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OP Winter Steelhead with Brandon

This is part 2 of a 3-part Winter Steelhead trip. Check out…

Dave’s time was up and his job was calling… so I dropped him off at the airport, turned around, and headed back out with my brother.

The forecast was for more crappy weather on the Olympic Peninsula but it looked like there could be a perfect window just around the corner.

The first day was a classic North West winter wind storm with all the accouterments – falling trees, lightning, hail, snow, sleet, rain, blah bla bla… just an all-out nasty day.

Hoh River Rain Storm

“Uh, Yeah… it’s out… “

After finding the upper river on its way out we agreed it was the perfect opportunity to do a little exploring and drive up the South bank to check out the old Huelsdonk homestead and the South Fork.

John Huelsdonk Hoh River Homestead & Cabin

The Old Huelsdonk Homestead (The Iron Man of the Hoh)

By late afternoon the storm had passed and as we were driving back up the North bank we could see the river was already starting to come back down and clear in the upper stretches.

Hoh River Steelhead Water

It was getting late in the day but we still had enough time to squeeze-in one run.

We walked down to the water to check it out. Brandon said, “I’ll take that lower run”, so I took the top.

A few minutes later my radio went off, “Fish On!!”

Brandon Hooked-up

Brandon Landing Steelhead

Brandon Tailing Hoh Steelhead

Small Hoh River Steelhead


He may not have been the biggest steelhead in the Hoh river, but he was a wild, and perfectly proportioned bright fish…

Adding on a few pounds would simply be a matter of adjusting the camera angle some and getting Brandon to awkwardly pose just right…

Brandon Squyres with small Hoh River Steelhead

“Just a little further Brandon, ahhh… yeah… Perfect!”

The next morning came quick as they always seem to on these trips. The USGS site showed the river-level holding overnight and the weather forecast suggested it would be another couple hours before it started dropping.

We had a quick look outside and both agreed there was no need to rush…

Cold Morning in Forks, Washington

Cold Morning in Forks, Washington 2

After a hot breakfast, and a second pot of coffee – we loaded-up the truck and headed out…

Spey Rods on Icy Truck Hood

The middle section we wanted to fish so badly would still need a few hours before it hit that magical color & flow so we killed some time fishing higher up.

Brandon Spey Casting off log

There’s a magical window that seems to happen when a winter steelhead river goes form “out” to “in”. Bob Arnold wrote about this with the Sauk & Skagit rivers in his book, Steelhead Water.

Brandon & I have tweeked our schedules in the past to catch it – and not regretted it yet.

The magic hours in most fisheries are those low-light hours of light before the sun hits the water, or late in the day after it’s left the water.

In winter steelhead fishing – particularly up here (where they have no idea what the sun even is) – the magic hours, or window, happens just as the river transitions from being high & muddy for days, to that sought-after shade of stealhead green.

It’s typically a matter of hours, but if you’re really lucky, it might last a whole day, or even two in the best case.

It’s when local steelheaders call in sick.

Brandon Spey Casting off log 2

We’d both experienced it in the past and could smell it in the air now.

It was the perfect time of year, when the BIG Steelhead are in the river.

The river’s been high for more than a week, and it’s dropping.

The weather forecast is good for the next few days.

The stars were aligning…

The problem?

1) Brandon had to be back at work, and 2) I had to leave to pick Jeff up from the airport tonight.

Grrr… the timing!

Hoh River Winter Steelhead Water

Magic Hour on the Hoh – Steelhead Green on the drop

We’d started high-up in the watershed and pretty much followed the fishable water down stream throughout the day as it cleared.

There’s a certain stretch of water we were especially anxious to hit in the middle river.

The clock was ticking but it looked like we’d have just enough time to check it out before we had to leave, if we were fast.

Time was limited so Brandon & I quickly made the long trek down the bar. It had completely changed since last year. I took the lower piece so he stepped-into the upper section.

“Woo Hoo – Fish On!!”, came accross the radio.


I looked up river and saw a big fish thrashing out in front of Brandon. His spey rod was buckled and the Hardy was singing.

Unfortunately it was short lived.

The fish came unbuttoned.

Brandon Dissapointed After Losing Big Steelhead

The fly was still there, the hook was good… it simply came off.

Brandon - The Steelhead that got away


It was time to head out.

Brandon had to get back and I needed to go pick up Jeff. The forecast was looking awesome for the next couple days and I wondered if Jeff had any idea what was in store for him…

This is part 2 of a 3-part Winter Steelhead trip. Check out…

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