McKenzie River Rainbow

Wild McKenzie River Rainbow

This is a very short piece about a very complex topic.  My intention is to put a few ideas out there for people to consider, and present a little information that will keep people’s brains wrapped around the challenge of managing wild fish in a world where hatchery fish are still very popular, and are, at the very least, part of the psyche of the modern industrialized world.

Here is an example of the sort of statement I have often heard.

“There’s no such thing as a wild rainbow in the McKenzie anymore.”

Let me try to answer this one.

Here are some key definitions central to this discussion, quoted from the ODFW 2005 Native Fish Status Report.  I have added a short comment behind each definition

Hatchery-Produced Fish: a fish incubated or reared under artificial conditions for at least a portion of its life. (Jay’s note:  hatch box fish, fish produced by placing fertilized eggs in a gravel spawning channel, and unfed fry released into streams are all classified as hatchery fish.)

Naturally Produced: fish that reproduce and complete their full life cycle in natural habitats.  (Jay’s note:  ODFW does not formally use the term wild fish anymore.  I think this was a word-choice intended to avoid the ambiguity and acrimony associated with the wild-fish versus hatchery-fish advocates.  Solution?  Avoid use of the word “wild.”

Native Fish: indigenous to Oregon, not introduced. This includes both naturally-produced and hatchery-produced fish. (Jay’s note:  brook, brown, and lake trout are not native to Oregon.  Bull trout, rainbow, cutthroat, Chinook salmon, and so on, are native.

Indigenous: means descended from a population believed to have been present in the same geographical area prior to the year 1800 or from a natural colonization of another indigenous population.  (Jay’s note:  in order to be considered indigenous, a McKenzie trout must be descended from the stock of rainbow present before non-indigenous peoples started messing around with fish by moving them around and culturing them in hatcheries, or by a natural colonization by another un-messed-with population

Population: a group of fish originating and reproducing in a particular time which do not interbreed to any substantial degree with any other group reproducing in a different area, or in the same area at a different time. (Jay’s note:  some formal definitions of salmon, steelhead, and trout populations used by ODFW probably reflect lack of information, rather than genetic analyses that demonstrate reproductive isolation.)

In the vast majority of situations, the terms native and indigenous may be used in the same sentence when referring to a naturally produced fish.  Here’s an example: native, indigenous Rogue River spring Chinook salmon.

Rarely, a native salmonid population could be non-indigenous. Here’s an example: Cascade lakes rainbow.  These rainbow are native to Oregon, may be naturally produced, but may not be indigenous to the lakes where they are present, as the lakes were barren of trout before rainbow were originally introduced by back- and horse-packing.  At the moment, I cannot recall other instances of native salmonids that are not indigenous in Oregon, especially in rivers.  Anyone want to help out here?

Here’s a really interesting twist:  a trout could be a native, indigenous, naturally produced fish, or it could be a native, indigenous, hatchery-produced fish.

Huh?  Yep.  An Elk River hatchery Chinook is native, indigenous (derived from Elk River Chinook, and raised in a hatchery.  So here in one river we have naturally- and hatchery-produced, native, indigenous Chinook.

Now let’s get back tour topic question.

Are native, indigenous, naturally produced rainbow trout still present in the McKenzie? In my opinion, the answer is – absolutely – yes. Genetic studies of upper Willamette basin rainbow trout indicate that rainbow in the McKenzie, Middle fork Willamette, and areas above the Calapooya are very different from the domesticated trout that have been stocked here for many decades.  These naturally produced, native, indigenous trout are also very different from O. mykiss we find today in Cascade tributaries downstream from Harrisburg (i.e., Calapooya, Santiam, Molalla, and so on) where native, indigenous winter steelhead populations are present.  Remember, the McKenzie does not support native anadromous winter or summer steelhead populations.

The good news in all this is that there are indeed naturally produced, native, indigenous rainbow trout in the upper Willamette basin, including the McKenzie.  To me, this translates to:  “like dude, there really are wild rainbow in the McKenzie!”


New Convention for Fly Line Weights: Bunny Grams

Fly Fishing Glossary:  Bunny Gram (not Graham)

Formerly, the weight of fly lines, including Spey Heads and tips, was measured in grains (gr).  This was convenient and scientific at the time.  The convention allowed fly fishers to say crud like, “dude, I was like chucking out a 480 gr Skagit Compact head with twelve feet of T-14 and a super-thingy fly.”

