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This is especially for those who are waiting for their first fish. It includes descriptions of what the bite feels like...

Story - Fishing for Leaves:
I had fished for many years but I kept trying. No steelhead.

It was early November just a few years ago. The NF Alsea was blown out of shape. It was the first hard rain of the year. The river was at 8' or 10' and rising. I knew I wasn't going to catch anything but I thought I would go - just to be on the river.

(I honestly don't know for sure how important this part is but I did pray on the way: "Lord, won't You help me to learn what the the bite feels like?")

I went to the river up close to the hatchery. It was brown. Leaves and sticks were floating by.

I put on an extra slinky to get to the bottom. Soon I was feeling that familiar tap-tap of the rocks on the bottom. I was feeling a little discouraged about life so I decided I was just going to enjoy being out there. Even in the rain the river has a beauty that I really enjoy.

Suddenly I felt a dull pull. It felt different from a rock. Was it a fish? "No it couldn't be" I thought. Conditioned by failure to disbelieve, I didn't set the hook right away.

But that dull pull was still there! I stopped arguing in my head and set the hook. I started to reel but it didn't fight. It was a leaf.

Disappointed by what seemed like another failure I casted again -- just like I had done literally thousands of times before.

My slinky started tapping the bottom. Within a couple of casts I felt that slow pull again. I thought to myself, "Here we go, another leaf." But hey I caught something. Sure it was just a leaf but in a strange way I was encouraged by it.

I set the hook again. Another leaf. I did that at least a half dozen times that day - maybe more. But something had happened! Now I knew the difference between a rock and something that was pulling on the hook. I was encouraged. Maybe I would start catching fish? I did.

Descriptions: To me, the steelhead bite sometimes does feel like a leaf -- just a dull pull rather than the tap-tap of the rocks. And, I don't wait to set the hook while I argue with doubt in my head. I believe it is a fish and I set the hook.

Other times the bite is a quick pull or maybe two quick pulls. The intensity can be more or less than the rocks depending on where you are in the drift. At the end of your drift it often feels like a pull or two pulls that are quick and closer together than the tap of the rocks.

The pull of a steelhead feels like the let up after your slinky comes off the rock - only in reverse. Try to observe what a rock feels like. It is a fairly abrupt tap, a slow-short pull, and a quicker let up after the slinky comes off the rock. Allow me to try to say it another way. A fish often feels like a pull of about the same speed and intensity as when your slinky lets go of the rock.

Another way a bite feels is when you are about straight out from you at the start of your drift. There you don't feel the pull-pull so much because the angles between you and the hook is closer to 90 degrees than straight down below you. At the start of the drift like that it often feels like a couple of pushes and a pull together. It is hard for me to understand how the push can feel as strong as the pull but it does. I am guessing but I think the push-pull bute is what a head shake feels like.

I hope that helps - and hey, be a believer! Don't let yourself doubt when you are fishing1 If you are fishing in a good spot and with gear that you know should work then be confident. Believe that a steelhead is going to bite and be ready to set the hook fast.

Also, if you haven't caught a steelhead, consider going fishing leaves after the first hard rain. (You might also try praying. :wink: )

I hope you have a good winter. May this be the year that you fill your card!
 

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I sometimes like to describe it as a "soft" rock. The familiar tap, tap ,tap of the rocks and then one that feels different. Of course you have to have a "tight" line to feel it..
 

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River - Nice description. I have to agree with you on the "feel" of the bite.

My first steelhead was in similar conditions. Higher than optimum water, steady rain, mid december. I watched a seasoned fisherman cast and drift a pink corky with yarn just below me for awhile. He moved upstream from me and proceeded to hook and land a nice buck steelie. I looked through my meager tackle box and found the closest thing I could find to what he was using. For some reason that gave me some confidence.
I made a couple of casts and proceeded to "feel" the tap-tap-tap of bottom. After a number of casts, I was doing the same tap-tap-tap when I feel this dull pull..... and then a quick tap-tap. Then back to nothing..... Hmmm, I thought. Next cast... tap-tap-tap....dull pull...quick tap-tap. I set the hook and there she was. A nice little hen steelhead. :dance: I finally had an idea of what a steelhead bite was like. Very hard to describe that "feel".

Good luck to all this winter steelhead season!!

Steve :cheers:
 

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Steelie Steve,

My first drift fish steelhead was caught just as you described. Lightning does strike twice (sometimes) just be ready for it.
 

