A Surprise Crack at a Steelhead

by | Mar 27, 2023 | fly fishing for steelhead | 1 comment

flyfishingThere’s one fish that I don’t think I’ve ever featured on this blog since it started in 2009, that’s the steelhead.  Its not that I don’t like steelhead, I simply don’t find myself in steelhead country when its on.  Today friend Mike LaSota and I headed for a day of winter steelhead on the lush green Nehalem River.


steelheadI know its not really “winter” but it still feels like it here in Oregon.  This has been one of OR coldest wettest March in years.  Lucky me.  Despite being a rare blue sky morning, during our 1hr 45-minute drive the temperature never made it above 33°.


Simms-flyfishingIt was a sunny morning however and once we parked the car the warming began in this beautiful west coast rainforest.  Still, I was a bit stiff and cold as I pried my feet into my worn-out Simms wading shoes.  This body simply doesn’t flex like it used too when it’s cold and damp.


Nehalem-RiverThe Nehalem is a beautiful salmon and steelhead river of northwestern OR.  The State Scenic Waterway is also one of OR longest free-flowing (undammed) rivers.  Once wadered up Mike and I wandered down through the scrub and peered above the stunning water.


flyfishing-Nehalem-RiverMike is passionate about steelhead and salmon fishing.  He used his two handed spey.  I’m notoriously known as the single handed American on Norway’s and Iceland’s salmon rivers so I stuck to my 9 foot 7-weight Winston.  I would have preferred my 9’6” 8-weight but it didn’t make it this trip.


flyfishing-for-steelheadI’ll add that swinging flies is my weak link in fly fishing.  Its not that I’m terrible at it.  20 plus years ago I had an epic steelhead day on the John Day River with Mike.  And in fact, my friend Vladi Trzebunia of Poland coached me well in Norway back in 2010.  Furthermore, my Iceland friends took me to a whole new level during 2014 and 2016 Atlantic salmon trips.  But nonetheless, I get to swing only once every few years.


salmon-riversLittle experience doesn’t slow me down.  Mike and I hiked a lot of gorgeous rainforest hunting a steelhead.  He pointed me to prime spots all day long and I fished them hard and efficiently.


Steelheading is typically slow fishing and often bone chilling too.  Well, this adventure didn’t let us down.  The fish were tough to find and the ice-cold Nehalem took our body temperatures way below normal, especially because by 1 PM the sun was gone and the wind began.  But there were some steelhead.  Out of the blue – it happened.  As my black and purple steelhead fly ended its swing, I got a tug.


Nehalem-River“The Tug is the Drug” the pro salmon and steelheaders say, and they are correct.  I didn’t connect on my “tug” but it was 100% legit and on my next cast I was focused beyond focused. And exactly as my fly ended the swing again, I got the tug again.  This time I connected!


oregonBut connected is one thing.  Keeping my fish on for more than a minute was another.  While usually if you go tight on these oversized sea-running rainbows, they stay on, my fish made several short swerving runs and then came to the surface with a violent headshake.  What looked to be every bit of 30”, the wild OR steelhead shook loose.  Damn!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Fishing from afar, Mike saw my body English.  He was soon on the bank next to me shouting, “You hooked a fish, didn’t you?  I can tell the way you’re attacking this hole again”.


bull-trout-flyIt turns out Mike got a tug fishing above me.  Needless to say, for the next three frigid hours, we both fished our butts off.  I even went as far as to work my run again and again with different flies including one of my bull trout favorites from last week.  Neither of us saw another fish.


We packed it up around 4:30 PM.  Both of us were frozen but not beaten.  I consider myself lucky to have hooked a fish.  In the world of steelhead fly fishing it was just another normal day.  And honestly, a day I truly enjoyed even despite being my first skunking of the year.


steelheadThe weather forecast appears to be crappy again.  Not sure where my next fishing day will be but I’m crossing my fingers for another day on the Columbia before Granny begin our jaunt back east.  Stay tuned!


Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing

1 Comment

  1. Matt

    You should make it back with plenty of time for a (Lake) SUPERIOR Steelhead! A few in the rivers already. Currently you have to walk through 4 feet deep snow and the temp is a little cooler but… the tug!

Welcome to the Blog of Jeff Currier!

Contact Jeff

I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!