Three Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Steelheading

I was lucky when I was young to have such strong angling influences in my life, most notably my father and my uncles. Without these influences I probably would have never picked up a fishing rod. The beauty of tagging along with these guy was that they fished for anything and everything that swam, and in turn so did I. Bass, walleye, pike, muskie, it didn’t mater, if it swam we tried to catch it. To this day I fish for whatever I can, whenever I can. With that being said, anyone who knows me, or who reads the blog regularly, know that somewhere along the line I picked up a soft spot for steelhead. This, I have to say, is something I developed on my own. Sure we fished for steelhead as a group, but it was nothing like the love affair I have now. Without any hardcore steelheaders around to hold my hand through years of development I was on my own. And years is no exaggeration. I’m not finished learning, and probably never will be. Much of what I know now, or what I think know now, was put together through trial and error. When I look back there are a couple of things that had I known, could have may my trips both more enjoyable and more lucrative.

1. You can’t catch fish without you bait in the water

You probably read this and thought ‘Well no shit’, but hear me out. Steelheaders, especially the ones here in the Great Lakes, love their roe, and rightfully so; roe catches a lot of fish. If there was one downside to it however, it would have to be the constant changing of bait. If you use fresh un-cured roe like I do then a half a dozen drifts or so and you’re putting a new bag on. Cured roe isn’t much better. What does that constant changing of bait mean? It means less time in the strike zone. While you’re changing your bait, the guy beside you running beads is getting in a couple more drifts. I’m not saying it’s time to stop using roe, but those couple extra drifts would tilt the odds in anyone’s favor.

2. Don’t leave fish to find fish

Maybe this seems like another obvious one, but in my youth I liked to wander. Ok, so I was impatient. I’d hook a fish, and if I didn’t hook another right after, I would move on. But I learned as I went on that steelhead travel together and more often than not, hold together. If it’s good holding water for one steelhead, it’s good holding water for all steelhead. And who knows, if the areas big enough maybe it is holding them all. Doubtful, but you get my point. Chances are if there’s one fish in a spot, there’s more. Just because you haven’t hooked one in a few minutes doesn’t mean they’re not still there. Cover the water methodically before moving on.

3. It’s not about catching fish

It took me a long, long time to figure this out. In fact it’s only been the last few years that this has really started to sink in. So many people these days are hung up on numbers, and I’m almost ashamed to admit that I was once one of those people. I wish I had known sooner just how enjoyable the experience can be, with or without fish, because it is just that; an experience. I used to obsess over how many fish I’d caught, or not caught. Now I go days, sometimes weeks without a fish and I’m ok with it. In fact I don’t even notice how long it’s been between fish until catching one brings it to my attention. Far too many people these days focus on the wrong aspects of steelheading and in turn are missing out on what makes it so great.

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