The accepted line classification convention allowed anyone to know that their sink tip weighed about 168 gr, because T-14 weighs-in at roughly 14 gr per foot and 14 x 12 is, duh, 168 gr.

Well folks, this is waaaaay too lofty for my tastes.

Soooooo, I have developed a new fly-line comparison methodology, one that I intend to apply as an early adopter of beneficial and creative new technologies and thought processes.

Simply, I will now refer to Spey fly lines, shooting heads, and Spey tips in terms of Bunny Grams.  Bunny Graham Crackers are one of the few dessert delights that I am officially approved to consume.  Zero cholesterol, just a little fat, some chocolate zing and sweet enough.  They go good with morning coffee, beans and rice for lunch, and beans and rice for dinner.

It occurred to me that these little babies were more useful than simple snacks though.  And when Lisa pointed out that I had not correctly spelled “graham” in my recent fishing trip report, it came to me in a flash.  That was not a mistake.  It was intuitive transmigration across frontal lobes (scary territory) to expand my conceptualization of the marvels of the Bunny.

See?  These little crackers should not just be eaten; they should be used to communicate the weight (gram – get it?) of fly lines and tips.  For ease in communication, I will abbreviate Bunny Gram as Bg.

Now, instead of saying that I fished a 168 gr tip, I’ll report that I fished a 10 Bg tip.    Here’s the math.  Twelve feet of T-14 weighs 168 gr.  The same 12’ of T-14 weighs 10 Bunny Grams, so the 12’ tip is really  a 10 Bg tip.

Delving deeper, because I know you want to, one foot of T-14 is represented by 0.83 Bg.  And 1 Bg weighs 16.8 gr.

This is all really straightforward, like most of the stuff we fly fishers jabber about incessantly.  Failure to grasp the ingenuity of this new convention for comparing fly lines suggests a need to take up gear fishing.

Ahhhhhh, the game just got a little clearer.


Winter Steelhead flies: What Size is Best?

Winter Steelhead Flies – What Size Fly is Best?

One of my dear friends believes, to the core, that big fish want big flies.  Big flies are indeed the latest rage these days.  Most of the summer steelhead flies I tied in the 1970s were #6s and the winter steelhead flies were #4s.  These days it seems that a fly in that size-range would be better suited to spring creek trout than steelhead.  Big MOAL Leech flies, Intruder style flies, and Articulated Leeches seem to be what fly anglers are buying, tying, fishing, and talking about these days.

Photos of king salmon caught in Alaska usually display an Intruder-like fly hanging from the corner of the salmon’s mouth.  The same is true, more or less, of all the photos of Sandy River steelhead held by Mark Bachman’s clients.  Big nasty, undulating flies are front and center wherever I look.

Here’s an example.  I had the good fortune of fishing with Mark Bachman and Josh Linn – fly fishing guides of the highest caliber and Sandy River experts.  Thanks to them, I experienced fantastic river-time, improved my casting, got tugged, got grabbed again, laughed, showed mark how to use a Spey rod for a wading staff and even caught a steelhead in water that most people would have considered un-fishable except with a gob of eggs anchored to the bottom. Listen up.  The Big-fly-thing is not a gimmick.  Mark, Josh, and the savvy fly fishers they work with spend a lot of time designing, testing, fishing, and selling these flies because they catch fish – plain and simple.

My winter and summer steelhead flies range from little-bitty-things to scary-big.  Hour for hour on the water, I catch more steelhead on small to medium size flies.  The big flies do bring on the big yank, though, no doubt about it.  And it is indeed addictive.

Searching for steelhead in big open rivers, I think, is one place where the Intruder style fly or the big Leech-type fly is superior to smaller flies, especially in cold winter flows where steelhead may not be prone to move very much to take a small fly that swings by ten feet away from their position.

The exception might be in clear winter flows, even on big rivers, when the fly fisher knows the water well enough to predict the steelhead’s position in a pool or run.  This is more along the lines of fishing to a steelhead than fishing a lot of water not really knowing where a steelhead encounter is more likely to occur.

I’ve been having fun recently making how-to videos with Chris and the Caddis Fly Shop crew.  After some initial camera aversion, I’m getting warmed up and we’ve found that all the usual mistakes, errors, and broken threads are definitely a) going to occur on camera, and b) add a taste of well-appreciated reality to the videos.

Anyway, keep an eye on the Oregon Fly Fishing Blog to see some of the antics as they roll out over the coming weeks.

