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Pancho's first steelhead

By admin - Posted on 15 December 2010

Pancho Winter
December 9, 2010
Steelhead Adventure: Deschutes 2010

When one of Telluride Outside's top guides, John "JDub" Warren, asked me if I wanted to go steelheading for a week on the Deschutes River in Oregon, I quickly dismissed the idea.  After all, like most middle aged dads, I was long on commitments and short on time.  Luckily, after contemplating that Latin phrase about "carpe diem" I regained my wits and asked myself:  "How often do you get a seasoned steelheader providing a boat, spey rods, spey casting instruction and in depth knowledge of the Deschutes' prime steelie spots willing to show you the ropes?"  As successful anglers know, when opportunity knocks you've got to make the time.

I can confidently say, that over the nine days I hustled to keep up with JDub, I didn't sleep more than 5 hours a night and spent the remaining 19 hours solely focused on fishing.  Admittedly, when I embarked with John for the Deschutes I had no idea that steelheaders had a reputation for hardcore fishing.  Steelheaders will do everything and anything to ensure they are at prime spots for long dawn and dusk sessions.  Nor did I know that spey fisherman are the most maniacal of the steelhead crowd.   Spey casters don't care if you just catch a steelie: nope, spey casters catch steelies fishing a traditional wet fly on the swing, or not at.   On the lower Deschutes, nymph fishing is simply not cool.  I think the stats are something like 1,000 swings and you'll probably get a "grab."   Enough grabs and you might, if the fish gods smile, catch a steelie.   And you guessed it, JDub is a spey caster to the bone.

Pancho's SteelheadI am happy to report the hard work paid off.   In an amazing moment of serendipity, John Warren's guiding skill and my beginners luck I caught my first steelhead in the first twenty minutes of spey casting at our first stop on the Deschutes.  I will never forget that surreal moment as I released a beautiful, 30" wild male with the rush of adrenaline leaving my veins.   JDub summed it up: "Pancho, you travelled 1600 miles across the west and that fish just swam across 3,000 miles of Pacific, 200 miles of the Columbia River and through 3 dams, and, as if by destiny, your journeys intersected here."

On my return plane trip to Telluride, I closed my eyes, and even though I was exhausted, I reflected upon each of the many fish John and I had hooked and/or landed during the previous seven days.  The fish gods had smiled upon us and our diligence had been rewarded with lots of steelies and even one 13 lb King Salmon.  I was ready for a nice long sleep in my warm bed.  JDub, on the other hand, was just getting warmed up.   As the plane flew over the Deschutes, I knew John was there, loading his raft and preparing for his second float. 


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