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Lateral view of a Female Hexagenia limbata (Ephemeridae) (Hex) Mayfly Dun from the Namekagon River in Wisconsin
Hex Mayflies
Hexagenia limbata

The famous nocturnal Hex hatch of the Midwest (and a few other lucky locations) stirs to the surface mythically large brown trout that only touch streamers for the rest of the year.

Lateral view of a Psychodidae True Fly Larva from Mystery Creek #308 in Washington
This wild-looking little thing completely puzzled me. At first I was thinking beetle or month larva, until I got a look at the pictures on the computer screen. I made a couple of incorrect guesses before entomologist Greg Courtney pointed me in the right direction with Psychodidae. He suggested a possible genus of Thornburghiella, but could not rule out some other members of the tribe Pericomini.
27" brown trout, my largest ever. It was the sub-dominant fish in its pool. After this, I hooked the bigger one, but I couldn't land it.
Troutnut is a project started in 2003 by salmonid ecologist Jason "Troutnut" Neuswanger to help anglers and fly tyers unabashedly embrace the entomological side of the sport. Learn more about Troutnut or support the project for an enhanced experience here.

Wbranch has attached these 7 pictures to this report. The message is below.
Same fish, different pose.
Another big steelhead taken on a swung fly.
Another retro steelhead picture.  See the red egg fly in the jaw. The rod is a boron graphite made by Ted Simroe. It is 8' 6" for a #8.  I still have this rod and it has landed hundreds of king and coho salmon 12# - 30#.
Fighting a big steelhead! You can see a stringer on the log in the water in the foreground. There is a 10# hen on the stringer.  At the time I was still keeping fish and would cull out bigger fish for smaller, easier to carry, steelhead. The water on the far side was great holding water and there was a deep trough all along that side.
A gorgeous non steelhead resident lake run rainbow.
A really big hen of about 30" taken on a #10 brown and yellow stone fly nymph.

Report at a Glance

General RegionPulaski, NY
Specific LocationSalmon River, Pool below Altmar Bridge
Dates FishedNovember 06, 1988
Time of Day9:00 - 12:00
Fish CaughtTwo steelhead
Conditions & HatchesMixed clouds and sun, temperature 40 - 50 degrees, Water was full and clear.

Details and Discussion

Wbranch's profile picture
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2635
Wbranch on Nov 14, 2014November 14th, 2014, 3:15 pm EST
The following is the adventure of me swinging a fly I tied in a lovely pool on the Salmon River and hooking, and landing, my second biggest ever steelhead. This anecdote is transcribed off of my long hand journal entry. This event took place in November of 1988.

"Around 8:15 I casually drove up to Altmar and drove into the parking lot. There were quite a few guys stretched out both sides of the pool. At the tail out there were three fly fishers and I watched them and chatted with them for a while. They told me the spin fishermen were hooking up periodically. One guy got out of the river and I quickly went back to the car and got geared up.

I got in at the tail but didn't like the water and the drift I was getting but I stuck it out hoping the guy above me would leave soon. Within half an hour he did leave and I moved in slightly above where he had been fishing. The water was much better here, 3' - 4' deep, and right at the seam between some soft and swift water. I was getting a great drift, casting across, mending to get depth, and letting the chartreuse bodied fly with a chartreuse Krystal Flash wing, probe the bottom of the river. I fished this one run methodically and steadily for about 45 minutes.

The water looked great, if there were steelhead in the pool they were right there in front of me. Fished an area slightly upstream and 15' - 20' in front of me and let it swing down below me. Over and over I cast letting the shot tick, tick on the bottom as I mended the line and tried to keep the fly presented perpendicular to the bank so the fish would see a nice big profile. Following one of many drifts the line paused, then I felt slight movement. I struck twice, hard, and immediately there was strong resistance and movement away from me. Any steelhead of more than ten pounds always feels tremendous to me and it's hard to judge their true size.

The fish didn't charge off in a blistering run, just a nagging spurt of line, 10 - 15 feet of line at a time. It would jerk off line then stop, then yank off another 15 feet of line. I couldn't hold this fish, ziss, ziss went the line through the guides, then stop, then repeat until the fish was in mid current about 60 feet out. I tightened up on my drag as much as I thought the 6# Maxima could take. The fish continued to bulldog in the bottom rubble. It was just gnawing away at the leader that kept it tethered and imprisoned.

I put in the 4" extension butt and started lifting the rod sharply. This made the fish respond with a typical run across and slightly upstream to the rock wall on the other side of the river. Then after a slight pause the fish made an immediate diagonal run downstream towards the lip of the pool. About 10' from the lip of the pool the steelhead vaulted into the air, it was awesome, a huge fish, bright silver sides, leaping three feet out of the water, throwing silver beads of water as she descended back into the river.

I was panicking, shaking all over, hopelessly excited over hooking this really big steelhead. I was afraid the fish would go over the lip at the tail-out and into the rapids below where I would of had to follow due to the swift current that would strip all of my backing out in less than a minute. I dropped the rod tip to remove the constant pressure I was applying to the fish and the steelhead did what all the books say they would do; think they are free and return to the sanctuary of deeper water in the pool. When the fish got midway back into the pool I felt I had won the fight and had thoroughly confused the steelhead. I applied tremendous pressure and gained line to the point where my leader was visible. Back and forth we went for about ten more minutes, give line, gain line! I pointed myself downstream and swung the fish around to quieter waters.

Still she wouldn't surrender, I was out of control and asked a guy below me to net the fish (it was too deep at the bank to beach the fish) The first two attempts were careless and unsuccessful, the third try was sloppy but it worked, the head of the fish was in the net but much of the body was out of the net. The big fish was defeated. I was beside myself with pure excitement! Big sleek bright female - 35" long and 16 pounds. Hooked in the tip of the upper jaw."

