Deschutes Steelhead, by Simon Gawesworth

Steve swinging in the “Grocery Hole”, downstream of Maupin.

Deschutes – October 2013

Where: Deschutes – Around Maupin

When: 11th and 12th October

Who: Simon Gawesworth & Stephen Roberts

Species: Steelhead

Conditions: Pretty well perfect! Water 50 degrees and clear. The weather was overcast, no wind, with mild temperatures and occasional light rain

Best Fly: “Steelhead Coachman” and “Engagement”

Tackle: 1) Sage Method, 7126-4, balanced with a Sage Evoke 8 reel
2) Sage ONE, 7126-4, balanced with a Sage Evoke 8 reel

Landing a very feisty, fresh native steelhead that took the lucky angler on to the backing instantly,

Lines Used: 1) #7 Scandi Short VersiTip, with 10 ft intermediate tip, attached to .026” ConnectCore Shooting line.
2) 480 gr RIO Scandi, attached to .032” ConnectCore Shooting line.

Leader/Tippet: 9’ 10lb Steelhead leader and 10lb Steelhead/Salmon tippet.

Technique: Swinging wet flies

Report: RIO’s marketing manager, Simon Gawesworth, and UK line tester, Steve Roberts, hit the Deschutes for a morning, afternoon and evening session, hunting some steel. A quick stop at the well-known Deschutes Angler Fly Shop on the way to Maupin revealed that there were fish around, but not a lot being caught. The two anglers picked up some local flies that were to prove very successful. The John Hazel designed “Steelhead Coachman” and the Amy Hazel designed “Engagement” ended up being the productive patterns -which just goes to show the value of local knowledge!

The river was clear, and ran around 50 degrees in temperature, and with ideal weather conditions hopes of a grab or two were high. The main downside of such good conditions at a prime time of year is a busy river, and almost all the main pools from Maupin downstream had anglers in. Not finding much access Simon and Steve resorted to prospecting tactics – fishing small pockets of water that were less fished, and then moving on to the next “pocket”. In most of these pockets, the slower inside seams were fished, resulting in casts of less than 30 feet, and this proved a very successful technique. Three of the four steelhead landed were caught in these pockets with such short casts, and it is a good tactic to remember on more heavily fished waters.

The two most successful flies on this trip. The Steelhead Coachman (brown body) landed 3 steelhead and a whitefish, while the Engagement (green body) landed one steelhead and a rainbow. The Steelhead Coachman was fished as a dropper, and the Engagement was fished on the point, about 6 feet in front of the dropper.


The first steelhead landed was a beautifully colored native male fish of about 8lbs, on the Friday evening, which took the fly about 6 feet out from the bank. The next two fish (Saturday morning) were around 5-6lbs, one coming from right in front of a log jam, in the soft water, and the other in a perfect “fly-water” bucket, that was on the inside edge of a violent maelstrom of current. Simon, who caught this fish, said it took so softly that only the ultra-low stretch of the ConnectCore shooting line that he was using enabled him to know the fish was there, and to make him react in setting the hook. The last fish of the trip was caught about 11 o’clock on the Saturday morning, and again was caught on a very short cast. This fish hit the fly so hard and fast that it was instantly on to the backing and across the other side of the river. This fish was about 8lbs, and with very little color on it, indicating it had not been in the river system a long time. All four steelhead were native fish.

The main takeaways from this trip were:

a) The intermediate tip outperformed the full floating line by 4 to 0 – definitely the line of choice this time!

b) “Prospecting” by hitting small pockets that are left alone by the majority of anglers was far more productive than fishing the more established, and heavily fished pools. 3 of the steelhead were caught in such “pockets”.

c) The sensitivity of the ConnectCore shooting line certainly resulted in at least 1 steelhead that would not have otherwise been caught.

Landing a very feisty, fresh native steelhead that took the lucky angler on to the backing instantly,

This entry was posted in General Techniques, RIO in Action, Steelhead & Spey and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Deschutes Steelhead, by Simon Gawesworth

  1. bruce nelson says:

    Thanks for the post. I was there last week under similar conditions but as a first time steelheader didn’t hook up. I was swinging flies and going on what I’d read for technique and fumbling with water-borncasting. I’m tryng to put together a better outfit, (I had a one handed 10′ 8wt GLoomis Trilogy with doubletapered floating line) and return. As a Clorado/Wyoming trout fisherman prmarily I’d like to get a rod that I can use on our smaler streams as well. Is that 7126 Sage too big for our waters?

  2. John H. Falb says:

    I just returned from a great trip in Colorado, cold in the AM, but jackets off at lunch.

    I have a question. I fish two rods primarily a Winston SIIIX 6 wt. and a Sage One 5 weight. During the trip we were nymphing (a string of three 20-22’s) quite a bit, using my Winston. The quide was complimentary of my casting, but suggested that I might need a different fly line that the Rio Gold No. 6–Claiming the Winston was a slightly slower rod even at their top of the line. Would your LT perform better than the Gold?

    This summer, I had difficulty with my Sage, feeling that the Rio Gold No. 5 wasn’t shooting the line out correctly. While is certainly could be the “guy” holding the rod, do you have any recommendations for these two rods?

    • rioproducts says:

      Hi John
      For dry fly work on your Winston a Trout LT is a good choice, though for nymphing the Grand has more mass so I would stick with it for subsurface stuff. On your ONE the Gold is a nice match, though if you’re having trouble feeling it the new Perception line tends to add a bit more feel to your cast (with any rod).

  3. Michael Clarke says:

    I was fishing for steel in Early December and caught one in 3 days of fishing in the same area of the river. Being new to swinging flies for steelies, I just picked up a few flies at a local shop that were recommended by their staff. Bigger and bulkier than your successful flies. My one fish banged the fly, but as I read your report, it seems that the takes can be more subtle, something I just don’t have the experience to feel, I guess. I thought swinging wets was all about fierce takes but it seems like I must have been absent from class the day they talked about soft takes. Is this common? Also, I noticed another angler exclusively fishing waters close in to the banks, and he scooped up several steelhead in just a few hours. All while I was out there in the river, swinging, stepping, swinging again, blindly waiting for a fish to catch my fly! I wanted to know exactly what his strategy was, but he wasn’t talking. Any comments on the finesse of swinging wets for a beginner? Thanks

    • rioproducts says:

      Hi Michael, when it starts to get colder a lot of times the takes will get softer. Also on bigger rivers or in spots with heavier flow like the D fish can and will slide up the banks where travel is easier. The path of least resistance if you will. Cheers

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