Richard and Josiah holding a huge steelhead.

Why I Love Winter Steelhead Fishing

The alarm on my watch goes off at 4am. Rubbing my eyes, I roll over out of bed, make a few quick stretches, and prepare my mind for battle to chase some winter steelhead. The night before I prepared the coffee, my waders, warm clothing, and a few energy drinks. I stumble downstairs to start the coffee and layering up for the cold morning. The weather outside hovers around 30 degrees after a cold front, not ideal winter steelhead conditions. But the one thing I have learned from winter fishing: you will never have perfect conditions, just go!

On this cold morning, my best friend and fishing partner Richie meets me at the pick up point as we drive through the darkness and foggy weather to the river, meeting up with fishing guide Josiah Darr of JDarr Fishing. Tired, but excited as we chat fishing, work, more fishing, more work, and prepare our game plan for chasing steelhead.Today’s trip with Josiah will be a float down the river on a pontoon style drift boat. I get so nervous my first cast lands in the tree. The adrenaline is pumping. I slow my breathing down, trying to calm my nerves from the excitement, but also waiting to see the bobber go under.After the first two holes produced no steelhead, we floated down to the third hole. I make a quick, but too short of a cast. I start reeling in to re-cast, and Richie’s bobber drains, fish on! He’s battling hard, the fish isn’t in the mood to jump, but it’s fighting back hard. We still haven’t seen it. Time to pull the anchor and follow it, says Josiah. We need to catch up to this winter steelhead, and fast!We float through multiple sets of rapids, looking for a place to pull off and land the steelhead. We get the winter steelhead close to the boat. OMG, It’s a giant! My heart is pounding. I am holding the net, talking to Richie and to the fish like I’m playing defense in a basketball game. Calling out the play, making adjustments, trying to ensure we land this giant steelhead. This would be the biggest steelhead ever for Richie. Time is flying by. It feels like an eternity since Richie hooked the fish. Josiah has the pontoon secured in slow water. The steelhead gets close to the boat, I grip the net hard, and go for it. Swing and a miss. Richie is still fighting the fish, the buck steelhead still has spunk and won’t give up. Net attempt number two, the fish sees me and takes off again. I wait patiently, nervous about making the perfect net job. My heart is pounding, hoping we get another shot to net this steelhead.Richie catches back up to the steelhead, swings the steelhead over toward me, I jab the net into the water, attempt number 3, and BAM! Winter steelhead in the net. And it’s a true giant, a trophy! I am holding the net speechless. High fives and celebrations all around! We go find the tape measure: 37 inches long, 18 inches in diameter. I have the biggest grin on my face. Richie is in true disbelief and shock. He can’t stop smiling. We take a few photos, and let the wild buck winter steelhead back into the river. As the fish swims off, I see the biggest grin on Richie’s face ever! Josiah is pumped! A memory none of us will never forget. It’s memories and moments like this you will cherish forever. And when you can enjoy these fishing memories with friends like Richie and Josiah, it’s why I love winter steelhead fishing!And if you want to book a steelhead or salmon fishing trip with Josiah, check out his website or send an email to book your next fishing adventure.

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