Amazing Winter Steelheading


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Steve Willhite with Umpqua Steelhead

This is is a tough time to travel to a distant location to fish,especially as so many in our diverse society are in health and economic  trouble with the pandemic.  However, this trip was organized months ago and the dates were before the shelter in place decision was made.  All Oregonians were to keep a safe  distance when near unknown people and were to observe other safety procedures like hand washing and avoiding hands on one’s face.  Since it was steelhead, we decided to make the trip.   Maybe for trout we would have been more cautious!

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Umpqua Crew – Note Christian’s fancy hat!

With all this in mind, Steve Willhite, my wife Nancy and her good friend Derry and I made the trip to the North Umpqua.   Two guide boats for 2 days under the management of club supporter and master guide Ethan Nickel.  On the first day we went upstream from the I-5 bridge in Roseburg and fished down.  Water and weather conditions were good and there were the target steelhead.  All wild fish carefully returned to the river after the required pictures for the Flyline if the fish was worthy.  Seven fish landed and returned.  Probably about the same number of other good strikes.  A mix of downers and up-stream chromers.

The next day was downstream of the bridge with a lot of action just above the launch site with several other boats on the river.  We did enter the South Fork later in the day and did catch one hatchery fish along with 6 wild.  Again good weather and water.  A few days later Ethan had a single sport on board and reported 16 strikes and 13 netted.  That is really good steelheading!



Now the discussion issues for fly fishermen.  If one uses a fly rod and reel and various flyline options, what constitutes a fly?  The best options for attracting steelhead, per the guides, is the equivalent of  bobber dogging with a float at water level and then a weigh and plastic egg with single hook +- 2 inches below the egg.  The leader is 12 to 15 pound for quick fish landing and release.   Thoughts?

Observe all the requirements and when the restrictions are lifted, Go Fishing!

Christian Werner


Christian Werner with Umpqua Steelhead