New Year Winter Steelhead Report: Advent of Chrome

The week between Christmas and New Years was a wet one, punctuated by driving rains and blustery squalls which pushed most rivers in the state over their banks, swollen with flood waters. A couple days before the holiday the rain abruptly stopped, and by New Year’s Eve, it was time to be fishing.

David Gantman with a wild winter buck

I had a friend in town who was itching to get out on the water. My buddy David is a former fishing guide who succumbed to a real job that landed him in California. He doesn’t get many opportunities to fish anymore. While we had planned to fish for a few days last week, a winter storm and a bout of the flu conspired to keep us off the river until Friday. Knowing this would likely be Dave’s only opportunity to fish for steelhead this winter, I let him do all the fishing while I boated us down a favorite stream. It didn’t take us too long to start finding fish.

wild oregon winter steelhead

All our action came on an egg pattern fished under an indicator. Our timing had perfect; the water had just dropped into shape, and was a beautiful shade of green with about 4 feet of visibility. Conditions like these often offer the opportunity to intercept beautiful chrome steelhead as they leave tide water and quickly ascend to their spawning grounds.

Wild Oregon winter steelhead

While the water conditions have been great the last few days, the road conditions certainly have not been ideal. On the tail end of the last storm cycle, we got some snow down to very low elevation. Since then, the weather has been very cold and dry, leaving many of the roads through the coast range in an awful state. Yesterday I fished with friends Rob Russel and Matt Stansberry on a north coast river. Generally, you can expect the ambient temperature on the coast to be a good deal warmer than it is inland when we get cold and high pressure like this. This day, however, was an exception. I don’t think the air temperature broke freezing, hovering most of the day in the upper 20s. In this particular spot, I opted to fire up the heater and warm my boots up while Matt covered the lower end of the pool.

foot warmer

As it turns out, the trip was well worth the effort. After culling a small hatchery hen from the herd, Rob hooked this robust wild buck which came to hand after a dramatic battle.

Rob Russel with a wild winter buck, cropped

With early reports of fish ascending nearly every coastal river system, 2011 is shaping up to be a great winter steelhead season here in Oregon. Watch the weather and water levels, get up early, drive carefully and dress warm. There are some spectacular fish swimming around in our coastal rivers.


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