You will also see Barrett tying flies for winter steelhead; southern-clime bonefish and the like; and yes, early season trout.  Barrett is an amazingly creative tyer and fly fisher; he comes up with new ways to tie old stand-bys and out-of-the-box stuff for fish all over the world.  He can talk tarpon and trout and speak with authority on both.  Me?  No way.

But I’ve had fun sharing some of my large, medium and small steelhead flies, creations both recent (the monster-size Intruder flies) and time-tested.  Check ‘em out on the blog when they roll the videos, and please Chris, delete my terrible bungling whenever you can.

As far as the best size for your steelhead fishing goes:  fish the fly you have greatest confidence in.  Big fly or small fly, concentrate on presentation and fish well; the fish will come, eventually.


Winter Steelhead Trip Report January 24, 2010 …

Flies were swung in the rain.

Good flies.

Well tied.

Big-ass flies.

The advanced finesse of the three-finger Spey cast (also known as the “look ma, no hands!” was demonstrated in inclement weather.

A hundred-yard-wide river managed to rise up and high-center a driftboat, necessitating debarkation of said boat by Skipper.

Fish leapt mightily out of the water.

Grabs were had.

Laughs were laughed.

12′ 7″ Spey rod was modified streamside to 12′ 1″.

Biscuits and Gravy were consumed by non-cardiac patient fly fisher.

Driftboat trailer wheels hopped two feet into the air over railroad crossings, catapulting boat contents frisbee-like across the highway.

Now idle Wigwam Burners were seen, rare icons of Oregon logging history.

Home by 6:30.

Stargate was viewed with popcorn, chocolate bunny grams were consumed, and gear dried for the next trip.

A great day of friendship and exploration.  Plans made for future trips.  Thanks given for all our gifts.


2010 Winter Steelhead Season

2010 Winter Steelhead Flies

Here we go.  Barely recovered from the 2009 salmon season, we are ready to go out into the darkness and beat our heads against a post fishing our flies for winter steelhead.

Technically, I know, the winter steelhead season is already well underway.  Not for me.  Not yet.  Not really.  But soon.  Very soon.

This isn’t a high percentage game for most of us.  It sure isn’t a high percentage game for me.  I do have friends who are on the water often enough to know where, when, and how to make winter steelhead predictably rewarding, in the sense that they usually catch one or more fish every day they fish.

Not me.  Too much time at the computer.  Too much time on the phone.  Probably, too much time writing and sketching, and tying flies, and trying to stay current on salmon science and conservation issues.  Oh well.

My winter steelhead days are a success, always, not because I catch fish, although occasionally I do, but because of all the other gifts a day on the water can offer.  Time with friends.  Familiar and new waters.  A good cast.  A new fly to swing.  A ledge just above a tail-out that must be holding two dozen fresh fish.  A grab.  Not falling in.  Falling in but not drowning.  Hot chocolate on the way home. Hugs in the garage as I put my gear across the boat to dry.

I have some new flies ready to go.  I have my old favorites.  I have a new Burkheimer Spey rod rigged and ready to fish, and am expecting another.  I retired my five-season Simms stocking foots and have a one-season pair of waders hung over the side of the drift boat ready to go.  Last time I fished, I took two sets of wading boots.  Figured that back-ups are always handy.  Good thing.  One set wasn’t quite a pair: two right boots.

So I’m ready to dive into 2010 with great expectation.  This will be a fantastic year.  And I remember, now, that winter steelhead are on the front end of  spring Chinook, summer steelhead, fall Chinook and then – winter steelhead, all over again.  A glorious year  ahead.


Chrome or Kelt?

Let’s go back to March of 2006.  I was fishing with two good friends and one of us hooked a steelhead.  Off downstream it ran, well into the backing to make a great head-over-heels leap.  “Chrome!”  one of my friends remarked.  “I’m pretty sure it’s a kelt,” I said.  My buddies weren’t quite convinced, but soon we had the fish close enough to see that it was, indeed a post-spawning female.

By the way, the term kelt refers to a spawned-out salmon or steelhead.  The term was in use on Atlantic Salmon waters for centuries and is used my many here in the Pacific Northwest also.  More often, anglers in this region will use terms like spawn-out, snake, downstreamer, or run-back to identify a steelhead that has finished its reproductive activity and is headed back to the ocean.

The freshly spawned-out female pictured above is what they expected to see, not the silvery fish that we had hooked.  This female still has the rosy opercle and faint but noticeable lateral blush common to sexually mature female steelhead.  The fish’s sex is easily noted by the fact that the head slopes in a smooth convex curve from top of head to the snout.  A male steelhead would have a subtle but noticeable concave dip in this forehead shape.

