Official IGFA World Record Steelhead
28.5 Lbs. on 8 Lb. Line
As the paddle
on this fish crashed the surface of the water for the second
time, I heard a voice from behind me yell, "Are you kidding me?"
He's right, I thought to myself is it another 30-pound steelhead
attached to my line? As a great 20th century philosopher named
Yogi once said, "It was deja-vu all over again. My first
thought thereafter? One word-strategy. I had to
develop one fast, and actuate it even more quickly. Should
I simply hold on and wait and see? No way! The show
could be over before the curtain is drawn. I had made that
mistake too many times, and now I was going to consciously avoid
The initial surveillance of my surroundings identified
only a few places this behemoth steelie might attempt to take me
in order to free itself. It was up to me to not allow the fish
to take me there. I was resolute in my conviction that it
was to be mine-landed, photographed, and released unharmed.
The picture was in my head. Letting the fish call the
shots and just hanging on for dear life is not the way to get
the job done. Too many times I have witnessed fellow
fisher-people get taken to the shed by a huge steelie or even
salmon, because they just stood there and hung on for the ride.
I'm a firm believer in taking it to the fish as soon as your
heartbeat settles down from the initial hook set. This
aggressive approach can only be engaged if you have determined
and can visualize what your bruiser
is likely to do. How will I keep it out of that log jam?
What can I do to keep it away from that ledge? Those rapids
across river look imposing, how do I keep it out of there?
Anticipate, anticipate, anticipate, then move and react on your
When I am in the strategy phase of the fight, I have to
consider my equipment as well as my ability. What have I
been able to get away with while using my 7 1/2-foot
G.Loomis HSR 9000? How much pressure can I really
put on this fish while using a Shimano Stelia 4000 while loaded
with only 8-pound line because of the clear water conditions?
I also have to remind myself of the astonishing fact that I'm
getting older, and here I am in the river up to my waist.
I can't run with it downriver unless I back out, and only then
if I have a shoreline that permits me to go with the fish.
it pays for me to back up am, as far away from the river's shore
line as possible and conduct my
fight there. I just might have a better shot at landing
the fish if it's in tight versus mid river. I contend,
most of the time, landing the big one (20s-30s) involves very
Let's go back to the beginning
of this particular battle and I'll set the stage for you.
The long, dark-shaded slot all the, way up against the opposite
bank was where I had made my original presentation using my
MondoFly. Over and over 1kept pounding the same spot while
moving a little upriver every few casts, then backing up, moving
adjacent to the slot for a few. I even stepped downriver.
I was not going to leave this kind of water until I was
satisfied no one was home. On about the twentieth to
thirtieth cast, there it was. First lesson here: always look for
this kind of water on the opposite shaded bank for unmolested,
undisturbed fish. Finding the fish in the first place is the
biggest challenge. No matter how much I think, I know, there's a
lot more that I don't. Therefore, I have become a student of the
game as you should. I watch others, ask questions, and I
read this magazine from cover to cover picking up pinches of
wisdom from anyone willing to tell their story. All this
and then some to gain any advantage in learning how to better
read water, and better understand where "It" is likely to live.
Although this riverwqas new to me, I had seen similar water
scenes on other rivers throughout the years. Douring the
last 10 to 15 years I have become extremely adept at
filing in my brain the
places I have hooked up or have seen others do so. These mental
notes are pictures I recommend you take and store in your mind.
Steelles like similar water from river to river, and while
approaching new water like this big B.C. river, these snapshots
were invaluable on this particular day.
Once I was hooked up, bringing it all the way across the river
back to me using 8-pound Ande tournament line was the challenge
at hand. Many large steelhead lost throughout my career have
freed themselves one way or another, oftentimes while I was
standing still and in the same spot where I had set the hook.
