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A Fish Story: First Steelhead on a Renegade Fly Rod

  • 3 min read

A Fish Story: First Steelhead on a Renegade Fly Rod

My 8 weight White Series has been in my hands for only a few months and boy has it caught a diverse range of species. It has seen Streamer eating Browns, Saltwater Redfish, Great Lakes Steelhead and now, Coastal Steelhead. My good buddy Drew Bullard hit me up to make the 8 hour drive west, to the ocean in search of Winter Steelhead. We like to spey fish, swinging vibrant flies for that one, special grab. Although we knew going into the trip we wanted to get a fish to hand, no matter how we did it. All steelhead are magical, we were stoked to be out there trying to intercept one.


I drug my RO skiff drift boat on the 8 hour trek. Usually, coastal anglers float rivers in Rafts or High Side, aluminum drift boats. We got a bit sendy….

Upon arrival, we were a bit bummed. The forecast had three days of rain, which meant fresh fish running up into the systems. Although what we ended up receiving was only an inch or two of rain, nothing to make a difference. Low and clear conditions are tough for steelhead, what you want is that nice green color with a bit of tint and color, for those fish to get happy and on the move upstream. They are much more comfortable in the green than they are in the clear water, extremely vulnerable to predators and anglers like us. What these conditions also met was a lot of dragging and rock rubbing on the bottom of my skiff on our first day.

On day one, morning one, no fish were found. Imagine driving eight hours, watching your drone go into a tree and sink to the bottom of a river you’ve never been on before, than taking out at the boat ramp with about 10 gallons of water in your boat. It was a rough start. We swung every piece of water we could, there just didn’t seem to be many fish around. We got off the water quick and drove ten minutes to a different river at about 2pm. We would empty the drift boat, than put it right back in at the next boat ramp after a short self-shuttle. We had about two hours of daylight on a four hour float. We pushed forward to our favorite run, swung it, nothing. The rest of the water we’d have to stay moving on. We couldn’t cover ground fast due to us needing to empty the boat where the hole let in water slowly, but gradually. Just as the sun set, Drew continuously fished the bead rig on the 8 weight white series. With three split shot and a large indicator, it got down quick. It was so gloomy out that we could barely see the indicator anymore. On river right, a group of three or four boulders made for a powerful break in the water, leaving a slightly slower, calmer back eddy behind the rocks. Drew laid what was probably one of the last five to ten drifts behind the set of boulders. As we both hesitated as to where the white bobber had gone, he set hard to the right in front of the boat. He took about 4 or 5 long strips, as if nothing was on. Until he came tight by the boat and this fish went berserk.

After a short, but acrobatic, exhilarating fight in the dark, we got this stunning hatchery fish to the net. The first steelhead to be landed on a Renegade Fly rod and at that, a fish about 3 miles into its journey upstream from the salt.

Photography & Written by Joe Evans

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