Female steelhead undergo a striking change in appearance, reflecting hormonal changes, after they spawn.  These post-spawning females will lose their rosy cheeks and lateral stripe, regaining perfectly clean silvery sides and white bellies.  Over the years, I have found a surprising number of steelhead anglers who have not learned to recognize silvered-up kelts from fresh run, chrome steelhead.

Both male and female steelhead change physiologically as they mature prior to spawning.  The physical changes are far more striking in the males than females.  Males become redder, narrower, and their head shape changes more as they mature sexually.  Females to not change their appearance nearly as much as males, although they get quite plump as their ovaries mature and the rosy cheek and red lateral stripe becomes prominent as they approach spawning condition.

Here’s the tricky part.  Shortly after a female steelhead spawns, the henfish experiences a hormonal shift that triggers a seaward migration behavior and a shift to a “smolt-like” appearance.  Exactly how quickly this occurs, I’m not sure.  I suspect it occurs over a few days rather than weeks.  Ideas, anyone?

Post-spawning females transform from exhibiting a broad red lateral stripe to being very shiny.  Their backs will usually be an olive-green instead of the gun metal blue characteristic of a fresh-from-the-ocean, “chrome” steelhead.

Male steelhead are different.  I don’t remember ever seeing a silvered-up male steelhead kelt, although I have seen plenty of male steelhead that were sexually mature and could have been “finished” with spawning activity.

Whereas a female will head back towards the ocean rather quickly after spawning, the spawning activity of a male steelhead is far more protracted; a male  will persist, moving around the river, looking for more females to spawn with and more males to fight.

When a female steelhead deposits her eggs, she’s done.  End of spawning activity.  Hormonal changes and seaward migration usually commences fairly quickly.  Males?  Not so.  They keep at it for a month, two months, before getting the cue to cease and desist.

I don’t remember ever seeing a chromed-up post spawning male steelhead.  I have seen a lot of silvered-up females.  It is common for post spawning steelhead to feed actively on their return to the ocean also, so they can be voracious biters.

This photo shows a fresh run winter steelhead hen.  This female is sexually immature and is a relative newcomer to the river.

This photo shows a ripe male winter steelhead.  Note the distinct red opercle and the slope of the fish’s forehead; both are striking characteristics of sexually mature, “ripe” male.  The maxillary bone is also very dark, another sign of an advanced stage of maturity.

This photo shows a close-to-ripe female winter steelhead.  Note that this fish has only a slight rosy hue at lateral line and on opercle.  This is common for female winter steelhead hens to not display striking sexual characteristics.

This photo shows a post spawning hen steelhead.  This fish is very slim and has regained a “silvery” appearance that could be mistakenly associated with a “fresh-run” fish.  This steelhead was handled gently, photographed, and released.

How often have any of you heard anglers report having caught “chrome” steelhead that had “pale flesh” and “tasted terrible”?   When questioned, I have heard these same anglers say that the fish were fresh because the eggs were “really small.”

I’m guessing that these steelhead were silvered-up kelts: slim, sleek, shiny, and holding next year’s tiny eggs nestled in healing ovary tissues.

I encourage anglers to learn as much as they can about the life history of the fish they so love to catch.  The more we understand and respect these magnificent fish, the more effectively we will be able to advocate for their protection.


Jay’s Santiam Ghost

Santiam Ghost

This is a fly I have been fishing about four years now.  I wanted to combine colors that ranged from subtle to spicy.  I’ve always liked blacks and purples in my steelhead flies.  Gold UV Polar Chenille  makes a sparkly under-veil, and  grey marabou  provides a strong silhouette but is less obtrusive  than a traditional black or purple wing.  This fly really presents an impression that is both gentle and decisive.  Throw on a black bugger marabou tail and a purple collar hackle.  Just  right.

The full materials list is on the Oregon Fly Fishing Blog at:


Journal Entry: North Umpqua, January 8, 2010

Journal Entry: January 8, 2010

Note:  all of these journal entries are true, more or less.  Blatant lies and exorbitant exaggeration will be denoted by a small asterisk (*) at the end of a sentence.  Small inconsequential exaggerations are considered fair game because they either have happened on some other day; may occur at some point in the future; have been experienced by someone, somewhere, probably; or were part of a hallucination that has become real in my mind.

Remember, steelhead are Pacific salmon, so this is still a Salmon Fishers Journal. Ha ha.

