New Year, New Fish

It’s a new year again across the globe and here in the Pacific Northwest that means Winter Steelhead season is officially in full swing. From Northern California all the way up to Seattle and far beyond, steelhead and the anglers that chase them are returning to the rivers that they call home. The beginning of every Winter season draws folks on a epic journey, often with hours and hours of Westward driving, until finding ones self looking out across the vastness of the Pacific. Followed by the wandering thought of how many of those mythical beings could be swimming by out of sight.

December and January are an exciting time to be at the beach in the Pacific Northwest as a fly fisherman. Rivers swell with an emerald flow not seen for months, and the ruts formed on gravel bars throughout the summer become hidden lies for a traveling Steelhead. It is true that there are few moments in the year that bring out such an overwhelming sense of promise in an otherwise trying endeavor.

These new fish entering our rivers bring the opportunity to employ different methods while presenting a swung fly. For instance this is the time where fishing weightless flies and light tips is a viable option even in turbid flows. Often times you’ll find the best looking water, and the water you find the most fish in, is within 15′ of the bank. A situation where 12′ of T-anything with weighted flies just won’t fish, and making a beautiful 90′ cast is not necessary. This is all just to say the early Winter season can offer a break from some of the more aggressive techniques employed at other times.

Now, there’s more to Winter Steelhead than coastal rivers and the tactics employed on them. With the average flows of Winter being substantially greater than that of the Summer, fishing farther inland as the year progresses is a great choice. With more water and less time, Winter fish generally get to their destination faster than their warm weather cousins. Knowing this an angler who is 100 miles from the ocean can have a reasonable expectation at an encounter with a bright, thrashing, brute of a Steelhead. The fish may not have the clear fins and sea-lice, but they will be every bit as impressive.

The further from the ocean that Steelhead are being chased the more technical the fishing can be. Fishing inland rivers in the Winter can be very rewarding for the angler willing to adapt his/her approach. In fact I find that a fish caught here at home in the Rogue Valley brings me a greater sense of accomplishment than one hooked a few miles from the Sea. It’s a personal thing, but I find myself fishing in more challenging situations the farther from the ocean I get which in turn brings a bigger reward when a fish moves to the fly.

Winter is a wonderful time of year to be fishing many rivers West of the Cascade range, whether that be within eye sight of the beach or way up the creek. I’ll be spending my time for the next few months trying to take advantage of as much as I can, having no favorite other than being out there in search of a fish. I’m currently booking guided day trips on the Upper Rogue River for February-March; If you’re interested in getting after it for a day or two in the near future I’d love to help make that happen. Contact me through email or Social Media for the most timely response!




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