Alaska Steelhead

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Alaska Steelhead
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Alaska Steelhead, Sandy River
By: Josh Linn

Mike Totter at the start of the his steelhead jump repeatedly as it is taking lin...

I fished with Mike and Sally Trotter. We never did land any big number of fish, but had a good time. One fish offered a special challenge, and lots of adventure.
The Sandy River is broken up into four beats. On the fourth out of seven days, the three of us were fishing the forth beat. Sally had just hooked and landed a beautiful 10 lb wild hen. She was back at the boat having a cup of coffee when Mike hooked an amazing  nickel bright steelhead, that we had to chase a long way. He hooked him in a smaller side channel off the main river. The fish made a few jumps and then left the pool and just kept going.  In

less than a minute, it was over 200 yards into the backing, I could see it jumping in the distance, the fish kept going. As we watched the backing peel off of the reel, we knew it was time to take

Our jet boat...

action. We would have to chase it. We figured this channel to be comparatively shallow, so crossing the tail out would be relatively easy.  I had been standing behind Mike hoping to get a picture of the Steelhead jumping. I tucked my Cannon 20D digital SLR  camera down the front of my wades, zipped up my Simms G3 jacket and headed for the tailout. Now I realized, it was deeper than I had thought. Mike was a bit shorter than I, so when the water became dangerously close to the top of my waders, I got worried about him. I was against the bank holding onto an Alder tree when he got to the deep part and was starting to float away . I saw a look of panic in his eyes, I reached out my hand, and he jumped for it. I'm sure we where both thinking the same thing. If we don't connect he'd be swimming.
He put out his hand I made a grab for it and pulled him to shore. A little water had come over the top of the waders, but at this point it didn't matter. The only thing we could think of was catching up to the fish. We looked down river

and saw that the bank was lined with alders. Normally in a spot like this there would be a bear trail along the bank. Almost every bank on the river has a trail, everyone thinks they are worn from the guides and clients walking down them, but in reality it is the bears. They constantly patrol looking for feeding opportunities. The river was extremely deep so we couldn't get away from the bank, and wade. This was going to be a real chore. We started to work our way down the river, we had to pass the rod back and forth to each other, I would hang on the front of the tree like a monkey and Mike would run around to the back, to a hand off point. Finally the fish stopped moving. However it had not stopped in normal holding water and was stuck on a snag! I knew there was a snag on the other side of the river. Every time I would drive the jet sled down I would take note of it. Mike figured it out at the same time.

I told him I was going back for the boat and Sally.  At this point the boat was nearly a half a mile away! I told Mike it was our only chance to get the fish and his line back. I was afrait the fish would break his backing where it was stuck on the snag. I was running through the alders with reckless abandon and kept getting worried I would jump a bear. They roam around in these alders and call it home; I'm just a visitor here. I went further up river to cross back over where it would be shallowest. I didn't want to swim with my two thousand dollar camera.

Mike kept moving down river and into a spot that was a little easier for me to pick him up. He had positioned himself in a corner with a little Beaver channel running through it. I made a u-turn with the shallow-draft jet boat, and pulled in. Mike hopped aboard and we were off, or so we thought. Upon pulling out into the current, a stick got stuck in the jet foot. The boat completely lost power!!!!!!!!!!!! We were barely able to hold in the current.

