Photos: An Amazing First-Time Steelhead

Written by: Alberto Rey

Gina Panno-Gibboney with a gorgeous steelhead caught on her first day as a fly fisher.
Photos by Alberto Rey

A couple weeks ago, a father hired me to guide him, his wife, his daughter, and her husband. The father and mother had fished 30 years ago, and the the other couple had never picked up a rod before. At this point in the season, I had planned to take them trout fishing and had hired another guide, Nick Sagnibene, to help me with the beginners.

The whole family celebrated Gina’s achievement.

Usually, by this time of the year, the warmer temps push the steelhead back into Lake Erie, and the smallmouth bass start to trickle into the streams as the bug hatches start enticing the brown trout to  rise in our inland streams. As often happens, our plan changed because all the local trout streams got blown out the night before. Since, we have had cool temperature our entire spring, I figured that there might still be some steelies around, with a few smallies mixed in. So we went to one of my favorite little streams, which is at its peak when everything else is high and muddy.

The big steelhead swan out from beneath a ledge to smash this Purple Zonker.

After a few lessons on the water, we started hunting fish and soon saw some steelhead moving up. A few minutes later, I spotted a large tail sticking out from beneath a ledge under a waterfall. I asked the daughter, Gina Panno-Gibboney, to cast the large purple Zonker into the pool. The fish came out to check it out, but swam them back under the ledge. I repositioned Gina so that the current would move the fly closer to the fish. On her next cast, the steelie hammered the fly, and the fight was on! Gina fought the fish like a pro, and a few minutes later, I was barely able to fit the large steelhead into the net.

Alberto Rey is an Orvis-endorsed guide, an artist, and a faculty member in the Department of Visual Arts and New Media at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

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