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!


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