Soon we were below the snag and on the wrong side to untangle it. I killed the motor and headed for the back of the boat. When I got there I could easily see the problem. We had a 4 foot long stick in the jet foot. I removed the stick and we were back in action. By this time we had been playing the fish for 20 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity. I thought the fish would be gone by now. Mike kept telling me he could feel it surge every once in a while. I was skeptical.  As we headed back up river Mike was able to get  most of his backing on the reel. We could see the end of the fly line. We got above the snag and Mike got unhooked from it. To my astonishment the fish was still attached. As soon as it was free the fish made a blistering run down stream again!!! Was this fish on steroids?  What was going on?  It ran right into anther snag! This river is covered with small alder trees that get washed into the river everyday. The river has a very uniform gradient with lots of sweeping turns, almost every corner has a snag or two on it. I moved down to the snag.  It was in the middle of  a corner, so it was not the easiest place to maneuver. As I pulled into the inside of the corner, I was not exactly sure which side the fish was on. When we got it sorted out that he was on the other side I gave the boat a little power and sucked a rock into the jet foot and lost power again. How could this be happening? At this point we were above the root wad and moving down the outside. I killed the engine. We got the line off the snag and still the fish was attached. We just floated through the corner and were headed for the bank. I swung a leg over the back of the boat so I could get at the jet foot. I knew this would be a lot harder than getting a stick out. We were floating down the river out of control. There was nothing I could do about it. We smashed into the bank. I looked up to make sure everyone was still in the boat. I felt around in the jet foot for the rock and got it out. Mike was still fighting the fish. Power was restored and I thought we were in good shape. The fish wrapper around a third snag. It looked like it was heading down a side channel...not again?!!  At this point Mike decided to break off the fish. He clamped down on the rod and line and the whole thing flew from his hand. I had never seen anything like this before. Everyone looked at each other in disbelief. Now we had nothing. I quickly beached the boat, tossed out the anchor, and ran up to the snag. We couldn't see the line or the rod.  It had sunk to the bottom of the river. I assumed at this point the fish was gone for sure and maybe the rod as well. I got up to the root-wad.  I started feeling around and found the line. The water was swift here and the footing was unstable.  I reached for the line, and fell in. I still had the camera stuck down the front of my waders. All thoughts of the fish and the rod left my mind. All I could think about was the camera and getting it out of the water. I was on the verge of panicking. Not because I thought I was going to drowned or something like that, but because I didn't want to ruin my camera. I gained my footing and stood up. Cautiously I turned and looked at the bank a few feet away. I needed to get there and free my camera. I headed for it. When I was on dry ground I finally pulled the camera out from under my jacket and waders it was still totally dry, thanks to my great wading gear made by the Simms company. I handed the camera off to Sally, and went back to free the fly line. I got a hold of it, and to my amazement we still had the fish on. I hand lined it in. What did I have to lose at this point, everything was going our way, more or less. Mike was right behind me when I tailed the fish. What a beautiful fish!  We cradled her in the river for a few seconds.  She did not seem phased by any of the previous events. I pulled out my

Mike after the battle...

pocket-size digital camera, Mike held her up for one picture. As soon as we put her back in the water she was off. What an amazing fish! I grabbed the fly line and chased down the rod. We got it back in good condition. When I got back to the boat, I noticed I had ripped off the pocket of my G3 jacket, but it had still kept the water out. A round of hi fives ensued and some slaps on the back. What an adventure we had! We had landed the steelhead on 15 pound maxima.  Who could have believed it was so strong?

Favorite Winter Steelhead Flies!

Sandy Candy Sandy Blue Big Black
Red Rocket Agitator Big Red

Winter steelhead have a reputation for being difficult for the fly angler. The winter weather and water conditions, as well as sexually developed fish, create some of the most demanding conditions that the angler will encounter all year. Winter steelhead are most often bottom hugging denizens of cold, often rain swollen rivers.  Sometimes it is very difficult to present the fly at the depth where the fish are holding. A sinking tip fly line is most often used to present the fly at the right depth.  Often large expanses of water must be covered. Flies that are easy to cast are essential in this game.  Flies that cast small, but fish large are ideal.   My favorite winter steelhead flies are made from soft flowing material that

collapses when pulled from the water and puffs up when submerged.  Marabou and rabbit strip are two key components on my fly tying bench.  These material breath with life when submerged.  Marabou drains out almost instantly when it leaves the water.  Even very large flies constructed from marabou are easy to cast.  When the water is cold,  large flies will often move fish that small flies won't.
Because of their mating instincts, winter steelhead, especially the males, can be territorial and will attack a fly to drive it from their hold.  Large flies dressed in steelhead spawning colors can bring jolting strikes. Fresh steelhead have an acute search image of the marine organisms that nurtured them. Flies dressed in the form of squid or krill can trigger a feeding response. In any case the fly must be presented deep and slow. 

Sandy Candy
This fly evolved on the Sandy River during the winter of 1979-80.  It is made from the fluffy base of two differing colors of Schlappen Hackle palmered together.  Gold flash is added.  It comes off as a pulsating glowing pinkish-orange living thing.  I like to present it with a sinking tip line, broadside dead drift.  In very cold water, it will often move fish when nothing else will.
Item Description Size Price To Top
21410-02 Sandy Candy 2 3 for $5.95


Red Rocket Tube Fly
The Red Rocket is proven in all conditions, but is best when the water is low and clear.  It can often be the most productive choice when the sun is bright.  When wet these flies are usually about 2.5" long and 1" in diameter. They present a large target..
Item Description Price To Top
TUBEFLRRL Red Rocket Steelhead Tube Fly
tied on lightweight soft plastic tubes
3 for $5.95

