Steelhead Mysteries
Steelhead That Bite
October Caddis
Sandy Watershed
Good Luck Aaron
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A box of steelhead flies. Steelhead Mysteries
Two part article by Mark Bachmann
There are few things more inspiring to the Northwest angler than a box of well worn steelhead flies.  Especially interesting are flies with ragged hackles, tattered bodies or broken ribs, often with hook points of bare metal honed to surgical sharpness.  You know the owner of such a fly box doesn’t pack it around just to 

show off his tying skills.  Such a fly box is a legacy of days spend searching the water and of fish hooked and conquered.  Houston Fuller and I viewed such a box several years ago on a trip to the  North Umpqua River. We had spend an unsuccessful morning on the water around the mouth of Steamboat Creek.  Finally deciding to break for lunch, we climbed the trail to the Forest Service parking lot.  When we had arrived earlier, ours had been the only car.  Now there were 

Fly caught steelhead.

My buddy Bob beaches a nice summer steelhead.

several, including a large station wagon where three elderly gentlemen were sitting on the tailgate eating lunch.  Behind them on the floor of the car aid their fishing paraphernalia lay a very bright ten pound steelhead.  After introducing ourselves the conversation immediately turned to the mornings fishing and the fish in the car.  They cordially advised us that fishing had been slow for the past week and this was the only steelhead they had touched that morning.  More conversation disclosed that they had shared the Umpqua for the past twenty five years and had caught a lot of steelhead together.  Finally, I asked the inevitable question, “What are the best fly patterns for this river?”  One old gentleman reached around behind him and after fumbling in his vest, produced a beat up old #90 Perrine.  I undid the large rubber band that held it together.  It held four dozen size four long shank very, very sparsely dressed Muddler Minnows.  That was all.  The old man told us it was  

the only fly that any of the three of them ever used.  “When they won’t take a Muddler, they won’t take nothin’.”  Some folks believe that one fly will catch steelhead under all conditions.  Would the sport be as much fun if this were true? 
The Deschutes River occupies most of my summers.  From August until late November I work there as a professional steelhead guide.  The Deschutes is a big desert river in a deep basalt canyon.  Here the air is dry and only a narrow strip bordering the water contains much green vegetation.  Head-high canary grass, horsetails, and short scrubby alders can make a wall that is nearly impenetrable.  The Deschutes is big and strong.  It’s waters are always richly laden with algae giving the fish lots of cover.  With water temperatures in the fifties most of the time, it is probably one of the best floating line fisheries for steelhead in the world. 
Don Wysham, Dave Bretton and myself had launched my seventeen foot aluminum drift boat on the Deschutes River at day light.  The morning’s fishing had been active.  Don had landed a couple of nice steelhead on standard Deschutes patterns, one on a Skunk Fly, the other on a Mack’s Canyon.  Dave, an experienced Atlantic Salmon angler had landed one steelhead and lost another on a Conrad, a fly he had used successfully in Maine.  The sun was high.  It was time for lunch. 
I anchored the boat along a small sand bar that was shaded by overhanging alders and set up my folding table and gas barbecue.  The first gusts of afternoon breeze showered the water with small, yellowish-green alder leaves.  Dave, who would rather fish than eat, asked about the water nearby?  I suggested that he walk upstream one hundred yards and fish through the riffle above the boat.  It had produced many steelhead over the years.  Dave searched through his fly box and selected a yellow and green Cosseboom, saying it was one of the best patterns for Atlantic Salmon. 
Dave left for the riffle;  Don tried the water next to the boat and I proceeded with lunch.  In a short time there was a yell from upstream.  Dave was into a steelhead.  I turned off the grill, grabbed the net, and Don and I walked upstream to join Dave.  After landing the fish, a seven pound buck, Dave said that he had watched the steelhead come to the fly from a long distance.    Don and I were fishing a cast of two flies.  We each tied on a Cosseboom; mine on the dropper, Don’s on the point.  The three of us took seven more fish that afternoon, all on the Cosseboom.  I have since fished the Cosseboom on the Deschutes many times and have caught fish, but never as on this day.  Was it the shower of alder leaves that turned the steelhead onto the green and yellow fly?  We will never know for sure. 
On the west side of the Cascade Mountains, the Cosseboom is a top producer of fresh early summer steelhead when presented with a sink tip fly line.  
To be continued in 09/24/01 "Insider".

Aaron with his 102nd steelhead of the year.

