Sight Fishing for Summer Steelhead
If you are lucky enough to have Summer Run Steelhead near by like we do on Vancouver Island then you may already know about the rush it is operate in stealth mode and sneak into a small Coastal Creek, and be able to spot Steelhead, and if you are truly blessed that day to convince them to eat your fly.
Last Summer my buddy Keene and I had heard from a mutual fishing buddy about a small remote coastal creek that was loaded with Summer Steelhead. The Summer had been hot so all the other Summer Run Rivers we usually fished we all low and clear and the fish were hiding in deeper holes or in lakes that feed the system. So we were stoked to hear about a little canyon creek that had some decent water flow that was protected by the heat.
So one Summer Morning we set out with some sketchy directions that included find some old logging road bridge then find a small tiny run off dry creek bed about a km away, find a place to park that hides the truck, and then hike down the dry creek bed for 20 mins into the river canyon. Somehow the sketchy directions work perfectly, except for the wasps nest I found halfway down the Creek bed, and lucky only got stung once on the hand.
When we finally hiked down to the first pool we were super excited and we dumped our packs and rods and started to see if we could spot any fish. It took us about what seemed like 10 mins of searching Keene spotted the first Steelhead. Our excitement level peaked, and we went and found our packs and rods and rigged up. I told Keene he had first shot since he spotted the fish, but the fish was in tight to a canyon wall and was not a great casting angle. I decided to move up river and cross to help spot for Keene. Keene was able to get a few casts in but couldn't get his fly close enough to get the Steelhead to move in the Cyrstal clear pool. I ended up moving downstream to see if I could find a better casting angle, but I ended up spooking another Steelhead that we didn't spot and ruined the pool.
We worked the river from upstream to downstream in similar fashion, but taking a few minutes to spot where the Steelhead were sitting and trying to figure out the best way to present a fly to get them to strike, but the gin clear water didn't help our case as we either spooked or didn't get a reaction from fish after fish.
We finally came down to the largest deepest pool in the river, and it was the spot our friend had hooked and lost a Steelhead the week before. The pool was so deep we couldn't spot any fish, but knew there must have been quite a few in its depths. Again we tried lots of different tactics, using heavy stoneflies on indicators, stripping wet flies, and even a few dries, but could not get anything to bite yet alone get a rise or follow.
At this point we weren't feeling to opportunistic on the days results. The pools we spotted fish were just to gin clear, and there wasn't enough water moving around and the fish were easily spooked. We were already talking about just hiking out and trying another near by River that we knew held fish, when we came upon the next Pool. It a nice small waterfall, giving the pool below just a small ripple, and the water in the pool had a little more color. I was 20ft of so berlow Keene and had hiked down and was stand over a ledge trying to spot fish in the pool, and as Keene came towards me quickly said don't move. There was a lone Steelhead sitting on the just below the edge of the ledge I was looking past. I was too close to make a cast and Keene had the best angle from up above.
He made a perfect first cast with his small muddler landing at a 45 degree angle into the current and started to slowly swing 5ft in front of the Steelhead. Just as the Muddler swung in front it saw the fly and slowly started to break from its station on the ledge, and still slowing moved on the Muddler. Both Keene and wanted yell in anticipation as we watch the fish take what seemed for ever to swim up and take the fly, and he was on.
Once we were sure the fish was hooked, we couldn't keep our excitement in, Keene fought the 6-8lb Steelhead on his 9ft 7wt for about 5 mins before I was able to safely tail the fish and hand him over to him for a photo or two. We took a few quick photos and I also got a video of the release.
At that point we both need to awhile to calm down, and we ended up hanging out at the same pool and ate our lunches until our nerves were back to a good level. We continued downstream for the next few pools spotting a few more Steelhead but not having any more luck the rest of the day. We finally got to the hike out point, and started our 1 to 2 km hike back to the truck, hiding in the trees whenever we heard a vehicle approaching so we didn't give away our new found spot to other fisherman that might be passing by.
Check out more of Keene's Adventures on his instagram page https://www.instagram.com/keene_anderson/