TUBEFLRRM Red Rocket Steelhead Tube Fly
tied on lightweight unlined brass tubes
3 for $5.95

TUBEFLRRH Red Rocket Steelhead Tube Fly
tied on heavy weight unlined brass tubes
3 for $5.95


Sandy Blue Tube Fly
The Sandy Blue is very reliable during most flows and temperatures from Southern Oregon to Northern British Columbia.  It fishes best during cloud cover days.  
Item Description Price To Top
TUBEFLSBL Sandy Blue Steelhead Tube Fly
tied on lightweight soft plastic tubes
3 for $5.95

TUBEFLSBM Sandy Blue Steelhead Tube Fly
tied on lightweight unlined brass tubes
3 for $5.95

TUBEFLSBH Sandy Blue Steelhead Tube Fly
tied on heavy weight unlined brass tubes
3 for $5.95


Agitator Pink & Orange
This is a favorite early winter fly everywhere in the Pacific Northwest.  It seems to be most productive when the water is very cold.  Of course this is the condition that drives steelhead into deep water where a heavily weighted fly is most useful.
Item Description Size Price To Top
20225-02 Agitator Pink & Orange 2 3 for $5.95


Big Black
This is a have to have fly when fishing for steelhead any time of year.  It is especially productive on late winter, spring and early summer steelhead.  The Big Black is constructed from rabbit strip palmered on the hook. It fishes large, but is easy to cast.
Item Description Size Price To Top
20250-04 Big Black 2 3 for $5.95


Big Red
This is a go to fly when the sun is bright or any time when the water is very clear.  
Item Description Size Price To Top
20260-02 Big Red   3 for $5.95



Put This Event On Your Calendar Now !!!
December 9, Saturday, 9:00am-4:00pm
Metal Head Christmas Party &
Annual Winter Steelhead Clinic
A new winter steelhead season is here for celebration!
Share A Day With These These Guys:

Mark Bachmann

Ron Lauzon

Leroy Teeple

Marty Sheppard

Kerry Burkheimer


Mike Perusse

Hawkeye Hawkins

Jon Covich

Come meet the Company Reps:

Dick Sagara: TFO, Teeny
Eric Neufeld: Sage, Simms, Rio, Ross, Tibor
Jon Covich: Winston, Patagonia
Mike Perusse: G. Loomis
Kerry Burkheimer: C.F. Burheimer
Come meet the Guides & Instructors:
Mark Bachmann
Marty Sheppard
Hawkeye Hawkins
Ron Lauzon
Leroy Teeple
Josh Linn
Fly Tying
Free Fly Casting Instruction & Casting Contests
Slide Programs
Lots of personal assistance !!!

Slide Shows
Steelhead & Saltwater Presentations

Fly Tying Demonstrations By: 
Mark Bachmann, Josh Linn, Marty Sheppard,
and Hawkeye Hawkins. 
Each of these experienced guides will tie their favorite winter steelhead fly.

Back Yard Casting Contest:
Win Big Prizes.

Barbeque will be served: 11:30-1:00.
This will be the best party in Welches, Oregon: December 9, 2006 !!!


One-Day Winter Steelhead Fly Fishing Schools
Take a drift boat ride down a Local River with: 
Mark Bachmann Josh Linn and Ron Lauzon.

Mark Bachmann, Sandy River, Oregon Winter Steelhead fly fishing is very practical if you know how.  Being able to find fish and being able to present the fly properly are key factors.  
We will show you how. 
These are schools that will cover a lot of water and fishing knowledge in one day.  Length of the class is 8-hours on the water.  Three students per boat/instructor format for the December 1 School on the Clackamas River.  Two students per boat/instructor format for the other schools on the Sandy River.
Emphasis will be on giving you a solid foundation of skills to build on, with a high priority given to hooking fish during the class. We want to give you maximum advantage by having as many fish hooked during this class as possible.  Nothing teaches you more about fishing than being where fish are being hooked and landed.
Emphasis will be on spey rod casting and sinking-tip line fishing, but will also cover single handed rod techniques.  Learn how to locate steelhead water and how to approach it.
Josh Linn, Sandy River, Alaska

Watch an expert guide as he fishes and discloses the secrets and proven methods that put fish on the beach. Get a lot of hands-on help so that you too can be productive.

