If you jump on Instagram and follow a lot of steelheaders, you will see many hero shots. Many people fish steelhead for different reasons and they think the fish is the ultimate goal but is that the only thing about steelheading that a steelheader loves? Up until a few years ago I never really understand why people would say the fish is just a bonus. However, as I get older and catch more fish, the more it becomes about the experience. That is why you get so many different people fishing many different ways.
Very frustrated looking for that first steelhead
I started seeking the elusive steelhead back in 1994 when I was 9 years old. I craved hours
on the water every shot I got. I would read everything I could about steelhead fishing. Unfortunately for me, the closest steelhead river was the Clinton river. The Clinton river is one of the most over-pressured steelhead streams in Michigan.
April 16th, 2003 I landed my first steelhead
There are much more people fishing that river then there is fish caught. I spent many days on my own trying for this steelhead I heard about. A year would go by without much success. Then another year. Eventually, I started fishing with some pretty good anglers and finally hooked my first steelhead. The curse was finally broken. Steelhead fishing became easier and easier. Although there are still some days that I just can not figure them out.
One of the most asked questions I receive every year is whether or not I like to ice fish. I tell them I have ADD and get really bored staring at holes in the ice. I don’t get the draw of ice fishing but some people don’t get the draw of sitting in knee-deep water in the middle of winter either. I need to move around and have stuff going on. I then tell them I am a steelheader and I fish steelhead 8 months out of the year. They then question my sanity about fishing in the frigid cold in January. I then ask them if they have ever been on a river in the middle of the winter.
The other day I was watching a show and the host, April Vokey, was asked why she loved to Steelhead fish. As I was listening I kept saying “hey, that’s me”. I had many reason why I loved to steelhead but April Vokey really opened up my eyes even more to why I appreciate steelhead fishing as much as I do. As I get older, steelhead fishing has become more about the experience than the fish. Fishing the rivers is really one of the few places that I can completely forget about all the stresses in life. Although I love fishing out of my boat, I really lose myself when I am walking the edge of a steelhead stream not having to worry about anything. The fish are cool but the adventure and places we chase them are what tops it off. I never really cared to leave the state of Michigan to fish steelhead. Now I am thinking about how and where I can chase these fish across North America.
Have you ever sat down to appreciate everything there is about steelhead? I like the anticipation of planning the adventure and then not knowing how the river is going to fish. Will the weather work to my advantage or against me. Will it be stable pressure or will it be a blizzard? I like exploring new places where steelhead might lie. I like the walk to my favorite holes on my favorite rivers or the steps down to the dam. I love the thought process of trying to fool a wary steelhead. I like the rivers, the edges and the holeSitting they’re trying to pick out where a steelhead might lie and what the fish might bite. Will it bite a spawn bag, a stonefly or the million other things? When I finally figure out what I am going to use I then cast to that spot hoping for a bobber drop. Most of the time it doesn’t happen. I will actually snag bottom more than anything else. I cast over and over and over again. Then I move to the next spot and cast some more. I love how steelheads are elusive and I never know where they might be sitting underneath the waters surface. Every steelhead a I catches, have to work for it, whether its tying jigs, spawn or walking to that spot. You might cast all day without a bobber drop but when it does, it’s like you just won the lottery.
Then there are days when I can’t go wrong and I will hook a ton of steelhead. When I am fighting a stubborn steelhead and the fishing is really good I catch myself wanting to get the fish in so I can make another cast to watch that bobber drop again. However, when it slows down it will drive an me nuts trying to figure out a way to get them to go again. I will start thinking of every reason the steelhead stopped biting.
The one thing I love about steelhead fishing is how every fish is different. They are not like a northern pike that all look the same. Some might be chrome. Some might be dark with the dark colors of Christmas. Some might be chrome with a pink stripe down their sides. I never know what the steelhead on the end of my line looks like until it’s on the shoreline.
One of the most prettiest steelhead I have ever landed
I personally think that a lot of us have lost the adventure in steelhead fishing. To some it’s all about looking cool on the river or how many fish they can catch. Don’t get me wrong, I love to hook double digits of fish. But, some people are so obsessed over it that they will be absolutely miserable if they don’t hook at least 5 fish per trip. One of my most hated questions on forums is “are the fish running in this river? Because if they are not, i’m not coming!” Well, if you have that attitude, you should probably just stay home because there is so much more to steelhead fishing then just the fish. And, chances are if your looking for a good bite, you probably already missed it when you get word of it being good.
Although I sometimes am guilty, I have really been trying to take in the adventure when I get to hit the river. When my feet hit that water for the first time I take a deep breath and remember every reason why I love this sport so much. How cool is it that we get to spend time on a river doing something we love? Fish or not, it’s so much better then shopping in downtown New York or working.
So the next time you hit the water, do yourself a favor and sit down during your steelhead adventure. Think of everything steelhead fishing means to you. Why are you a steelheader? What do you love about it? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments or use the hashtag #chromeseekers to show us what you love about steelhead fishing this season.
If you have never ever been steelhead fishing or salmon fishing and want to give it a try, give me a call. I would love to show you why I love this sport so much.
From Steelhead Manifesto