Armed with this knowledge and with Mr. Hogito dancing on my
line, I began to move and change my body and rod positions
often. I believe that in doing so the fish cannot determine,
" When he swam away with viqor,
a chill of awe and respect
back to the boat
with tears in my eyes "
where the pressure is coming from which can cause it to make a
move on you. I would move in towards the fish, then
back-up slowly. I would sometimes hold the rod straight up
while pulling on the fish, and sometimes hold the rod parallel
to the river over on its side. Over the years, many folks have
asked what the heck 1 was doing, suggesting I look like I am
sword-fighting with the fish. Whatever it might look like, this
technique has worked for me over and over again. The key is to
be patient and keep your strategy in mind. Slow everything down.
Don't rush, breathe deeply, and enjoy. After all, this is why
we're here in the first place, isn't it? How many
times have you seen someone just keep cranking on the reel as if
it were a wench, only to spin drag, and eventually break the
fish off? Go easy and be calm. It's possible to be in this
fight for an hour or more.
This particular fish had a paddle on it that appeared to be at
least 12 inches wide. My mind flashed to a steelhead I landed on
the Mattole River that used his tall to kick the barbless
Gamakatsu out of his mouth. Immediately, I
decided that once I had this fish in close, I would lead it and
allow it to flop around as little as
possible. I then had a moment to ask CatMan Catanese
to bring the Boga-Grip scale, camera and landing gurney (not a
net), from the boat. The vessel was a couple hundred yards
upstream and I figured that's what friends are for, right?
The thought occurred to me that perhaps he should also
bring the boat downriver in case I would have to follow and
chase the bruiser, as I have had to do with others so many times
in the past. But it became immediately clear no boat.
It was going to be a, make-or-break endeavour within the 100 or
so yards of gravel bar I had above and below me. This was
the challenge I chose for this particular day. The river
configuration and lack of obstacles made this choice a lot
Like all giant fish, once they tire, they can
knowingly, or not, use their thick girth in the current to break
you off. Anticipate this action and don't let the fish do
this to you. This time, I was able to stay below him.
His sheer buoyancy allowed me to move him down with me. No
net was to be used here. Taking the protective slime off
these fish is something we all need to avoid. I would do
my best to tall him in water about a foot deep. I kept
looking downriver for a good runway. I had seen such a
place 20 minutes or so into the fight. With good friend
and guide extraordinaire Justin Geiger of West Coast
Fishing Adventure steady on the video camera, I slid Mr. Steelle
gently up the runway. He was now mine for this magical
moment in time. I could barely get my hand around his
wrist as the barbless Gami slid out of his jaw nearly
effortlessly. While constantly providing him with a
drink, we measured and photographed this fish of a lifetime.
I had attempted to weigh two other 20-pound-plus fish on a Boga
Grip scale on previous trips. In both cases, I very sorry to
have weighed the fish while it was suspended on the scale by the
jaw. After the second one last year, I decided right
then and there, no way ever again, no matter what. So this
time we carefully slid the fish onto a gurney and then used the
scale gripper on the gurney handles. All 42 3/4 by 23 3/4 inches
of him bottomed out the 30-pound scale in a fraction of a
second. This is now the official IGFA World Record for
8-pound line. The thought that poundage would be taken off
because of the gurney weight never bothered me, knowing in my
heart and mind that I had done the right thing for the fish.
Twenty- eight pounds, eight ounces was good enough for me,
although we all saw a 30- pound-plus fish once again.
When he swam away with vigor, a chill of awe and respect sent me
back to the boat with tears in my eyes. Although we had at least
three hours of fishing left in our day, 1 was done; never to
make another cast that glorious day. It all began with the
belief that the fish was there to be found, once again in the
dark slot of the opposite bank, and ended with the
implementation of a strategy, derived from personal experience
and a lot of watching, reading and listening.
We don't always have a lot of choices to make while landing the
"Big Ones. But, when you are given that opportunity,
develop your strategy, implement it while taking it to the fish,
then carefully revive the fish with TLC after a photo or two. Most importantly, release it gently "to fight again another