A Beginner’s Journey Into Steelheading: Advice

12 September 2014
Comments: 6
12 September 2014, Comments: 6

My journey has been set.  Dates booked, reservations made, equipment gathering is in full force.  I am going steelheading.  Since my first post went live a few weeks ago; I have received a steady income of advice from many, willing to share their knowledge of chrome hunting.  From equipment recommendations, fly advice, book suggestions, and even a little Rogue River area knowledge; I have talked to lots of generous folks that have been of great assistance.  If you are one of those who have given me the guidance of a sage and mentor or lent me a book or fly line, thank you.

However, of all the advice I have received from many; one suggestion has been consistent across the board.  After talking rods and books, lines and snap-t’s; a moment of short silence always precedes the most stark of suggestions.  Sitting as a punctuation more than a sentence; the advice is thus:

“Don’t do it.”

What?  Excuse me?  Did you just say “don’t do it”?  Don’t fish for steelhead?  Are you joking?  You just spent the last 5 minutes telling me why you are a skagit over scandi kinda guy.  Now you are telling me don’t go!?

I didn’t get it at first.  It sounded brash and prideful.  An, “I am better than you” display of arrogance out of experience.  After about the second or third time this suggestion was spoken to me, I realized it was not a statement of disgust with my beginner status.

It was a warning.

A warning to keep me sane.  A warning to keep me sleeping at night and focused on my life here, in Colorado.  After all, I am a husband and a father; this advice is to keep me uncorrupted.  It seems they fear that should I continue on the path that I am on, I will sooner or later actually hook into a steelhead.  As Steve Meyers gave it to me straight:

And if you hang a steelhead, god forbid, your life will be pretty much over.”

Well, just like a 5 year old who received a warning from his parents that I shouldn’t drink the Tabasco Sauce I just discovered in the fridge; curiosity is getting the best of me and I am going bottoms up.  What was that slogan from the meth commercial…”not even once?”  Well I am my own man, I can quit anytime I want!


Pro skater Rob Dyrdek said it best:

“Sometimes we get red flags and we shew ’em away.  Just shew ’em away”.

So with red flags firmly shewed away and completely ignored (is there any other way to live life?), I have embarked on the quest that has corrupted and broken many a perfectly good fly fisherman.  Like I said, I have received some great advice along the way.  Some of this advice can actually be read in the comments of my previous post on being a beginner steelheader.  Other advice I have received from longtime spey casters, regional Oregon fisherman and guides, and others who just like me; are still starting out.

Two great gems of advice came from a phone conversation I had with Chris Anderson at Sage Fly Rods.  The first piece of wisdom was strangely stark until I understood his second tidbit of wisdom.  The first being:

“Trout fishing is not Steelhead fishing”.

Wait, aren’t steelhead just sea run rainbow trout?  I mean, they may eat and behave a little differently from trout, but how different is steelhead fishing really?

However, his second quote kind of brought the first into perspective.

“It’s not about numbers, it’s about moments”.

Now this second quote was actually Chris quoting his friend Dax Messett.  These two ideas tend to be difficult for someone like myself, a Colorado trout fisherman, to fully grasp.

And no wonder too.

We as trout fisherman, tend to make it all about numbers.  We want to outdo our friends on the water; we want to be the best fisherman in any group.  Fish length and weight as well as the amount we catch can make or break our day.  We tend to forget the moment and look to the next likely holding water.  We want to be the best.  For what reason?  I am not sure.  Bragging rights maybe.  Selfish and petty pride probably.

When you really think about being better at catching trout than all your friends; is this a worthy ambition?  Wouldn’t having the best time possible with your friends irregardless of fish count be the most important.  Wouldn’t being a better friend be more important?  Shouldn’t spending time on the water in quiet solitude trump a victory yell and hero shot?  I realized for myself that at times, I desire that lonely top spot.  Maybe steelhead can teach me a thing our two about trout fishing.  Maybe about life in general.

Now I don’t want to get all deep into this subject; but the truth now remains in my conscious and subconscious: trout fishing is not steelhead fishing.  I should just forget everything I know, and start anew.

And start anew I have.  Spending time on the water with a two hander to work on my supremely terrible spey cast.  Pouring over books on steelhead techniques, tackle, and flies.  Asking anyone who has put steel to chrome, “got any advice for me?”.

Steelhead Books

A few study materials.


Andy McKinley
Andy manages Duranglers Flies and Supplies online store and web content. When he is not plugging away in the basement of Duranglers, he can be found in the shop talking weird flies, throwing spey casts for few fish, eating pizza, drinking coffee, painting, and raising a family in Southwest Colorado.

His fly fishing writings have been published on blogs such as the Daily Drake and Simms Wading Room.

6 responses on “A Beginner’s Journey Into Steelheading: Advice

  1. Loren says:

    Pin reel & rod. Float, split shot , micro swivel , pink bead, pink spawn sack

  2. Jim says:

    Kiss your wife and child goodbye. Get a part time job to pay for travel and gear. If you’re lucky you’ll get a small hatchery fish the first time out and you can say “There I’ve tried it and I can go back to Colorado and resume my life”

  3. […] Part 2: A Beginner’s Journey Into Steelheading: Advice […]

  4. […] Part 2: A Beginner’s Journey Into Steelheading: Advice […]

  5. […] should have taken the advice before I went.  Or not.  I can’t decide yet.  Either way; I went steelheading.  I can […]

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