A childhood dream and a bucket list Species I had to tick off!
Oregon, West Coast of America
As a small child I have always been interested in migratory fish, Salmon, Sea Trout and Steelhead and how they leave a freshwater river, enter salt water and travel half way around the world to feed for a year or two then turn around and swim back to exactly the same place they were born! Absolutely incredible.
Over my fishing and guiding career Iv caught and guided my fair share of Salmon & Sea Trout. Probably over 2000 Salmon I would think and I still get excited just as much each and every time I catch one or see one….
When I was given the chance to head to the west coast of America to swing for Winter Steelhead which would be fresh out of the Pacific Ocean I couldn’t turn the chance down!! I always say, that a Salmon is a fish of 10,000 casts!! A steelhead on a swung fly would probably be a bit more difficult, maybe a fish of 100,000 casts!!
Anyway, I was up for the challenge so I rounded two of my good friends and clients, Garry Broadley and Graham Goodwin to join me on this adventure and soon had them both tackled up ready for the job and excited just as much as me. Cases Packed and a drive to London Heathrow we were ready for takeoff.
(James Armstrong- Chasing Fins)
I had one of the best steelhead guides in Oregon Lined up for us, Jeff Hickman who also runs a lodge out in BC. His company is called Fish the Swing! A truly amazing guy with a real passion for these amazing fish. Jeff also employed a guide called Barrett who guided us for a few days at the end of the week! These guys knew the rivers on the west coast so well.
The week we arrived they had lots of snow and the rivers were high! Not the best conditions we could have hoped for but nether less we would give it our best go!!
(Jeff Hickman- Fish the Swing)
We fished for five days, floating the Nehalem River most days. Two of us in one raft and a single angler in the other.
The first day Graham lost a good steelhead on his last cast. We then went three days without anything between us. We caught a few cut throat trout but the steelhead were staying very elusive to us, by then I was starting to worry and actually thought the trip could be a blanker (no fish caught)
(Looking downstream Nehalem River)
I was then picked to fish in the single raft with Barrett towards the end of our week. I was quite excited to go above the canyon and fish the upper river but I knew we would be exploring and not using the raft as much which I was keen to do. The key was to cover as much water as possible, a little bit like when we fish in the spring for salmon back in the UK!
The exploring certainly paid off and mid morning I hooked into my first proper steelhead swinging a fly in a very fast run above a set of rapids! The fish took like a torpedo and gave a superb account for himself. I can know confirm steelhead pound for pound pull twice as hard as any Atlantic Salmon! The fight lasted just under 15 minutes, through two sets of rapids downstream and a lot of shouting and sweating we eventually got our hands on the prize, my first winter steelhead!! I was over the moon with this incredible creature. A few photos and the male cock around 13Ib was returned back to the river, My trip was complete! And big thanks to Barrett who did a superb job with guiding me and keeping me under control.
(“keep em wet”)
(The Smile says it all, 13Ib of pure muscle)
Also that day Graham landed a small steelhead around 4Ib on a smaller river south of us. That was also Grahams first steelhead on the fly and only his second migratory fish in his fishing career, well done Graham.
The week ended very quickly, we had a few more offers and chances but the week tally ended on two steelhead being landed. I think the guys were a bit disappointed on numbers but I always knew in my head this would be a difficult challenge to complete and I had achieved the goal I set out to do!!
Big thanks to Jeff Hickman & Barrett @ Fish the Swing!
Oregon USA you didn’t disappoint!! Thank you.