Ron Lauzon, Sandy River, Oregon Bring your own waders and rain gear.  Bring your own rod/reel set up if you want to.  
A variety of premium quality 2-hand and single-handed rod/reel set-ups will be available for you to use at no extra charge. Flies are supplied.
A hot lunch will be served on the river.  
There will be a very short rest period after lunch.  
Meet at The Fly Fishing Shop at 6:30am for orientation.  Coffee and donuts will be served.

Arrive back at The Fly Fishing Shop at 6:00pm.
What our customers say.   A report on our last Steelhead School.
First come, first served.

WST-CLASS-020207 Winter Steelhead Fly Fishing School
February 02, 2007, Sandy River, 2-students per boat, 6-students maximum
$225 per student

WST-CLASS-031607 Winter Steelhead Fly Fishing School
March 16, 2007, Sandy River, 2-students per boat, 6-students maximum
$225 per student


Fly Fishing Hats

Tilley Hats Extreme Hat
Patriotic Hat  
Lightweight Hat  

Mark Bachmann with LT6 Tilley at Maya Indian ruins, Calakmul, Mexico, 2006...

You can lose 70% of your body temperature through the top of your head.  This becomes more critical with lose of hair. A bald spot is uncomfortable when it's sun-burnt.  Cold rain isn't enjoyable on a bald spot either. Maybe your bald spot is sexy, but sometimes you just want to fish.  Maybe you feel like playing Indiana Jones on a Maya pyramid, or need the emotional boost of feeling fashionable.  Or, maybe you are young and smart, and have all your hair, but realize that a bill, if worn facing forward, shields your eyes from the sun, giving you extreme advantage when dealing with any adversities.  There are many reasons to wear a hat.  In many outdoor

situations it is  more comfortable and safer to wear one.  U.S. Fishermen have overwhelmingly chosen the baseball cap as the most popular style of fly fishing hat.  That is because it gives good ventilation, adequate protection in most circumstances, and stays on your head in windy conditions.  An extra bonus is a bill that gives good shade to your eyes, thus reducing glare and eye fatigue.  Next most popular style is the brimmed hat... like my old Tilley.  I love my old Tilley.  We've spent many adventuresome moments together.  It's now laying flat in my expedition luggage; plotting on the next campaign to a foreign land...and its sights...and its smells...and its sounds...
and its fish...

Patriotic Hat from The Fly Fishing Shop

Stars & Stripes. Red, white & blue. 
Premium quality. One size fits all.

Item Description Size Price

To Top

LUCKY-1 The Fly Fishing Shop Logo Patriotic Hat one size fits all $24.95


Logo Hat from The Fly Fishing Shop

This is the lightest weight baseball style cap that we have found.  The bill liner is plastic so water doesn't hurt it. These hats are extremely washable.  They make great hats for hot weather or dusty conditions.  Wash them in the river with a little had soap and let air dry, or wear it until its dry. These hats are well ventilated.  They cup well to your head, and are not easily effected by wind.  Each bill is dark on the under side to cut glare, and is the right length and shape to give great protection to your eyes and eyesight.  Every Fly Fishing Shop Logo hat is certified lucky.

Item Description Size Price To Top
LUCKY-2 Lightweight Lucky Hat from The Fly Fishing Shop, Claret one size fits all $19.95

LUCKY-3 Lightweight Hat from The Fly Fishing Shop, Navy one size fits all $19.95


Simms Gore-tex Extreme Hat
This new hat provides hardcore anglers with waterproof, breathable protection.

  • 3-layer Gore-Tex fabric offers 100% waterproof, breathable protection
  • Fleece-lined interior provides insulation for cold weather
  • Ear flaps may be worn up over cap or secured under chin to provide protection in extreme conditions
    Color: Loden

Item Description Size Price To Top
HGE1062300 Simms Gore-tex Extreme Hat, Loden one size fits most $49.95


Simms WindStopper Stocking Cap

This WindStopper® hat offers 100% windproof protection.

  • Fleece with WindStopper® lining

One Size Fits Most
Colors: Black, Loden

Item Description Size Price To Top
ASK3103 Simms WindStopper Stocking Cap, Black one size fits most $24.95

ASK3101 Simms WindStopper Stocking Cap, Loden one size fits most $24.95


The Fly Fishing Shop HOME. The Fly Fishing Shop, Welches, OR

1(800) 266-3971

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Fish long & prosper,
Mark Bachmann, Patty Barnes

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