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Tips For Winter Steelhead Guides

By Chris Bellows

When you look for a guide, talk to him or her before you book a trip. Explain how you want to fish, whether swinging flies or nymphing with egg patterns and stonefly nymphs. Make sure the guide accommodates what you, the client, want to do and learn. Don't expect to catch many fish. Winter steelheading with a fly is very challenging. The rewards are great, but they don't happen on a frequent basis.

Being a steelhead guide in the winter, in my opinion, is one tough profession. Hooking a steelhead is tough for even experienced steelheaders, more so for a client that has never fished for them. The rivers are often unfishable due to extended periods of the rain. Guides first and foremost must be honest about the chances of success, about the conditions that might be expected, and that the trip might be canceled if Mother Nature doesn't cooperate.

Hoh River, WA

A good steelhead guide must be a good and patient teacher. He must show the client what constitutes good holding water, proper presentation of the fly as well as help the client with casting, knot tying, and other skills required on the river.

The guide must have a respect for his resource, leave spawning fish alone, but point them out to the client. He will know something of the natural history of the area and be able to point out animal species such as deer, elk, and the numerous birds that call his waterways home.

I know quite a few guides. Two in the area where I live stand out.

Dave Steinbaugh runs an outfitter business called Waters West. He guides on the Olympic Peninsula, WA in the winter months for steelhead. He also sells high quality fly-tying materials via mail order. Dave can be reached at (360) 417-0937. He also teaches spey-casting to those interested in fishing the long two-handed rods; which I use for the majority of my winter fishing.

Another is JD Love. He lives on the banks of one of the finest winter-run steelhead rivers in this area. And knows the north coastal rivers as well as anyone. JD can be reached at (360) 327-3772. He can also instruct spey casting.

A trip with either of these guides will be an enjoyable fishing and learning experience. Enjoy the boat ride, and don't forget to take the black prawn. ~ CB

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