From Slow to Amazing – Deschutes Steelhead Experience at Its Best

Fishing had been slow all morning, that said two anglers had several opportunities but did not connect and the other two had 2 fish to hand.  Our final spot loomed ahead as we floated into our lunch run.  Gil had his two anglers spread out and my two joined them.  We were in a favorite spot, one that had delivered before.  A tough few days behind us and we were ready for a hot spot and holding hope that our last one would be it.  That is how it is being a steelhead fly fishing guide; you hope and hope.  Always expecting the best and keep coaching the best casts from your anglers; again hoping when the opportunity does happen-because it will- that they don’t yank that fly out of the fish’s mouth on the first light tap.

Victor was the first to yell out “FISH ON!” Gil and I immediately stopped our lunch prep- Gil grabbing a net and I grabbing the Nikon D7000.  We ran upriver to see Victor fast into a hot fish that wasn’t budging.  This is always fun for me with the camera as I get the opportunity to see Gil at work and get those perspectives that I can’t get when I am holding the net.  About ten photos into the battle I heard it from down below-“FISH ON!”  Matt who was just beyond view below bellowed.  I knew we had a few minutes before he would need the net so we focused on Victor’s fish thinking it was soon coming to hand.  Not so.  It fought tirelessly and Matt belowed again.  I rushed down to Matt this time grabbing my rubberized net and wading in with Matt.  He had a huge smile on his face as the warm sun glinted off his doubled over spey rod.  Matt’s fish was smaller than the one upriver with Gil and we landed them almost simultaneously.  It was then that we looked up to see another outfitter floating by.  Gil told him it had been like this all the way down river- he called b.s.. We did hook a total of 5 fish that lunch time and didn’t burn lunch!

Cast, swing, step is an easy formula.  There is really not that much to it- but there is.  Minute details add up to more success or less.  Here is the simple formula we use for success:

  • Keep moving- steelhead are not hard to convince to bite- they are hard to find.  You have the job of finding them-this run, the next or the one after that.  Keep Moving! Make an effort to consistently move down river for each cast 5-6 feet.  
  • Swing for success- your swing is what catches fish.  Don’t get caught up casting over and over…get the right cast and focus on your swing.  Visualize how the fly is moving.  How fast or slow is it bouncing in chop or dropping in slow water.  Manage your line for an even swing speed and catch more fish.
  • Don’t fish a bad cast.  Multiple casts in one spot are a waste of time.  Unless you see a fish roll or have a steelhead tag your fly and it doesn’t stick only make one cast in each spot.
  • Don’t yank the fly away from the fish.  So often trout anglers get twitchy and upon feeling the first tug of a steelhead take they yank hard.  This simply pulls the fly away from the fish and it rarely ends well.  Steelhead takes are a variety from flat out ON with line peeling off to slow soft tugs that feel like a wet sock just floated onto your line.  Patience at this critical juncture is imperative.  Take a muscle relaxer and respond slowly!
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