Jan 15, 2015

The Slump by Andrew Perrault

"True Grit"
I’ve been in a steelhead slump for some time now. Its not that I haven’t put in a lot of time fishing this winter; there has already been countless early mornings and long weekends, and I haven’t even touched a fish. My friends are catching them; I have seen people in front and behind me catching them. I just have not caught one or even come close in months. To say that it’s frustrating is quite the understatement. It is a test of patience, determination, and some would even use the phrase “grit”.

I have been contemplating just hanging it up and pick up some golf clubs. Ok, maybe not that extreme, but it seems like everyone who catches one is instantly an expert on why I haven’t hooked one yet. I know that I am doing everything right. I am a good caster, I can read water well, and I know where they lie, what they take and how to present a good fly correctly to a fish. It’s purely just a matter of luck, and I have to keep telling myself that. Luck has just never been in my blood. For example, I have applied for permits for the Middle Fork Salmon River, Selway and Main Salmon every year going on ten years now without being drawn while I know several people that have drawn permits multiple times in that period… Time is my only hope at this point.

The last steelhead I landed was on the Deschutes in early November; November 6 to be exact. I did put a spanking on that river that day though. By my calculations, I average on the conservative side 15 hours per week fishing. It has been 9 weeks since I landed that last fish. That is 135 hours fishing minimum. I average 40 casts per hour, and that means that I have made a minimum of 5000 casts since I last landed a steelhead. Yet I keep going out twice a week before work, and two days a week all day, every week. I keep watching people catch fish, and on every single cast, I whole-heartedly believe that I will hook one on this cast. When that cast reaches the end, I become completely focused and know that this next cast is going to produce that big chrome winter steelhead that haunts my dreams.

I know that the trout fishing on the Deschutes is great during the winter. I would love to get out there and rail on some redbands, but I am in a steelhead deficit right now. I couldn’t possibly give up now after thousands of unanswered casts, weeks of early mornings, and hundreds of miles driven just to catch nothing. If I went trout fishing now, it would be admitting defeat of some kind. I would let the steelhead win my personal battle.

The next problem is that if I catch one tomorrow, I will feel that I need to get three or four to catch up with the effort I have put in so far this winter before I could go trout fishing. This vicious cycle goes right into springtime when, hopefully, I get a couple of great days in and then I can go trout fishing for a month or two. Then one day in June, I will decide to go summer steelheading on the Klickitat, and then the cycle starts all over until it peaks out again in November…

This happens to me every year… Last year’s slump was the worst of my life. I landed my last fish on the swing on October 8. Then I did not land another one (on the swing) until March 5, 2014; and I put in more time per week than I have so far this year. That is somewhere in the far north of 10,000 empty casts. Let’s hope that this year’s slump ends much more quickly than last year’s. I know I can pull out the bobber rod and nymph one up almost any day, but I am sticking with the swing, as the reward is so much greater when you have to make ten thousand casts between fish… right?


I did manage to land a steelhead finally, although it took writing an article about my struggles before I got one.

Caught on my new Echo Glass 7129-4, 12’9” 7wt.

Andrew Perrault
Gorge Fly Shop

"Fly Fish the World with Us"


  1. This is gonna be YOUR YEAR!
    The fishermen are slow... but the fish are patient... or something like that:)

  2. Dude - great post. I'm "only" a couple of years into the sport and have yet to land even a summer steelhead on the fly. I'm glad to know it's not *just* my crappy technique. You've given me hope. (ish.)


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