Written by: Eric Strader
[Editor’s Note: This month, three trout guides from Hubbard’s Yellowstone Lodge have embarked on a steelhead trip through Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. They’ll be filing frequent updates on their progress. The anglers—all steelhead novices—are Eric Strader (from Missouri), Robert McCallister (from New Mexico), and Ted Morris (from Pennsylvania).]
Once elk-hunting season is over at Hubbard’s Yellowstone Lodge, it’s time to find the steelhead! Our first stop on the trip is Boise, Idaho, where we met with a few local fishing guides to help us plan our trip to the Olympic Peninsula, as well as a few places to fish along the way. We set up our temporary camp at a friend’s house in Boise. We tied flies and met with a few guys who had fished the Olympic Peninsula for some advice on what flies and what methods of fly fishing would work best. It sounds like, at this time of year, it’s big flies to attract those A-run fish that are up in the system now.
Once we had some basic information about the “OP,” as they call it, we found a few places to fish close to Boise. We headed to Riggins, Idaho, where we fished the Little Salmon River. What a way to break us in steelhead fishing! Holy cow! We all caught our first steelhead by nymphing with egg cluster patters and stonefly nymphs. We had a great experience learning the different types of runs that steelhead hang out in, as opposed to the rainbow trout we’re used to catching.
So what we have learned so far—this being our first experience—is that the steelhead that we were fishing for liked to hold in the slower sections of the pools and behind big rocks or structure in the middle of the pools. We will use what we have observed, and hopefully it will pay off for us as we fish some of the bigger waters on the OP.
We stopped in Seattle to visit a few friends. None of us had been to Seattle before, so we took a day to see the town. We went to the local fish market, and it was really great seeing the guys who work there throw the fish all over the place. Next, we headed to Forks, Washington—out on the OP—where we anticipated catching tons of steelhead!
We arrived in Forks on the 20th and found the closest campground to the Bogachiel Hatchery we could. We had heard that this is where the biggest run of steelhead had been reported in the area. So we dropped the camper and head to the local “fly shop,” which is also a grocery and hardware store! We all got our fishing licenses, which also come with a handy parking pass for the boat ramps in Washington.
We headed down to the Bogachiel River downriver from the hatchery and found are a ton of people fishing. I’m talking like every 20 yards, there was a fisherman for as far as we could see, around the bend of the river. So we hiked down, and as we walked along past the fisherman, we could see every so often that a fisherman had a couple of steelhead on a stringer in the water. So we kept walking down past all of these anglers to find a spot to fish, until we came to a place where there is a big boulder just off the bank. It looked like a great run, one that surely held some steelhead.
Teddy took the first shot at them with his 11-foot switchrod. He fished for a while with no luck, and then Robert jumped in with a10-foot 7-weight. He was casting a size 1/0 egg hook and about half of a packof egg yarn! Robert fished for about 30 minutes, and then Ted jumped back in and tried to swing some flies with the switch rod. No luck.
This first day on the OP proved to be a challenge, with the number of other fisherman and the tough spots to wade, but we have learned some valuable information. The wading will be tough and we are counting on itto rain almost everyday that we are here, so it’s back to the trailer to tie some flies and we’ll get after it again tomorrow!