messages around here soon :devil: