Several weeks ago now, my buddy Jonathan and I made a long day trip east of the Cascade Mountains to search for some redband steelhead. With fall rapidly progressing towards winter the morning started off rather brisk and a bit drizzly, but the river was in perfect shape so we were on the water shortly after sun up. Our first spot was a run that had treated Jonathan well over the past few seasons, however after a few hours of fishing I hadn't had a bump and Jonathan had found a few whitefish, but no steelhead so we decided to relocate.
The second spot that we fished had a nice deep slot on the far bank and we decided to start out swinging flies. I started with an intermediate tip and little size 6 October caddis toned fly that I came up on an and within a handful of casts I got subtle take, but couldn't get the fish to come back. After that things slowed for a bit until we got to the tailout, when I got another but much more viscous strike, however once again it didn't result in an actual hook up. We covered the water for perhaps another hour, switching flies and sink tips but had no more interest.
Even though we had already cover the slot for several hours without any fish to hand, we knew there were fish there and decided to try something a bit more effective. With that we switched to nymphing rigs and what would you know within three or four casts I got a take and a solid hook up. The fish immediately came up and did a bit of thrashing and put on a nice aerial display before deciding to take off. Luckily for me the river was fairly free of obstructions for the fish to hang me up on and although I had to chase steelhead a good hundred yards downstream we finally managed to bring it to hand.
Me with a beautiful native Columbia Basin redband steelhead
Another look at the fish
After a couple of quick photos, we watch as the fish sped off into the current again. Although I love to swing flies, this was just another example at the shear effectiveness in nymphing in comparison - 4 casts vs. several hours... A fact that was more evident when about a half hour later I got another take down. Although it was evident right away that this was a fish due to a couple good head shakes, it didn't seem to want to budge for the first minute or so and I was really starting to think it was a Chinook salmon or possibly a big bull trout. However finally the fish discovered that he was hooked and finally decided to show himself as another steelhead. After a couple of leaps, it was straight into the backing for this steelhead and once again I had hurry in pursuit and finally caught up just downstream of where we landed the first fish. After several more minutes of battling the fish, we brought another beautiful native steelhead to hand.
Another beautiful steelhead
We gave the spot a little more time, with Jonathan getting another whitefish, before we decided to try another spot a little further down stream. When we arrived at our next spot things looked great as there were maybe a couple dozen salmon holding and/ or spawning, which usually means a few steelhead are likely to be around. However after putting in a good amount of time we had only managed to donate a several flies to the boulder strewn bottom.
A salmon on its redd
Jonathan checking out a huge spawned-out Chinook, this fish was well over 40".
Even though the salmon were entertaining to watch, the lack of steelhead lead us to once again relocate. Although we were starting to view daylight as a commodity at this time, there were fish around at this spot and Jonathan and I managed to have a double screw up, where we both hooked and lost steelhead shortly after arriving.
The last spot of the day
After losing a decent steelhead, I got a sort of consolation prize in the form of a good sized whitefish that decided that it wanted a stripped egg imitation. This whitefish even thought it was a steelhead and jumped several times before coming to hand.
My only whitefish of the day
I hooked one more whitefish, that popped loose before the lack of daylight finally made us start to think about the long drive home and we decided to call it a day.