March 14, 2015

A Successful Failure

I was in Oregon this past week, seeing my daughter and son-in-law. For March, the weather was incredibly nice -- blue sky, no wind, temperatures in the high 60's. They haven't had rain in weeks. This made the vacation part of the trip very nice, but I believe it put a damper on the fishing part of the trip. River levels were low and water conditions were very clear.

Low water for winter in Oregon.

March is the end of the winter steelhead run in many rivers, but still, fish are usually to be found. I decided this trip to fish only fixed line gear; something I've not done before for steelhead. I brought along a Daiwa Kiyose 53MF and a Nissin 2-way 620ZX. I fished the latter rod the most.

Daiwa Kiyose 53MF and line

Nissin 2-way 620ZX and line

Since the sky was so bright I went with dark colors. Since the water levels were quite low for this time of year, I use 1/8 oz or 1/16 oz steelhead jigs.  I mainly used 20-25 foot 8 lb fluorocarbon level line which had Owner Pro Markers yarn tied on as an indicator. These yarn markers work really well and are very visible, even 35 feet away.

Line holder.

Line preloaded with Nightmare jig.

Ready to attach to rod tip.
Pro Markers (from TenkaraBum)

Casting these big rods is quite the experience, especially with a heavy jig attached to the end of the line! Both rods require two handed casting but they cast the jig with accuracy and easy. Getting the cast started is the most difficult. If the jig is in the water near your feet it may take several false casts to get the heavy jig up into the air. But once in the air the jig loads the rods quickly, so only one or two directional casts is required before letting it hit the water. Casting these big rods is sort of like spey casting, but without the line in the water. Call it spey air casting, I guess.

Here's how it works, fishing a hole that flows from left to right. After the jig swings the full length of the run, it will be downstream to your right. Pick up the rod tip with force. This will launch the jig high into the air over your left shoulder. Wait longer than you normally would, allowing the jig to reach to full extent of the line behind you. Now, cast straight out in front of you, over the water, still keeping the jig high in the air. Once the jig straightens out the line, bring the rod back over your right shoulder. Once again allow the jig to fly high and straighten the line; this time back over your right shoulder. Now, launch the jig upstream, to your left, and let it hit its target. Follow the drift through the hole and repeat.

Here is a POV video of me casting with this method as well as the standard cast:

I fished many of usual spots but not a fish did I hook. Steelhead are much more fickle than trout; many anglers can go seasons without catching one but I had hopes of hooking into a fish despite the less than optimal conditions. Alas, it wasn't to be. So now it's onto summer steelhead season in a few months. I'll be back up to Oregon this summer, for the birth of our third grandchild. I'll go after the summer chrome at that time with these two big rods, some jigs, and maybe some steelhead flies.

I'll call this trip a successful failure, mainly because I learned quite a few things about using the gear. I would have liked to tested these rods against a pacific northwest steelhead, but that will have to wait, for now.


  1. Super cool! Looking forward to some video of steelhead on one of those hefty rods.

  2. Thanks for not disclosing our steelhead locations. Best kept secrets in the great northwest keep the fishing here special. Keep those videos coming!

  3. Great info
    Where did you buy that Meiho box for keeping Jigs


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