Aaron Alexander started hanging around the Fly Fishing Shop about four years ago when he was a freshman in high school.  He got bit by the steelhead fly fishing bug early.  The first couple of seasons the steelhead beat him up bad.  A couple of years ago he started getting even.  Last winter during his senior year, he got out of school at noon every day and headed for the Sandy River.  By then he had become a master of spey casting.  A couple of weeks ago on a float with us down the Deschutes he hooked his 102nd  
steelhead since the first of the year, an inspirational accomplishment.  Yesterday Aaron left to join the U.S. Coast Guard.  "Good luck Aaron.  We will miss you."

By Bill M. Bakke, Director
Native Fish Society
Anglers on the Columbia and Deschutes rivers say that they catch more wild steelhead than hatchery steelhead even though there are more hatchery fish in the river. Data gathered by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on
Deschutes steelhead catch rates and run size from 1977 to 2000 support this observation.  This data is collected from the mouth of the river to Sherars Falls.  The catch rate is based on the number of steelhead caught per 100 hours of angling. Form 1977 to 1993 the catch rate for wild steelhead is 5 fish compared to 2 hatchery fish per hundred hours of fishing. During this time period, the estimated number of wild steelhead passing Sherars Falls was 87,000 compared to 150,000  hatchery steelhead. Even though hatchery fish were more abundant their catch rate was lower. All hatchery steelhead were fin-marked beginning with the 1986 run.

From 1994 to 1997 the catch rate for hatchery fish exceeded that for wild steelhead in the Deschutes for the first time. The number of wild fish in the run also declined from an average of 5,118 fish in 1977-1993 to 1,855
for the years 1994-1997. In 1992 and 1994 the wild steelhead run dropped below a thousand fish for the first time. The 1994 run size was only 482 fish. During this period of time the hatchery run increased from an average of 8,823 fish (1977-1993) to an average of 19,620 (1994-1997). The hatchery run was over ten times larger than the wild run. This was due primarily to a massive increase in hatchery strays from elsewhere in the Columbia Basin. In 1996 the non-native strays were over 23,000 fish.

Even though hatchery steelhead were ten times more abundant than wild fish, the catch rate for wild fish was nearly equal to that of hatchery fish. The wild fish catch rate ranged from .91 to .96 fish to 1.0 hatchery fish. The worst catch rate was in 1996 when the ratio to wild/hatchery catch was .52:1.0.
Bill M. Bakke
Native Fish Society
P.O. Box 19570
Portland, OR 97280
Join Native Fish Society


Hook: TMC 7999, #8 - #2/0 
Thread: red
Tag: fine silver oval tinsel
Tail: olive floss
Body: olive floss
Rib: medium flat silver tinsel
natural gray squirrel tail
Hackle: yellow to yellowish-green

This fly was originated by John C. Cosseboom, angler and poet out of Providence, Rhode  Island, while fishing on the Margaree River for bright Atlantic Salmon.  It has become very popular for salmon in the eastern Canada provinces and also in Europe and Russia.  The Cosseboom while little known on the west coast, is an effective fly for steelhead on both sides of the Cascades.

Adult October Caddis.

October Caddis
The Pacific Northwest has some spectacular giant caddis hatches. Most of these hatches are in the fall, but some cold spring creeks have hatches through much of 

the winter and into the spring as well. The fat bodies are colors that range from light tanish orange to yellowish orange to bright orange to burnt orange. Wings are usually gray but there are also brown tones. There are apparently a number of different species in what is commonly called October Caddis or Fall Caddis or Giant Caddis.  Most belong to the family Dicosmoecus. They range from California to Alaska.  
The larva of these giant caddis build tube-like cases.  During the winter months when the larva are tiny, these cases are made from vegetable matter attached to a foundation of silk.  As the larva grows in size through the spring months they abruptly switch to cases made from small gravel.  You can observe these larvae crawling around on the streambed dragging their cases with them as the forage for algae and decaying plant and animal matter.  During the the summer months of June and July Dicosmoecus larvae are important trout foods.  Daily behavioral drift cycles occur in the early afternoon, usually peaking about 4:00 P.M.  They are one of the few families of caddis that leave their cases before behavioral drift cycles.  This makes them extremely enticing to large trout.  In August these larvae seal themselves in their cases and by September they are ready to emerge as adults.
Emergence occurs from late afternoon until dark.  The pupae Usually swim and crawl to shallow water, but some emerge mid-river.  At this time a pumpkin colored wet fly can be very productive.  
Egg laying also occurs in the afternoon and evening.  The big fate juicy females flop around on the water exuding their eggs.  They are a prime attraction for trout of all sizes.  
Be sure to have some Improved Sofa Pillows and Orange stimulators handy. Sizes range from #10 to #6 on 2X long hooks.

Sandy River Fishery 
Information Bank

Daily Fishing Report

Watershed Over-view
Sandy River Book
Biology Etc. 
Watershed Council Web Site

Bill Bakke lands a Sandy River steelhead.

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