But it turns out he was in good hands. His guide was Michael Decoteau, originally from Maine, and now owner of Red Spot Fly, his own fly tying business in Ohio.
But I'll let John tell about his trip.
finally had a really good trip for steelhead.
In terms of how my fishing season has started, i feel like i've just had the fishing equivalent of a 15-run first inning -- i'm starting the game way ahead.
i landed at least 10-12 fish. hooked briefly, or touched at least a half dozen more. we didn't photo all the fish caught. after awhile, you just smile, toast the fish and let it go. all but two of the fish were on an egg/bead drifted under an indicator. i did hook and land two while swinging a fly; missed 2 or 3 on that method.
anyway, it was an eye opener for sure. best part was how pretty the fish are. some look tired, but so do some of those western fish.
and thinking more, not all western steelhead do the screaming run thing. our Ronde fish were all quite catchable -- at least mine was. and my first ever steelhead on the Snoqualmie River near my friend's place was an 8-9 pound female that took the fly at the head of the run, and stayed within 50-60 feet the entire fight. so, seriously, i've concluded that western steelhead fishing and great lakes steelhead fishing are mutually exclusive; they can't be compared, only contrasted. its a different ball game, and i want to play both as many times as i can.
both michael and i lost our final fish of the trip in the same pool, and both would have been the biggest of the trip. i hooked mine first, near the end of a longish slow run. a tall shale cliff was opposite, and there was a long shale shelf running the length of the run. my fish was sitting right at the edge of that shelf. this was late on friday, and by then the water had warmed from about 38 to maybe mid 40's and the fish were noticeably more active. in my case, this fish simply didn't allow me to stay parallel with him -- he kept wanting to go downstream in a big way. long story short, in spite of michael's counsel that i don't go any further downstream (fast water, ledges, and blowdowns) i had no choice but to follow. before we could do anything, the fish was hanging in very fast water and the hook pulled. 20 minutes later, michael hooked a big fish near the head of that run. same story. no matter how he tried, he couldn't keep the fish in the pool and it was lost in the fast snaggy water below.
John summed it all up in another email to a friend:
'First, every fish i caught was beautiful -- not stunted, dark, beat up old fish that i sort of assumed was what great lakes steelhead are like. Second, steelhead fishing in the NW is a completely different situation and philosophical endeavor than great lakes steelhead; there are too many differences, one of the biggest of which is the habitats of the fish. The big brawling rivers of the NW, with long runs and pools enable those fish to turn their body into the current and make those long screaming runs that we all learned was what steelhead fishing is all about. And those same rivers are most conducive to swinging a fly, something we atlantic salmon anglers can relate to, and love to do. But out here, the rivers are small, with short runs, pools, and pockets ('buckets'), and shale edges to provide cover instead of deep runs and heavy rapids. As Michael Decoteau put it, you have to find and fish hiding water for GL steelhead instead of the 'classic' holding water. And, except for too-few exceptions, the best way to get these fish is to dead drift a fly under an indicator. As a steelhead angler, i hate the idea of drifting a fly. But as an angler pursuing REALLY big, beautiful rainbow trout in small intimate settings, i can definitely adapt to that technique.'
Having said that, he then added for me:
I think i'll try to do all this again.
Attaboy. So yep, we're making plans for a northern foray. Now that he's the expert...
Meanwhile, we're both concentrating on our respective home waters and the opportunities opening up for us this spring.
I still hope to make a trip down to Lenore Lake for cutthroats before Trout Lake opens on the 27th. And then I plan to get reacquainted all over again with that beautiful lake and its beautiful trout. It's been six months since I've caught a Brown!
And John...well, here's what John is dreaming about:
the shot of the flies that i've attached had nothing to do with the steelhead fishing, except that i got so completely jazzed about fishing for big fish that i am now fixated on early fishing for big brookies and landlocks in northern Maine on heavy streamers -- the fish are coming up out of the lakes into the rivers chasing spawning smelt. So, i fell asleep at the tying bench late one night; in my dream, i fell into the river and saw schools and schools of minners swimming by being chased by giant brookies, and then i woke up and there that same school of minners was, right on my tying bench!