Steelhead fishing is an exercise in patience, no matter where you chase these majestic fish. My first two steelhead trips were fruitless endeavors—I spent hours casting over Idaho’s Salmon River with nothing to show for it but a sore shoulder a bout with frustration. It’s a thinker’s brand of fishing, which makes it easy to overthink and try and do too much.
I was guilty of that, for sure. I changed flies dozens of times. I moved around too much, or, in some cases, not enough. I thought, as a seasoned trout angler, that I could read steelhead water just as I might read a stretch of Henry’s Fork trout water. I failed miserably.
The video above is perhaps the best primer for anglers who chase steelhead I’ve seen. First, it’s simply beautiful. Todd Moen did a great job creating this film. Second, the snippets of advice are true gems. As the angler notes, it’s often not so much about the fly pattern, but about the confidence you have in that pattern to fish it. He also talks about shooting heads and weight and the “little things” that often result in big fish coming to hand. Most importantly, I believe, was the admonition that just fishing a fine stretch of river consitutes a good day. Finding and landing chromer? Well, that’s just the gravy.
Winter steelhead fishing in the Northwest is at its peak, and fish are in the system in good numbers. It’s all about finding them. This short film should give you the inspiration you need to hit the water with some courage, knowing that just being able to go fishing is worth the effort to get to the river.
— Chris Hunt