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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...
 

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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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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.
 

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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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