River A Steelhead

First legit winter steelhead of January 2013

First legit winter steelhead of January 2013

With temperatures warming in the Rogue Valley winter steelhead are beginning to move into the upper reaches of the rivers. Yesterday I connected with a tributary Rogue River winter steelhead with a Carpetbagger Nymph Fly (the BrownBagger). Now that waterfowl season is over I will be getting out on the rivers with the Spey rod with some regularity. Hopefully the rainshadow will remain moderate and the Rogue River and tributaries will remain in good shape for fishing the winter fish.

Brownbagger Nymph.

The Carpetbagger Stonefly Nymph with an orange bead-head that I call the “Brownbagger”.


Still a few January Summer Steelhead Around

Mornings have been cold and Icy. Freezing fogs clings to the riverside growth.

Mornings have been cold and Icy. Freezing fogs clings to the riverside growth.

Seems the cold weather has held the summer and fall steelhead in place. An ODF&W plant of recycled hatchery steelhead (retreads) has kept anglers busy and happy on the upper Rogue River. In particular the Tou Velle and Denman WA have been producing. In between duck hunts I have found the steelhead to still be hitting fly patterns. This recent Rogue River hatchery steelhead came to an Bead Head G.R. Hare’s Ear Nymph.

Didn't take long to tempt this steelhead with a G.R. Hare's Ear Nymph

Didn’t take long to tempt this steelhead with a G.R. Hare’s Ear Nymph

A Few Early January Fish Around…Rogue River Steelhead

I flyfished the Rogue River yesterday down around the Denman WA and found a few late summer steelhead. It seems that lately all I have been catching are the male fish. Any explanations for this? It seems that early on the catch is of female steelhead. Often in the late season the catch is of male fish. Do the male steelhead slowly follow the females up river? Do the female steelhead run up river willy-nilly like chicken hens? Just some idle thoughts.

One of the steelhead was a hatchery-punched retread, so that says that he made it up to the Cole Rivers Hatchery once this year before being recycled down river. Another steelhead was just a good, sized hatchery steelhead who fought real well. Both fish had well-developed milt sacs.

It is good to harvest the late, hatchery steelhead from the river. Lessens their spawning with the river’s wild stock. Some people like to smoke the fillets. I like to package and freeze them for fish stews like a steelhead matelote or cioppino. Good for a cold winter’s night.

Took a while to hook steelhead. I knew fish were there because upon arriving on the river I saw two separate incidents revealing moving fish at the head of pools. The water flow has been dropping, though the temperature remains cold. Yesterday’s air temperature was approaching 45°F with a nice sunny, winter’s sky. The fly that took steelhead was nothing more than a mere wisp of yarn.

yarn fly

A little bit of hackle, dubbing and yarn on a size 6 hook.

I tied this fly on as a dropper off of a larger Carpetbagger pattern. The hook is a Dai-Riki #135. It is a scud/pupa hook listed as 1XStrong and 1XShort. The hook point is offset reversed from its shank. If you like to easily release your catch, I would pinch down the barb. I found that the barbed #135 does not come out of the fish jaw very easily. Great for if you don’t want to lose a fish! Frustrating if you are simply trying to twist it out!

rogue steelhead

This fish was found in slow-moving water to the side and at the front of a fast riffle.

red striped buck

This larger steelhead was found in a pretty substantial run. I’m always amazed that a big fish will take such a small offering in big water. I’m always amazed that I can somehow find them with my flies!

First Steelhead of the New Year

Riding a welcome change of cold weather, less rain and lower water flow, a January 1st outing to the upper Rogue River brought the first steelhead catch of the year. And what a nice fish it was! The hatchery male came in at 28″-29″ long with amazing girth. The late afternoon catch came near the end of my fishing endurance, and at the last good-looking spot of river to probe with Spey Rod and fly.

Rogue River Steelhead

A welcomed New Year Day catch. A beefy Rogue River steelhead on a Carpetbagger Fly.

The promising looking water was fed by a far, fast, deep current and a near, baseball size-rock, shallow riffle. In the cold of the afternoon the last of the late, full sunlight was on the water. My first cast was to the shallow, rocky riffle water. As the fly swept down into the deep water, a passing couple of mallard ducks arrested my attention. Quickly my attention was jolted back to flyfishing as a sudden weight was felt at the end of my leader. Tightening firmly with a small lift of the Spey rod, I was hooked up with and then excitedly watching a couple of going away leaps of the fish. A good fish I could see immediately, but I didn’t yet know what it was. Thwarting the strong first runs of the fish with a strong drag setting, I soon had him in close enough to see the red gill plates of a fine steelhead and not a coho salmon.

Brownbagger Nymph.

The Carpetbagger Stonefly Nymph with an orange bead-head that I call the “Brownbagger”.

Landing the male steelhead in some shallow water I could see the orange bead of the Brown/Gold Carpetbagger Nymph peaking-out between the fish jaws. I had had my concerns about not tieing on a new fly as the gap of the hook had been unintentionally widen after numerous contacts with the large, boulders of the water downstream. But being a long way from shore in difficult to wade water, and the cold of the air, I had decided just to just “sort-of-bend” it back into shape a little and continue fishing. I am fast gaining confidence in this hook. It is a Dai-Riki #285 listed as 3XLong. Here’s the good part. It is also advertised as “heavy wire” and that part I really like about it. The steelhead had not widened the gap of the hook any beyond what the rooks had already done under heavy pulling. This is a hook I can trust to catch big fish with, and have little worry about the hook bending or breaking. My only regret is that I can not yet find it in a size larger than #6. Still the size of the fly did not seem to make a difference this day!