Now twenty-six years later I would never of killed that beautiful fish. I've caught dozens of big steelhead since then and would much rather now have a couple of close-up pictures to enjoy.

Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
Martinlf's profile picture
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3047
Martinlf on Nov 15, 2014November 15th, 2014, 12:56 pm EST
Epic is right. Thanks for the fish tale, Matt.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
Oldredbarn's profile picture
Novi, MI

Posts: 2600
Oldredbarn on Nov 15, 2014November 15th, 2014, 6:00 pm EST

Now twenty-six years later I would never of killed that beautiful fish. I've caught dozens of big steelhead since then and would much rather now have a couple of close-up pictures to enjoy.

The evolution of an angler...Great stuff Matt...I thought I was reading Lee Wulff!

Thanks for this.

"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
Wbranch's profile picture
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2635
Wbranch on Nov 16, 2014November 16th, 2014, 4:08 am EST
Thank you Spence. Back in the late 1960's through the mid 1980's I kept a periodic journal. Sometimes I go back and read entries from the Delaware and Montana and am amazed at the quantity of big fish I caught back then.

Back then it was relatively easy to catch big fish in high daily counts in Montana on the Madison, Armstrong & Nelsons's springs and other waters. Ditto for the Delaware. I didn't see my first drift boat on the main stem of the Delaware until the mid 1980's and I'd already been fishing it since 1965. Weekend after weekend me, my Dad, and my best friend would fish the main by ourselves and catch lots of 15" - 19" rainbows with the occasional brown. The ratio was about 5:1 rainbows to browns. Now it is so flipped it is often just the opposite. Today the average wild rainbow is about 11" and a 17" fish is something to be excited about. Bigger fish, at least for me, are quite rare. Big browns are far more common.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
Partsman's profile picture
bancroft michigan

Posts: 321
Partsman on Nov 16, 2014November 16th, 2014, 11:15 am EST
wbranch, wonderful photos, and great accounts of your experiences steelheading. My late father-in-law and I spent many a winter day trying to figure these great fish out here in Michigan. From the late 70,s to the early 90,s when my father-in-laws arthritis became so bad he could no longer get up the bank of the river without my help we fished hard. We had many great memories, much like yours and yes for a while we kept far to many fish, but then it became all about catching and not keeping. I would to try to get back into steelheading,but Im not sure I could deal with the cold anymore. Looking at those pics. sure does fire up the the old juices though.
Wbranch's profile picture
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2635
Wbranch on Nov 16, 2014November 16th, 2014, 12:00 pm EST
Hello Mike,

Nice to hear from you and I'm glad you enjoyed my trip down Memory Lane. I actually stopped fishing for steelhead almost entirely from the late 1980's to about 2005. I did go back to the Salmon River in Pulaski, NY once in awhile but it was always so crowded in the better pools and many of the people could hardly be called fishermen.

But it 2005 I decided to try fishing the creeks in PA running into Lake Erie. I'd heard the steelhead was good and wanted to give it a try. I'm 71 years old now and while I do have to give myself time to get to where I want to fish I still do love to fish for chrome. I've gone twice this Fall and hooked about thirty steelhead. My landing to hooking ratio is pretty bad this year but I still like to feel the take and the fight - even if it ends in a LDR.

Believe me when I say I hate the cold weather but there is such great modern cold weather clothing now even I can get out and enjoy a day on the water. However I seldom go if the air temperature is less than 36 degrees.

I have two different pairs fleece pants. One is a 200 weight for medium cold and then the 300 weight for really cold water and weather. For socks I wear a pair of Gander Mountain synthetic knee highs. I wear stockingfoot waders as long as the water is in the mid to high 40's but go to a pair of Orvis Endura insulated bootfoot waders when the water and air gets down into the mid to high 30's. I use a four section graphite wading staff to assist me getting down to the water, crossing swift riffles, and getting back up steeper banks.

I wear a long sleeve UA crew neck shirt, a medium weight cotton shirt, a fleece pullover, and a Goretex windbreaker. Again I have a light weight and heavy weight windbreaker. The heavy weight has hand warmer pockets and keeps me immune to wind penetration. I wear a Thinsulate cap with ear flaps and carry two pairs of clothes, one a pair of Sage fleece fingerless and another pair of fleece with fingers. Lastly I carry a solid fuel hand warmer and a few extra sticks of fuel.

I think you should gear up and get back out there as long as you are still able to do so. I'm hoping for at least another nine years of being able to wade on my own.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
Crepuscular's profile picture
Boiling Springs, PA

Posts: 920
Crepuscular on Nov 17, 2014November 17th, 2014, 10:16 am EST
Nice tale Matt and I'm sure you've got at least another 9 years in ya!
Kschaefer3's profile picture
St. Paul, MN

Posts: 376
Kschaefer3 on Nov 17, 2014November 17th, 2014, 10:21 am EST
Great story, Matt! Nice fish to boot. If you do get to a point where you can't wade alone, you just need to find someone to help you...like this:

Doc of the Drakes
Wbranch's profile picture
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2635
Wbranch on Nov 17, 2014November 17th, 2014, 10:48 am EST
Eric, Kyle, I'm thinking nine more years wading and then another decade having someone get my Hyde into the water for me, row, and get it back on the trailer at the end of the day. My Dad fished until he was 84. I'm hoping to beat that.

Even now my "younger" best friend of 67 helps me across really swift water.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
Martinlf's profile picture
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3047
Martinlf on Nov 21, 2014November 21st, 2014, 2:49 pm EST
Kyle, great video.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
Posts: 7
Tomsix1 on Feb 18, 2015February 18th, 2015, 1:07 am EST
Thanks for this cool report !
Live 4 flyfishing

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