How Has Your Spey Fishing Evolved? Gear-Lines-Flies and Fishing Techniques\ Winter Assessment


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Tetonia, Idaho
Some great stories here, and I want to post mine but typing is a hassle for now. I had shoulder surgery a week ago and my right arm is in a sling. Once my shoulder is ready, I’ll write up a post. I’ll also be in much better shape for those casting sessions wading deep with the rod sweeping high.


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Snake, Clearwater and tribs
Some great stories here, and I want to post mine but typing is a hassle for now. I had shoulder surgery a week ago and my right arm is in a sling. Once my shoulder is ready, I’ll write up a post. I’ll also be in much better shape for those casting sessions wading deep with the rod sweeping high.
Good luck with your recovery! I had surgery to repair my shoulder and a torn bicep exactly one year ago, so hang in there. I know the rehab can be a bear.


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L'Étoile du Nord
Heal up man, there are fish to catch!

I am really enjoying everyones posts, and so many from the start of fly fishing which is cool and informative.

So how does a kid like me from central Minnesota become a steelheader and salmon fisherman?

Having my friends dad who was my fly fishing mentor and teaching his son and I to fly cast because they were heading to Montana for two weeks.
That was the start of everything, but maybe before that because my dad had fishing books, old ones and hunting books too.

Herbert had a subscription to field and stream, and I love it, His son and I would check it out and it was awesome. That was the start age 7 ish.

Please keep in mind that we grew up a lot faster back in the day, I ran a snowmobile and ran the rivers at age 10 with my dad and my friends/neighbors would meet up at the river on our snow machines down by the river without parents at age 12. That was freedom, we would have to drive on the road for a bit in town to get to the woods, but the cops never said anything, and we would fly around town too.

I thought my parents were over protective. What would happen today? I was an independent kid, and luckily had a retired sportsman grandpa living three houses away. Grandpa was old, but in good shape, and my bud and had a sense of adventure. Grandpa, also liked to drink a beer, snort and chew snuff, and let me drive his truck on the highway at age 13 and I think I had my first burger and beer in a bar with grandpa around that age too and he would let me drive on the ice on lakes, heading out ice fishing. Grandpa was the definition freedom and adventure.

In 1977 my Mom and Dad bought me a fly rod, FF858, still have it, gave it away and it came back to me. My first Bass,Pike and Steelhead rod.

I knew about salmon flies, I have a old book about fishing from my dad, like 1952 with full color pictures of classic salmon and trout flies, including stories of spey casting, saltwater shooting heads for tarpon, and regular single hand fly casting.

Color pictures in books were rare as a kid, and they called the pictures Plates so that center of the fishing book was like wonderland! Why are they different? What does it all mean, it has to mean something? Why are the flies all different? Inquiring minds want to know and I did and still do have an inquiring mind full of notions.

I thought of myself adventuring to the ocean and chasing salmon with those beautiful flies at a very young age, it made quite an impression on me. Herbert also made a huge impression on me and his love of Montana and fly fishing.

Fast forward years still a teen and running into trey Combs book on Steelhead, and then find out from Herbert that had family in Duluth Minnesota and found out WE HAD STEELHEAD. better yet looking at the DNR handbook we had WILD steelhead which had a minimum size of 28" and you could take 1 of those and Clipped fin steelhead that had to be over 16" but you could take 3 of those.

Gentlemen I was a meat hunter back then there was no question that when I caught my first steelhead on the knife river in 1988 after three days of hard fishing in April in northern Minnesota and camping outside in the snow, my first steelhead was bonked and thrown in a cooler. It was the first steelhead and the only wild steelhead I ever killed. While I was proud of my accomplishment it didnt sit right with me, it bothered me, and I didnt know a damn thing. After talking to a few guys and reading, at that time they were saying, Yeah you got to let those go, they are rare, keep those clipped fin fish, and I felt bad enough to not do it again. I was fishing and hoping for clipped fin fish, because I wanted to grill em.

Without knowing anything about genetics, stockies VS Natural reproduction, The stockies were big and fought hard no doubt and they were great, and great on the grill fresh before the spawn, but the big chrome wild ones were lightning and insane and most of the time in swift whitewater, usually not being able to land those fish. It took everything to try to fish and land those fish and two guys, you needed a net man! and they still got away.

I didnt know much but clipped fin fish and no clipped fin fish were two different breeds of steelhead, one was insanely strong and knew kung fu and the other just strong.

Needless to say that I enjoyed steelheading, caught a lot of fish and lost way more, and became familiar with the ups and downs of runs and methods, I saw the entire collapse of the fishery from a run of many thousands to 30 wild fish left in the knife river trap and the end of catch and kill regulations, which I didn't care about, because I was an early adopter of catch and release, because I felt bad. I also I saw the downward trend in a few short years to the close 6 years from my start.

I fly fished, most everyone used center pin, there were only a few of us fly fishing. I was told that won't work, and I also heard that won't work when a small group of us assembled for Minnesota`s first spey clave.

I tried center pin tactics one season on my fly rod and tried spawn one spring but the only thing I caught was salmonella poisoning and caught a few more fish but I didnt enjoy it, not nearly as much, and that season I even tried spinning gear, and the magic was gone for me that was my first and last run in with spawn. yuck!

Without knowing anything and not even consciously thinking about methods, I went back to my hybrid drift/swing method of fly fishing. I caught less fish, oh yes, but I didnt care, and I didnt really fully realize what that meant or how that would shape me for the future.

Today when I hear, most effective methods, I still cringe, because I naturally got that out of my DNA at a young age.

No kill regulations after a number of years were amazing, THE FISH CAME BACK! and stocking still continued, after many years of chasing wild steelhead on the shore with nothing to show except the occasional clipped fin, things were looking up and I was growing up.

Minnesota is one of the harshest environments for wild steelhead, and natural reproduction is possible but its amazing that this fish even survives here and grows to a large size. One of the toughest fish that swims.

The Atlantic salmon program had failed and with pacific salmon had failed, but steelhead and wild salmon still exist.

I had read that some west coast fly tiers adopted the idea that to respect the fish that they loved, they would tie one fly and catch one fish on it and retire the fly, and some guys were tying heavy bushy flies and fishing them on sinking lines and I tried that and hated it single hand.

But new ideas and noticing other peoples respect for what I loved garnered my interest.

Two handed rods? They won't work here, but they are way too long and clunky for our rivers, Time passes, 12' foot Spey rods and shorter switch rods exist and there are different lines......

I thought I aways wanted to fish this way, Maybe it could work here???? And then I met you guys on the forum.

Look for part 2 of the this post------"Lightning on the line? or will I ever catch a fish again?"
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