Is That a Steelhead?

Ard

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I read a post on another forum where the author was asking for opinions as to whether a large trout in an image was a steelhead or a rainbow. I started a reply by saying that I thought it was a really nice fish and then just kept on writing. What a surprise huh? And so I wrote and when I figured I'd done a decent job of expressing myself realized I shouldn't post this as a reply so I used it as a stand alone thread topic. Today I found that one of that forums regulars felt that somehow my writing was somehow disrespectful toward the person who had ask whether his picture was a steelhead or rainbow. So I did the right thing, I removed the post completely and am placing it here. Below is the article in question.

Like other posts I've made here through the years I could just stop with the above sentence but where's the fun in that idea. So, here's a bit of my thoughts on the matter. I hope no one minds that I've started my one thread with this but it's been ages since I made a substantial post here and when I was done writing this I thought it should be posted as it's own piece.

What I am not is a fisheries biologist, however I do fish a bit and I do 100% of that fishing in rivers that flow unimpeded into the ocean here. The Alaska Department of Fish & Game has a liberal designation for some fishes here which is Rainbow / Steelhead Trout. My interpretation of that based on discussions with the people who run the programs in my part of AK. is that any of these fish especially larger specimens may very well be salters. Going a step farther I believe that unless a rainbow does an extended stay in the saline environment that rainbow may not lose the vast majority of its pigmentation including its white fin tips.

Aside from the influx of salmon eggs which occur when we have strong return numbers these rivers are far different from many to my south. The main difference would be that there are very few indigenous aquatic insects or vertebrates on which trout or steelhead trout can feed on in order to attain great size during their life spans. This is not to say that there are no Sculpin or Leeches and of course there are the fry of the year and fingerlings of both salmon and trout on which adults may feed year round. It is however generally understood that the migratory behavior of many fishes is natures failsafe mechanism to prevent large fish from remaining in these rivers year round least those fish have a detrimental impact on the fry and fingerling populations thus causing the species to fail long ago.

Something I do notice is that large trout that appear much like the image in the original post and some larger examples occasionally end up on the end of my line. These occurrences are usually in the spring following ice out although the probability of encounters increases rather dramatically when salmon begin their journeys up the rivers in early May. This annual happening is enough to make a fellow wonder where those trout are coming from. My suspicion is that they have spent the winter months down in the brackish near shore environments where finding both food and water that doesn't have a foot of ice covering it are able to occur.

Many times I have spent my days at research stations along the large rivers where fish wheels and drift nets are employed by fisheries technicians in order to sample and assess run strength and timing. While at these stations I have witnessed many a salmon sized trout who while traveling with either Silver / Coho salmon or Sockeye get caught by either the wheels or the nets. Once again it's enough to make a fellow wonder ................

Every fall I fish them hard in a few rivers and when I catch a large fish that doesn't appear to have just arrived in the run i.e. dime bright with sea lice, I have to wonder? Was that fish dropping down, was it headed up or is it planning on staying right there through the long dark winter ahead. I don't ever really know unless it looks has every text book attribute of a wild steelhead. Anything else falls into the Rainbow / Steelhead Trout category unless it is a 14" fish who seems right at home where we met.

I can appreciate an anglers curiosity in such cases but I think anglers sometimes place way too much worth on being able to lay claim to a steelheading success and at times to find out that that monster rainbow is 'just a trout' seems like a shortfall.

Myself I've never ask anyone what they think and I don't mean that anyone is wrong to do so I just don't. I take what I get and big fish have always been steelhead to me ever since the late seventies when I was swinging my streamers in un stocked waters of North Central Pennsylvania. I fished November in horrible conditions under the steel blue afternoon skies promising more snow and a plunge of the mercury. Brown trout were the best I was going to do there but they were my steelhead as it would be years before I actually would fish the Pacific Northwest.

I'd go back up the mountain to my home and stoke the wood stove and tie some fancy steelhead and salmon patterns and dream of one day using them. Eventually the days and months came followed by decades of being able to live the dreams of a young man in a small ranch home atop a hill in Cogan Station PA. and the last thing I want is for someone to tell me "that's not a Steelhead".

Done now,

Ard



Quite frankly I find it hard to believe that this writing pissed someone off enough to call me out on the open thread but that was the result. I am now staying home, here on NAFFF and on the other Fish & Fly websites because I was truly shocked that anyone could possibly think that I went to all that writing just to cast aspersions on someone.

This country is truly wound way too tightly at this time. It would appear that even a short article about fishes and fishing can be the trigger for someone to take umbrage over the content. Weird thing was that the guy who dissented wasn't the same fellow who had ask about fish identification in the first place i.e. he didn't have a dog in the fight but went off anyway. Duh?
 

flytie09

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Ard....I didn't see the response to this post above...and I can only imagine what the response was.....but I can say that I see nothing you wrote as disparaging or illogical or thoughtless. As much as can be said with our written language....much is lost when comparing it to face to face speech in regards to additional meanings from facial expressions, gestures and tone. Perhaps he simply interpreted it different from what you intended. It happens.

I personally would just shrug it off and give the poster the benefit of a doubt. You know better than I, that most members over there are great, thoughtful, and skilled anglers. And you also know that the Steelhead vs Rainbow debate can get rather charged. My views right or wrong....are my opinion based on what I know of the facts. If someone doesn't like it or disagrees.....who cares.

