Summer Steelhead

My friend Ryan's summer steelhead.

I have already begun to hear stories of the lower Deschutes blowing up with aggressive summer-run steelhead. Although the summer fish are smaller now than in prime time, they are also more aggressive. Landing more than one steelhead on the same day in the winter is rare, but having a multiple fish day in the summer is a definite possibility. Switching from sinking lines to floating lines and fishing wet flies that hang just below the surface or sometimes waking dry flies is a welcome transition. However, on the local Portland rivers, that line adjustment is not made as quickly or often. I have still been fishing a medium-grade sink tip with long leech patterns that have been enticing the fish to strike. Although I have seen a few slaps on the surface, I’m not yet convinced it’s time for the floater.

Me and a friend woke up early one morning to fish the Clackamas River and try and beat the weekend crowds. We backed the trailer down the boat launch at 6 and there were already four trailers in the parking lot. Now we wake up at 4 if we’re going to fish in the morning. That is another, less welcome, change from the winter. Once the sun hits the water, your chances drop, so it’s not uncommon to put in a full float and be off the water before 11 a.m. You have to get up early to get a chance at the summer fish.

In the second run of the float my friend hooked up with a nice fish and laid the wood to him. The steelhead jumped six or seven times, vaulting itself out of the water trying to spit the hook. After a good hard fight we brought the steelhead to the bank. Measured on our cooler it was 26 inches and we modestly guessed it to weigh around six or seven pounds.

The summer season has gotten off to a great start for a lot of people willing to put in the time and effort to search for fish. Your rewards are much more likely to be reaped in the summer than the long, lonely winter.

Oregon and Washington rivers are all filling with fish and the season is getting into full swing. My goal this summer is to stick at least one steelhead on a dry fly. This is a great time of year to be fishing in the Pacific Northwest.

Wet Boots Are a Way of Life.