Friday, March 5, 2010


( Dr. John with the hog)

( The girth on this thing was massive and I could barely get it in the net basket as it's tail stuck out )

( the broken new net handle from LOKI )

Every year I get asked when is the best time of year to bag the steelhead trophy of a lifetime. I always say"March".All of the 15-20 lb plus( and you can count them pretty much on one hand in 17 years) bright red male buck steelhead have for the most part come in March. These are pre-spawn, heavy girth ed, double red band, Babine, B.C. looking fish that put up incredible battles in very cold water. They are extremely aggressive in the deep dark guts of the pools they inhabit in 34 degree F water.BUT........they are very elusive, cautious and can be the equally opposite of aggressive takers.......can be!

It was another bluebird, bright sunny day Thursday.Water was"vodka clear(actually Vodka is a little more stained then the Muskegon right now), when I guided the "STEELHEAD DOCTOR"-Dr. John Murphy. John in his 17 years of guiding for steelhead with me has probably caught more and very large steelhead than any other fly angler in the Great Lakes! That is a bold statement, but the hundreds of digital and slide images I have of John and his wife Shawn is living proof to his prowess.

We were totally enjoying the weather and I felt like I was in Florida after guiding the past few weeks in spitting snow, wind and ice-up.John, a recently retired chief surgeon at Beaumont Hospital in Detroit, had recently started up his private physicians consulting company and has not gottin out to fish for winter steels-his passion- yet in 2010. John has caught fish in minus 4 degree weather( that's F.- NOT WIND CHILL!) He has caught large steelhead in flood-stage water, low clear water, tertiary water. Damn it!- if there was a steelhead in a toilet bowl in the Florida keys, John would find it and catch it- he has got a nose like a dog for steelhead. In all equivalents, he is the "STEELHEAD BOB YORK"of the Great Lakes!

After landing a nice dark male buck steelhead around three P.M.- which went ballistic in battle, the water was pushing 36.8 degrees F. The dusk bite was sure to come.

I saved the best and last big buck pool for the end of the day. "Johnny, I haven't seen those big buck males of March now for two years. For a long time from the late 90's we hit them every spring", I said , as we sat and soaked up the sun and I changed flies. "I REMEMBER THE BIG 20LB PLUS BUCK I HIT IN EARLY MARCH THAT WAS ON THE FRONT COVER OF FLY FISHERMAN MAGAZINE-ALSO THE 20LB PLUS ONE HIT BY M.DZIENNY IN 2002".These are memorable fish and battles a guide never forgets-BUT lately, they have been few and far between.

John was using the Orvis Helios 11 foot /7 wght. switch rod with the Abel Super 8 Steelhead model. 3x Orvis Mirage Flouro. I've been testing various flouros all winter in 3x(6lb) to see which holds up best on big fish with kypes and teeth. Varivas, Maxima, Rio Flouro-flex all had different qualities. The diameter difference and strength between 2x and 3x is very significant -especially in steelheading in very low, clear waters.

I put on the new "Super Ice Man Rainbow Blue Minnow"( a Gregg Senyo tie that will be featured for sale later this summer to coincide with one of my magazine features.This fly stuck the massive lake - run brown we hit last Friday. With the Senyo's Lazer fibers(available from Hareline Products), Gregg has found a way to mix MWM (motion without movement, translucency and vibration- all in one fly!).

After about a dozen drifts thru a bucket/gut of a pool that produced the Dzienny fish in 2002, the Helios WAS SLAMMED WITH VIOLENT HEAD SHAKES!.Johnny stuck hard, but not too hard having 3x flouro. The fished sulked and head shaked in the pool."I Don't know what that is- it is head shaking but I don't think it's a steel", John Said."It must be a big brown or a hog walleye"."NOPE, Johnny, I Shot back. It is acting like the prelude to a major battle with a big alpha buck steelhead that hasen't woke-up its metabolism yet.or doesn't want to leave the pool just yet - the fish struck at happy hour- 5:06 P.M." Once the fish came up out of ten feet of water it went berserk and thrashed the surface and tail-walked 20 yards into John's backing and went 70 yards down the whole pool on one run".

IT was a fierce battle lasting 15 minutes and the Helios and 3x mirage held up perfectly. I stiffer rod would have broken that fish off.And thanks to John's ability to land hog steelhead it all came together. I just got a new LOKI net handle and when I went to hoist the fish up to land it , the aluminum handle snapped in two!!!!

Both John and I were spent and exhausted!. It was a dawg fight to the finish( I got the battle on my new Nikon Digital d700 HD 14. mega pix video and will do a YOU tube in the next few days.


In an important note to all my team Igloo"club and string em up brethren"-PLEASE- when you encounter these perfect genetic specimens..PLEASE let them go!!!! They are God's ultimate creation of genetic perfection- aggressive to take the fly and have the "strike instinct" firmly implanted in them . Their soul purpose is to fertilize as many females as they can and pass on the behavioral code of the strike aggression response. If we cull these "Striking and taking machines" out of the gene pool, we are cheating our own sporting opportunities. Besides, the smaller 2-5 pound chromers are better for your grill and don't have the impact on the gene pool and the creation for multi- spawning run alpha fish which we desperately need more of !I beseech to please let these guys go!