I've gotten into it with members on every fishing forum that I'm a member of over many different topics. Some were simply a misunderstanding, some was a clash with a clique, fly names, firearms, hot spotting and my noobie ignorance. At the end of the day.....I'm still a member of all of them. I am just a little more careful in what I say, consider the audience and to not be tempted to be controversial or argumentative. As a native New Yorker....this can be difficult.

Your insight on nature, photography, angling, fly tying and your stories are valued by many members where you participate. So I'd ask that you rethink the cancelation of your membership. It would be a shame.

With all that said.....is that a Skagit line on that rod? 🧐😂
 

Ard

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Hey buddy :)

Ever since the Great Range War of 2015 or whenever that was I don't say a discouraging word about Skagit lines ever! Even bought some to prove I can roll that way.

I'll get over any hurt feelings, what I think happened was someone read something into what I wrote and thought I was saying something disrespectful about another post and poster. I just wouldn't have taken anyone on publicly when splitting hairs to do so. Not sure that made sense ........

Anyway, it's winter and if I'm ever going to write something lengthy or inspired now is when it'll happen. I actually had proof read that piece before I ever hit 'Post Thread' and thought it was good. I figured it had some of those homey deductions of mine and then led back to a time over 40 years ago when I only dreamed of doing what I can do now. In short, I thought it was the kind of stuff those guys dig hearing.

When I checked back this evening I found a couple "that was great" replies followed by one I didn't get. So I just moved the whole thing here. Maybe I'm a cry baby maybe the other guy is, I'm not sure which but rather than go to a back and forth with someone I took my ball and went home.

Those people will be fine without me. I guess I have to start tying flies so I can have new material to post here.

Here's a really nice fish that seemed good enough to fill the steelhead need.



The fly in his mouth is one of those 4 inch long Big Fat Bunny Fur Sculpins. That's the only image I got because I just slipped the hook off him and he swam away. Although I hear lots of claims about 29 inch trout here I don't break the 2 foot mark every season, many times it'll be you get into a bunch of real brutes one year and the following year you're waiting for your first yet in late October. This October the home river didn't give me one over 5 pounds I don't believe. Got some dandy fish but no giants.

The thing I was going for in the writing was that because I'm in charge of my own mind they are all steelhead when I get them :)
 
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tcorfey

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Ard, some people just like to argue, to bad they like to fish also. If someone asks me about is this a steelhead? I just point to the CA fishing regulations they define steelhead as "a steelhead trout is defined as any rainbow trout greater than 16 inches in length found in anadromous waters." seems simple enough to me. Keep up the writings I enjoy the reading...
 

GEK79

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Hey buddy :)

Ever since the Great Range War of 2015 or whenever that was I don't say a discouraging word about Skagit lines ever! Even bought some to prove I can roll that way.

I'll get over any hurt feelings, what I think happened was someone read something into what I wrote and thought I was saying something disrespectful about another post and poster. I just wouldn't have taken anyone on publicly when splitting hairs to do so. Not sure that made sense ........

Anyway, it's winter and if I'm ever going to write something lengthy or inspired now is when it'll happen. I actually had proof read that piece before I ever hit 'Post Thread' and thought it was good. I figured it had some of those homey deductions of mine and then led back to a time over 40 years ago when I only dreamed of doing what I can do now. In short, I thought it was the kind of stuff those guys dig hearing.

When I checked back this evening I found a couple "that was great" replies followed by one I didn't get. So I just moved the whole thing here. Maybe I'm a cry baby maybe the other guy is, I'm not sure which but rather than go to a back and forth with someone I took my ball and went home.

Those people will be fine without me. I guess I have to start tying flies so I can have new material to post here.

Here's a really nice fish that seemed good enough to fill the steelhead need.



The fly in his mouth is one of those 4 inch long Big Fat Bunny Fur Sculpins. That's the only image I got because I just slipped the hook off him and he swam away. Although I hear lots of claims about 29 inch trout here I don't break the 2 foot mark every season, many times it'll be you get into a bunch of real brutes one year and the following year you're waiting for your first yet in late October. This October the home river didn't give me one over 5 pounds I don't believe. Got some dandy fish but no giants.

The thing I was going for in the writing was that because I'm in charge of my own mind they are all steelhead when I get them :)
Hello I've read some of your posts and you seem genuine honest and have a huge wealth of knowledge and experience.. The joys with the Internet is anyone with a phone or computer can be an a55.. Don't worry about one person being a clown.. ( no offence to clowns) and think about the many who appreciate your time effort and work.. And after reading this I finally know what a steelhead is.. Onwards and upwards Ard...
 
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Ard

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I never meant to start any sort of pity party but looking at the way I presented this bit I concede that I may have been feeling rather badly when I began clicking away at the keys. I'll make one last comment and then let this lie.

All this stuff I've written here or else where was done I believe in two obvious veins or forms, those being either to offer observations and advice or as entertainment to anyone inclined to read what I write. For me it's been that simple, When I give in to an urge to express myself I just follow through without any form of intended malice.
 

GEK79

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I never meant to start any sort of pity party but looking at the way I presented this bit I concede that I may have been feeling rather badly when I began clicking away at the keys. I'll make one last comment and then let this lie.

All this stuff I've written here or else where was done I believe in two obvious veins or forms, those being either to offer observations and advice or as entertainment to anyone inclined to read what I write. For me it's been that simple, When I give in to an urge to express myself I just follow through without any form of intended malice.
Don't mistake my comments for pity.. I don't pity you fella why should I you have written and I enjoy. Someone else didn't. What I'm saying is carry on regardless as we know our universe is full of eejits and thankfully they aren't important. So keep writing keep enjoying keep sharing. And I await your next journey.
Gary
 
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