I peek at my watch for the umpteenth time.  4:20 AM.  What the hell, I might as well get up.  There are flies to tie and this will be my first day fishing since mid-December.

Frank and Jeanne left for New Zealand on the 7th.  Dale is house sitting.  I can hear him snoring gently up in the loft over the kitchen table.  I make a feeble attempt at starting a fire in the wood stove and give up rather quickly.  Dale will get it going when he comes down.

4:30.  I pull up a chair at the table and stare at a mountain of fly tying junk.  What a mess.  Four vises, a dozen saddle patches, ten thousand hooks, twenty shades of Krystal flash, rubber legs, a dozen shades of dubbing, arctic fox.  Finnish coon.  Egads. Where to start?  Locate scissors and a bobbin.  Decide what to tie.

Nah. Make coffee.  microwave water.  Filter water through coffee grounds.  Awful, but it is caffeine.  Add Swill Miss Hot Chocolate to make it palatable.  Face the fly vise again.

Ahah.  I know what to do.

Hook: size 2, heavy wire.  Thread:  black Lagartun 95 denier X-Strong.  Body: blend trilobal purple, blue, black, and red; add pinch polar white ice dub; finish with another pnch gold ice dub.  Rib:  Lagartun oval silver tinsel.  Hackle:  Kingfisher blue saddle: webby, sparse.  Wing:  six strands Mirage Opal Flashabou.

I secure hook in vise, start thread.  Uh-oh.  No tinsel.  None.  That’s OK.  Frank will have some.  I root around his fly bench.  Nope.  There are probably a hundred snarled old fly lines, tippets, chewed up flies, and abandoned projects.  Only wide Mylar tinsel, which I detest.  No oval tinsel.

OK.  I can adapt.  Sip more coffee.  Rethink fly.  Ah ha.  Got it.  Substitute reverse palmered blue grizzly saddle, very narrow, for the tinsel.  Counter wrap saddle with copper wire for security and fly longevity.

Crap.  No copper wire.  No use scouting Frank’s desk.  There ain’t none there either.


5 AM.  Dale wakes and joins me.  He struggles with a smoky fire and finally succeeds.  Hot water, and maybe, good coffee will soon follow.  Dale sits across the table from me and we both stare at our vises.  I start with a big rabbit leech.  Nothing to tax my brain here.  I use some cool lookin’ two-tone crosscut colors that are sure to attract monster steelhead.  Dale secures an Eagle Claw 1197-b in his vise and gets started on one  of his signature traditional steelhead flies.  We tie and tie some more.

10 AM.  Our neighbor friend knocks, shoves the door open, and pulls up a chair.  He eyes one of the flashy monster flies I have been tying and shoots me a look of disapproval.  That’s hardly fly fishing, he’s thinking.  He is a traditionalist, like Frank and Dale.  You probably brought a Spey rod too, he remarks, half kidding, half deriding.

11 AM.  We stuff ourselves in waders, borrow Frank’s magnetic rod carriers, and pile into my 4-Runner.  Off we go.  Dale and our neighbor strategize as we drive the river.  Color is good.  The water is maybe 3-inches too high, but fishable.  Fish should be moving today.  There should be old summers and a few early winters around.  I get detailed over a roadside bank.  See that rock there?  See the tuft of grass in the water.  See if you can get out there without drowning.  Make your cast to swing across that big boulder.

I do as instructed, more or less. Be careful about that loose boulder.  Go to the right around that tree.  Avoid the poison oak. Tentatively make my way out to the tuft.  A coho carcass lays on the bank nearby, feeding river life.  I balance precariously and roll out a cast.  I am fishing my brand-spankin’-new Burkheimer 7127-4.  I have been dreaming about making Ed Wardish casts for a month.  Unfortunately, there is no way to achieve a D loop so I resort to messy splatting and roll casting until my fly swings through the targeted area.  Third cast I feel a tug.


Three hours slip by in an instant.  Good conversation.  Days gone by:  fish hooked, lost, and landed over the years.  Holes changed.  More people.  Dastardly deeds and unsporting anglers.  People we love and respect.

My casting is world-class.* My companions marvel at my grace and finesse as I fish water they have dreamed about but have been unable to reach with their single hand rods.* I hook a brick-red buck, a big fish, pictured above, and release it as my friends marvel at the fact that i hooked this fine fish behind them, noting the superiority of my presentation and the attractiveness of my original fly pattern.***

4 PM.  I uphold my tradition of nearly always falling in.  My feet slip out from under me in three feet of fast water and I scrabble around for a minute trying to get my feet under me to stand up.  New Cannon G11 is soaked.  I am so disgusted that I throw my rod.  But I make a point to throw it where I can retrieve it easily and the water is deep enough that rod and reel will survive: wet but unscathed.  I release frustration without damaging gear.

