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2182 Views 8 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  juro
I am starting to look more into steelhead fishing and I had some questions and wanted to know what you thought.

1. Good Books on steel head fishing?
2. Best rod (non spey) ie action, length, line weight?
3. Best flies. I have been tying green butt skunks, comets, polar shrimp, and several
streamer patterns. What are ones that I should never be without.

Just curious. Thanks. PS. Is it possible to become obsessed with a fish you've never caught? I think I am. Please don't let anyone on the striper board see this I have to go on a clave with them this weekend but I think that steelhead might be the perfect fish. It's the size of a striper, and requires the finesse of trout.
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Since I am in the same time zone Nate, I have several shelves of good steelhead books to suggest and lend you.

Trey Comb's books (I have three) are a great place to start. I have a few others by authors I can't recall at the moment worth reading (advanced flyfishing for steelhead, steelhead on the fly, etc). Pattern books include Kent Helvie's book, and Trey's steelhead book has a lot of patterns in it as well.

I'm sure the PNW contingent will provide a great list of references as well...
Oh and I should add... yes it is the perfect fish. It does indeed require the combination of finesse and force and when you hook one it's a lifetime's trophy trout even in their average sizes. It leaps like a tarpon, and runs like an albie. When all is said and done, it's a rainbow trout the size of your leg and a feast to the eyes beneath the shadow of towering cedar trees lining the valley. It occurs in some of the most beautiful places on earth, and is sought by some of the most dedicated flyfishermen. It is a relatively young history of over a hundred years of fishing involving magistrates, generals and notables; yet it already shares the grandeur of the atlantic salmon's four hundred year legacy.

It is never easy to achieve, but seldom forgotton to bring a steelhead to the fly. It's truly one of the most significant milestones in a flyfisherman's career.

For single handed rods I prefer an 8wt 9' 6" RPL Sage or equivalent. This rod is neither too light nor too heavy and the extra length really improves the roll/single spey casting as well as mending and line control. I fish it in fall with a long belly Mastery steelhead taper; and with hybrid custom-made sinktips every other season. Yes, I prefer that for a singlehander but I do not prefer single-handed rods anymore.

Spey rods offer significant advantages over singe-handed rods on the steelhead scene. Many of the rivers are large, and grown to the shores. Mending long lines over the currents is key, and the percentage of time that the fly is swinging in the water is proportionate to the fish you will encounter on the end of the line.

But don't let a Bostonian tell you... what say you guys out in steelhead country?
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Steelhead are without question my favored fish. I can close my eyes hit play and re-live my first fly caught steelhead on the Yuba river in California on a large skated caddis.....

First to speak to patterns sounds like you have a pretty good arsenal already. I would suggest sticking with a half dozen patterns and vary sizes and silhouettes. I like sparse patterns with motion, green butts skunks with seal dubbed bodies or floss bodies, night dancers, purple perils I dress similarly. Something bright something dark and in between size #1-#6, Don't forget your muddlers either.

Rods, depending on where you are fishing. Single handers I like the 7100 Sage. Aslo fished with a long belly or DT for roll casting. But I have converted to the two handers even if I haven't figured out how to cast one yet.

Books, the books Juro mentioned are great and without question a solid place to start.

Yes, you can become obsessed with a fish you've never caught! Let me know if you are thinking of the Deschutes I'll try to get you out. What are the dates again? Juro fall steelhead 'clave Cow, Deschutes???

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dOh... forgot to ask about vacation accrual during job negotiations! It might be bad form anyway. I'll plan according to what will work for my new employer in the fall (I start a new job in July). I should have a better idea of this situation as the time approaches. First priority is to get thoroughly tuned into the new role, second is to figure out how to get out for the greaseline festival.

Don't worry, your sickness is shared by many of us stuck on the east coast and frequently dreaming of the west coast steelhead rivers. Trey Combs is a great read, in addition,
I would recommend Roderick Haig-Brown for background on the history and drama of the steelhead culture.
I'm a converted two hander fan and the next time we 'clave
we could spend some time with the 15 footers and you might be surprised how quickly you can make the long rods work for you. Juro has the teaching thing pretty well thought through
at this point, so we can conscript him for lessons and direction.


Jay C.
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Yep you're an addict!

Much good advice already in this thread. For what its worth, here is my $.02.

Books -- Trey's big book is the bible. Depending on where you plan to fish and what time of year, others are good reads as well. A few I have enjoyed are Steelhead Water and Steelhead and a Floating Line. Both are by Bob Arnold. Juro is right about Helvie's book of patterns!

Rods -- I'm also a double-handed convert and rarely cast my single hand for steelhead but I am partial to a 10' 8 weight but then most of my fishing is winter/spring with tips. For summer runs, a nice 7 weight is hard to beat. I prefer longer rods as they mend so nicely. A couple of good rods are the Scott ARC and STS (no longer made in the 10-08) and I also like the Sage SP in 9'6" and 8 weight.

Flies depend on your preference more than the fishes. Also dependant on when and where you are fishing. A spring day on the Skagit or Sauk calls for a different dressing than September on the Deschutes, Grande Ronde or Snake. Find something you like and tie it in a couple of sizes and colors. If I could fish one color it would be purple but a lot of others would argue for black. As an old time Skagit hand told me one time, "I fish any color as long as it's black". My third color of choice is burnt orange.

Good luck!!!
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Nate, you haven't lived until a 38 inch chrome bright thick shouldered summer run buck torpedoes your riffle hitched caddis pattern in the surface film of a gin clear glacial torrent tumbling down from the snow capped peaks in the shade of 200 foot trees with bald eagles cackling their social chat with each other. You go from a place where the breathing is as easy as anywhere on earth to a lump in the throat at the hands of the giant searun trout that takes a lifetime to loosen. Like most flyfishing venues, the culture of the pursuit rivals the actual fishing. It's amazing to see Jim Green, Dec Hogan, Farrar, you name it... at Steelhead park on the same spring day. The art of steelhead fly tying may not be as full of fanfare as the classic mixed wing salmon legacy but it's every bit as creative and produces a number of very effective patterns. Spey fishing and flies share the legacy of nearly four centuries of anadromous salminds, long may they prevail!

And I'm only getting started
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