I’m going to be resurrecting a piece I wrote and had published a few years ago about swinging flies for steelhead, the most noble of fish in my eyes. First though I feel the need to fill you in on some distinct facts about these lovely creatures. If you’re a chrome fanatic please feel free to pass over the introduction and read the meat, but for the uninitiated here’s some background on Pacific Northwest Steelhead.
First off, they’re trout, simple enough; a rainbow trout is a steelhead and a steelhead is a rainbow trout. They are genetically identical! Wierd huh? Steelhead are basically trout that either think they are salmon or, like one of your weirder buddies or cousin when you’re about to head out on a road trip, want to just tag along. and tag along they do! They travel from the natal rivers they inhabit and head down river around or over dams and falls. They have to pass through the gauntlet of predators ranging from birds and furry mammals to us fisherman, some of who are more akin to furry mammals but I won’t disclose their true identities. Once out “in the salt” they live for anywhere from 1 to 3 years eating, living and growing, growing strong and building their determination.
They will need it. The steelhead that call the Salmon River here in Central Idaho home have an immense and amazing journey ahead of themselves and many of them will never complete that journey. OK get this: They have 900 river miles to go to get home! That’s right, that trip they tagged along with the salmon has taken them a 1000 miles from home and the only way they are going o get any nookie is to return from where they came! “CRAP! What was I thinking?” at least that’s what I think the fish are saying. Soooo up they come, yes up, upriver. Against the current. bit by bit, over rapid, cascade and falls. Up fish ladders that accompany huge dams, past seals, birds and fishermen, they swim, AGAIN, to get back home. WHEW! Home at last! Find your redds, the gravelly sections of the river that steelhead need to lay their precious eggs, Cue the Barry White. Where’s that fat sexy hen? ahhhhh sookie sookie! We makin whoopee!
With that accomplished you would think they are like salmon, have sex, mope around for a bit, keel over and die. With that death the salmon are completing the cycle of life and returning the nutrients gathered at sea to the headwaters of that watershed. It is this ending of life that promotes a healthy and vibrant fishery. The bugs small fish and plants that live in thee waters thrive off of those dead carcasses, its how God made it. Why can’t man figure that out? That’s fodder for another post. Lets get back to the post sex antics of the steelhead Cousin salmon has given up the ghost and is fertilizing the river , maybe the steelhead will join them….. NOT! Steelhead don’t die after spawning. That’s right you read it correctly. Salmon wuss out and give up the ghost while steelhead on the other hand get a bit more stubborn. They may stay in the river to live a life as a rainbow again or as often as not, turn and swim back out to the ocean to do it all over again,. Isn’t that crazy? I mean 2000+ miles till they procreate again? If you ask me that is crazy! To Salmon river steelhead that’s just business as usual. They may do that 2 more times! A 3 “salt” fish is a true beast and can get to be over 25-30 pounds. Now you know why I have such admiration for these fish. Think about it, when you hook into one of these fish you are pitting your skills as an angler against an adversary that has hundreds and hundreds of miles of experience under its belt, and is a highly conditioned athlete. We’re not talkin’ ’bout some fat lazy lake trout, we’re talking about a truly accomplished opponent, a highly skilled swimmer who has become rock hard, all muscle and determination for one goal, SEX!. On the end of your line these creatures are more like chrome demons than a mere rainbow trout. It’s here that I’ll stop with the information and background. Next post: The Chrome Demons