Back to the truck.  It was time to go anyway.  And who knows, maybe the camera will dry out.  My companions suggest burying camera in a bag of rice.  This sounds ridiculous to me but I eventually comply.  Nuthin’ to loose, I figure.

6 PM. Dale and I eat dinner and our neighbor joins us at the kitchen fly bench for conversation.  Dale fries up a SPAM and Cheese Sandwich.  Honestly!  Apparently, Dale developed a taste for Spam when he served in Korea.  I concoct a main course of lima beans, black beans, corn, yogurt, and applesauce.

I turn my waders inside out, empty water from fly boxes, hang my flies near the wood stove to fluff out, and use a towel to dry out the insides of my Gore Tex coat.

Dale and I tie flies.  The mess of materials on the table grows.  We listen to a Blazers vs. Lakers game.  Talk turns to salmon season past.  I try to pry our neighbor’s secret salmon patterns.  Without words, his eyes say, “no way.”  I resolve to interrogate him in coming months.  He resolves to resist my prying.  My shoulda-been 20-minute fly turns into a one-hour mess.

Time to sleep.  I turn in and turn off the light.  I got a grab.

Beauteous day.


Traditional Steelhead Flies

Dale Greenley Steelhead  Flies

I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with a friend and old school fly tyer recently.  Dale Greenley tied commercially for Orvis and others back in the 1970s and has fished for salmon, steelhead, sea-run cutthroat, and resident trout in a lot of places.  The Umpqua might be pretty close to what he would name as his home water.

Dale has seen fly patterns slip in and out of popularity.  He tied and fished with Joe Howell on the North Umpqua before it was discovered by the unwashed masses.  Frank and Jeanne Moore pretty much consider Dale family.

Dale and I remember buying our materials from Herter’s.  India capes.  Nymo thread on 8-ounce cones.  Wood clothes pins for bobbins.  Mustad 94840s.  And more.

Anyway, Dale and I sat at Frank and Jeanne’s kitchen table at 5 AM and tied flies.  I tied my Last Shadow getting ready for a fly tying event I was preparing for.  We sipped really bad coffee made palatable with a lot of Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate.  While I used my Petitjean magic tool, stinger hooks, and fancy new grizzly Krystal flashes, Dale tied his elegant traditional steelhead flies on Eagle Claw 1197-Bs.

Dale, in his usual modest fashion, praised my creations while we chatted, and dabbled with some of my favorite dubbing blends.  As I toiled away, Dale crafted steelhead flies that are much unchanged from the once and always dependable flies he has fished on the North for close to fifty years.  Frank, too, fishes these flies today, knowing that they are still effective, after all these years.

I wanted to share a photo of a few of the winter steelhead flies Dale tied last week.  They are a present day reminder that the good stuff never goes out of style.


Thanks Dale.


Blog Topics Preview ….

In the next few weeks, give or take a few, expect to see thoughtful writing on salmon science, fish management policy, thrilling fishing  articles, art, opinion, and wild speculation on the following topics, among others…

Winter steelhead flies.  Big flies are the latest rage, but as Ed Ward (aka Skagit Master) notes, big flies are not always the key to eliciting a gulp from winter (or summer) steelhead.  I will show some of my favorites for winter fishing that range from the 6″ monsters to the 1/2″ teeny-tinies. If I get help, I’ll do some short video clips on tying methods too.

What do steelhead eat?

Not much, usually.  Unless they do. Some get into a feeding frenzy.  Some will only eat Barbie Doll heads.  Go figure.  I will write about the crazy stuff I have found in steelhead stomachs and ask my friends to share their list also.  I have only one photo  so would really appreciate help on this one.  A friend just recently shared this photo – a headless juvenile chinook in the gut of what I think was a hatchery steelhead.

Other topics:

Hook scars on chinook salmon

Scuffed-up cheeks (opercles) of steelhead in the Willamette system.

Salmon Fisher’s Journal

Wild Fish advocacy in 2010

Product reviews (fly tying gizmos, rods, reels, lines and such)

McKenzie River wild trout

Kelts and chromers

Seal marks on steelhead (Golden arches)

….and  more….

Thanks for joining my blog in 2010 – this will be a fantastic year.

Your thoughts and suggestions about topics you would like to see discussed are welcome.