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platte_fisher 02-21-2013 09:21 AM

Steelhead woes

I am currently visiting the North Coast of California (Humboldt County area) and have been out a few times to the Mad River tossing in my line. I have been picking up as much info as I can from the local fly shop and the good old internet, but I do have some questions if any of you have some time to answer.

It seems like unless you happen to hit the river during a run that the chances of catching a steelie (or anything for that matter) is very very low. Not only have I not hooked anything, but I haven't seen anyone else hook anything either. So I'm just wondering if it's kind of a go as much as you can and hope?

The other part is that the shoreline is usually not passable and the river is deeper and stronger than I want to cross so I don't have the option of covering much water without getting back in the truck and driving til I see another opening in the brush/trees along the shore. Maybe thats just how the fishing is on this river, but golly. It seems like a lot of trouble for the low chance of result. Then again maybe I just don't have the steelhead knowledge/experience though I have been fishing Colorado for years and am quite confident in my abilities (in mountain rivers at least). These coastal rivers seem to be giving me a run for my money and like I said I haven't seen a single hookup from anyone else while I'm out there either.

So maybe it's just a tough low percentage process rewarded by that one day you get one or two big old steelies trying to take your fly back to the ocean?

Am I understanding it correctly or is it my lack of experience on these coastal rivers?

Take care and tight lines

brookfieldangler 02-21-2013 09:39 AM

Re: Steelhead woes
I can't really help you with the specific river you are fishing, but I can empathize.

I started steelheading 2 years ago and my first season I hooked up with just one fish that I didn't land. Up until last weekend, I was 1 for 13 for the season. I was at least finding the fish and getting them to bite so I was still happy with my progression.

Finally last weekend, I hooked 2 and landed 2. It all just clicked.

What I can say from my experience is that if the fish counts are low, your chances are low as well. This could be said for any species of fish in any body of water. When I first started, I would fish an entire stream...this was the wrong approach.

What I figured out is that you have to focus on the most likely spots where a fish might be. Is there an obvious boulder, a cut, a channel, a seam between fast water and a slow pool, etc....once I started focusing on these spots instead of the entire river, my hook up percentage went waaaay up.

dillon 02-21-2013 11:14 AM

Re: Steelhead woes

Originally Posted by platte_fisher (Post 529306)

Am I understanding it correctly or is it my lack of experience on these coastal rivers?

That's flyfishing for steelhead. If you don't already have one, I think the fishing is more fun with a spey rod...

mikel 02-21-2013 11:46 AM

Re: Steelhead woes
When steelies aren't there, they aren't there. Move to the Klamath or Trinity and either swing or nymph there. Better access from the roads and there are fish there.

Call these guys in Lewiston and they'll fill you in on the Trinity:

Trinity Fly Shop
(530) 623 - 6757

platte_fisher 02-21-2013 08:39 PM

Re: Steelhead woes
Thank you all for the info, I appreciate it much.

@brookfieldangler: Thanks for the encouragement and I have been trying to hit the seams, runs/channels, and around rocks (I've only seen one rock so far) but your increasing success is both worth congrats and encouraging so I will keep trying. Also good job on bringing in those two steelies!

@dillon: That makes me feel better, I was starting to doubt my angling knowledge.

@mikel: I will definitely give them a ring, I just hope I don't bother them with their questions as I'm sure they are more focused on making sales in their shop than answering my questions lol.

And in general: I brought up to the eureka fly shop here that I had not hooked anything and that I had not seen anyone else hookup either. He said that on the Mad River the run happens later in the season starting to heat up in March, so that may be part of it as well. Looking at a book in their shop I also saw that the Eel River, which is fairly close as well, is a more productive steelie river starting earlier and peaking again in March. I guess I may also be a bit early for the winter runs. I'll be here through most of March and will be fishing from now until then before I have to head back home.

Thanks for the info and if I have any successes I will be sure to let you know. Take care and tight lines.

platte_fisher 02-23-2013 10:13 PM

Re: Steelhead woes
Well I went back out on the water this morning and had a great time. I didn't hook up, but I did see two fish! I also found a bar where the river isn't too deep so I was able to get across and cover a little more water. Both the fish I saw were pretty big, I'm guessing about 20+ inches. I thought one of them was dead and stuck on something in the bottom of the river so I walked up to investigate. I got about 4 feet away and notice that it was actually alive and just holding there in the middle of the river.

It was pretty banged up and had some sizable gashes on its back half but I decided to back up and swing a few flies past it anyway. I don't think it was in the mood to feed so it pretty much just ignored me until I went back across the river and then it kind of just floated down the current to another holding spot. Both the fish I saw were in less than 18 inches a water so maybe Ill focus some more attention on the wide shallow parts next time I'm out.

Either way it was fun to be out there and use my new 8 wt rod and reel (my 5 wt wasn't throwing my flies well enough). Maybe itll start heating up on the Mad River in the next week or two and Ill get to land something. Just wanted to post that update. Take care everyone and tight lines.

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