Hot Rogue River Steelhead Today

This Rogue River hatchery fish sure surprized me. Not only did he play a little game of chess, he fought as well as a wild native fish would.

Today I found this hatchery buck steelhead who was ready to play. I was fly fishing on the Rogue River around 10:00 AM as the fog was slowly lifting. Casting one of my favorite holes I snagged what I thought was the bottom. A lift of the Spey rod and a fish came alive. He ran down stream and I couldn’t turn or stop him. Before he reached the tail of the hole the hook came out. After resting the hole for a while I went back to casting my Spey rod. It took four different flies to finally get a solid hookup. First fly was a Caleb’s Screamer. I started at the top of the hole and worked my way down swinging the long hackled fly. Finally near the tailout I felt a solid pluck to the fly. He had sucked in the long flowing hackles but missed the hook. Sensing he still wasn’t disturbed I changed the bright fly for a Silver Hilton. Once again I worked down through the hole. Near the bottom I again got a bump, but no hook up. The third fly I tried was a Steelhead Muddler. Not even a swirl to that fly, so I knotted on a Midnight Fire Carpetbagger with a small nymph trailer fly. Again I fished through the hole and this time near the bottom he aggressively grabbed the Carpetbagger and I had a solid hook up. For a hatchery fish this fellow fought well. In fact I thought he was a wild, native Rogue River steelhead until I ultimately landed him. Sometimes you just get lucky and find yourself in a situation where you get to play a little game with the quarry. Ultimately I found the right fly to “match the hatch” with this willing steelhead.

Few steelhead can resist the Carpetbagger Stonefly Nymph.

Carpetbagger Day on the Rogue River

Action came fast and heavy today on the Rogue River with the steelhead grabbing Carpetbagger Stonefly Nymphs with abandom. The first wild native came after only eleven cast of the Spey rod. I was fishing the Carpetbagger with a Beadhead G.R. Hare’s Ear dropper. The second fish struck so savage that the 10 pound Maxima leader parted in an instance. Out of the next three fish I managed to land two hatchery Rogue River hen steelhead. All the fish came to the Carpetbagger Nymph in either the Midnight Fire or Midnight Rainbow colors.

These flys will work now on Rogue River Steelhead

The Carpetbagger Stonefly Nymph tied with the New Age Midnight Fire Chenille.

The Carpetbagger Stonefly Nymph done in Midnight Raibow chenille. This was the original hot color.

The orange egghead Brownbagger is the pattern to use now on the upper Rogue River.

The Carpetbagger series of Rogue River steelhead flies shine even more during the cold months of fall and winter. I’ve narrowed the series down to just three colors of the New Age Riverborn™ chenille body material. The Midnight Fire (color of…) Carpetbagger has been called “the Magic fly.” The pattern certainly lives up to it’s alias during that time. My favorite the Midnight Rainbow (color of…) Carpetbagger is just about always knotted to the end of my leader. The Brownbagger, third in the series, is really two flies in one. It’s copper/brown colored chenille body offers a dark, lively look to the stonefly nymph. The orange beadhead part of the fly can easily be mistaken for a salmon egg by the Rogue River steelhead. Besides the steelhead and ocassional cutthroat trout, one other species of Rogue River fish has been taken with the Carpetbagger Stonefly nymph. Rogue River coho salmon will take the Carpetbagger during their late fall and early winter spawning run. I have had the best luck on coho with the Midnight Rainbow color of Carpetbagger. The method is simple and it is not a fast retrieve, though that may work. The technique is just a hop of the fly, like a jig, during the drift. That little movement of the fly has taken both coho and often sluggish, stale, cold water steelhead.

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Rogue River Steelhead hitting Carpetbaggers and Hare’s Ears

Caught this Rogue River steelhead today on a Carpetbagger and dropper setup. The steelie was found in deep flowing water, no doubt where he was hunkering down on the cold bottom.

A G.R. Hare’s Ear Nymph for Rogue River Steelhead

All around good fly pattern for trout and in some cases…steelhead.


Want to put a one, two, three knockout punch on that Rogue River fall steelhead. Try adding a Beadhead G.R. Hare’s Ear trailer to your Brownbagger Nymph main fly. Fly-fishing tandem flies is a legal and lethal tactic on the Rogue River any time of the year. This is especially true during the fall when the steelhead are keying on large stonefly nymphs, smaller nymphs, and Chinook salmon eggs. The female salmon dig redds in the river bottom dislodging river nymphs of all sizes. When she is satisfied with her spawning redd, the female Chinook then mates with a male, releasing and depositing her round, orange eggs on the river bottom. Fly-fishing the Brownbagger and Hare’s Ear Nymphs in tandem offers the attraction of all three food sources to the aggressive Rogue River steelhead. I like to add the Beadhead G.R. Hare’s Ear nymph by attaching a 18-20 inch leader to the bend of the orange-beadhead Brownbagger Nymph’s hook. To the end of this trailer leader I knot the smaller Hare’ Ear nymph. I’ve settled on the Duncan Loop Knot as the strongest and easiest attachment for this purpose. Try it, you’ll like it.