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River
I remember my first steelhead in similar conditions. Blown out salmon river @ rose lodge. Nobody on the river...chocolate brown. Started working the inside seem.... and the rest is history. That was the winter of 1989. Excellent description for someone who has not felt it before.
novice
 

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Now cut that out! Your almost making me think about doning my old leaky hip boots, breaking out my old drift rod, digging out an assortment of corkies, spin-glo's, birdies and maybe an okie or two, some yarn and go stand out in the cold, wet rain to wait for that subtle but tantalizing "pull" of a fresh winter run steelhead. Good description of feeling the bite River.

Took me several seasons, till that first one on the Salmon in 1976, then another and another and more on the Nestuck. What joy and excitement! :smile: Indeed, that "take" is hard to express, but once you feel it, you will come to know it, if you get my drift :wink: .
 

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Fishing for leaves, feels like all last week. I did manage to finally figure it out and set the hook viciously on a couple big maple leafs. :grin: But when you do get the different feels down, it's like nirvana. The lesson you've always wanted, you just got. :cheers:
 

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I fished - HARD - for two years before I caught my first Steelhead. You gotta pay your dues. After that I seldom came home without a fish. Life was good.

A couple of years later George Boldt made life more difficult. I'm glad I had learned earlier.
 

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Nirvana :shocked: I feel so robbed!

I got my first steelie plunking.
 

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My first was a Summer fish on the Hood back when you could still fish by Dee, on a corky/egg combo. No pulling at all, the fish hammered it on the swing.
Only when I started doing the driftfish thing for Winter fish did I have to really start paying attention.
Funny about the leaf thing though, I was swinging flies for Summer fish on the Wilson a few days ago and was getting "pulls" on a regular basis. Lots of leaves coming down.
SOME felt like a good fish making a yank so I would drop my slack loop to hook the "fish" and of course just have a leaf on the fly. Some of those leaves are HUGE, nearly a foot wide, no wonder they felt good when I stuck em'.
I'll let you guys know how my limit of leaves grill up tonight... :rolleyes: :grin:

[ 10-30-2003, 02:37 PM: Message edited by: Mad Mikey ]
 

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One of the best things I did while learning was to simply lift the rod a foot or so if you think you have a possible bite. This way you arent ripping back the rod on every suspicious bump.

It seems to give the hook a nudge into a fish's lip and then when you feel some initial headshakes you slam it back!

:dance:

HC
 

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It took me two years to get my fist steelhead as well, perhaps this trend is in us all, not only the leaves, or the slow pull, I was fishing the alsea last year, fast current, nothing happened till I was just thinking of leaving, my line went totally slack, fish grabbed it and ran twords me, I thought that was strange for a steelhead.
 

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It was 1995 for me and I had just moved to north Idaho and lived a mile from the clearwater. The locals were saying that the fishing was red hot, 1 fish per four hours of fishing.

I went to the guide shop in Orofino and said sell me what I need and tell me where to go! 10 minutes and $40 later I was headed to the river with a huge cerise corkie and some yarn on my 6' med action bass rod. I stood in about 18" of snow with 20 mph wind driving snow into my stinging face casting my corkie into that huge river.

for twenty minutes I felt the tick, tick, tick, but no fish. Then I felt tick, tick, snag. I yanked hard a few times to free my new cokie and all of a sudden my reel started screaming and my line was headed for Montana. I landed my first steelie, a 10 pound hen.

Wow just reading this stuff has got me all excited to get out there and do it.

LH

[ 10-31-2003, 07:37 AM: Message edited by: local_hooker ]
 
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I guess I was a bit spoiled.
I had two nice steelhead streams to cross on the way to work, with hundreds of fish in them. There was only about 5 or 6 people on the whole island that fished for them. It took me two casts to catch my first steelhead. During the late winter and early spring I fished for them almost every morning and most afternoons except for Sundays. We would also take boats or floatplanes to streams that were off of the road system and get into GOOD FISHING.
 

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First one took me 10 minutes, but that second one, now that was another matter. :rolleyes:
 

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I agree with raising your rod up a quick foot. If you still feel resistence then wam.....really set the hook. I've seen countless guys set the hook hard on anything and rip there line out of the water. 99% of the time it's not a fish and your drift is over. I think that's a little extreme. It took me a good year to figure out how to drift fish. I use to hate it but now it's all I do. Of course once in awhile I have to go back to my roots of bobber and jig. That's what really got me hooked.
 
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