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Situk Steelhead

Published: 4th June 2018 | Author: Denis Isbister

Steelhead are synonymous with bad weather and tough fishing but thankfully this trip to Alaska the Wild Fish Wild Places crew only had to deal with one!

Yakutat, Alaska is home to some amazing fishing but in April and May the Steelhead fishery on the Situk is what you’re after. The folks at Leonard’s Landing had the accommodations, drift boats and van ready for the crew when we showed up to film and all we had to do was bring the food and figure out how to catch fish. Guides are available but we were excited for the challenge of trying to figure out these fish on a new river …… but that might have been a mistake!


The Situk River is a small, windy and tree infested river with 14 miles of floating from the top launch to the takeout near the ocean and only 18 miles long in total. The first day we decided to run a float rig setup with a Maxi Jig thinking we could run it near the edge of the lumber as well as make some good time while learning the river. After about 3 hours of nonstop snagging and losing about half of the jigs we brought, it was clear we were going to have to change up tactics before I snapped like a dry twig! With over half the float done and a handful of ideas scrapped, I decided to try running a bead and indicator setup as we got some information from a fellow angler telling us they were crushing them.

As we were still trying to make it down the river in good time we started working the bead setup drifting down the river at a good pace. Only about 20 minutes into this technique we landed our first steelhead of the trip to the camera! We finished the day with the bead technique and were successful landing 8 steelhead, which for the first day on a new steelhead river, we felt pretty good about.

The next few days we juggled around different styles and presentations from beads, Steelie Omelet, BH Medusa, Chironomid patterns and streamers with some success but couldn’t quite “crack the code.” The Situk River has potential to give up 50 fish days and we had only been hitting the single digits every day, which for every other steelhead river in the world is a great day but we knew we could do better!

The last day we got a late start due to filming obligations and put in around 9:30 which actually turned out to be a good thing as the Spanish Armada of boats and guides were well in front of us by this time and we had the river to ourselves. It was raining buckets of water so Dreu decided to start with fly fishing using an indicator and a bead, but this is where the day got interesting. About 100 yards into the float I drifted a little close to the bank and an overhanging limb jumped out of nowhere and hooked the two extra fly rods out of the back and ever so graciously placed them at the bottom of the river! So now we are down to one 10 foot 8 weight fly rod for the rest of the trip!

About 2 hours in with no sign of fish with the bigger bead setup I rigged up an indicator with a smaller indicator and egg fly orange thinking the smaller presentation might be the ticket. We got set up while Dreu was rowing and I started the first drift more towards the middle of the river and much farther away from the boat than we had been fishing. Less than 5 minutes of drifting, indicator down and Bam, fish on! Dreu back rowed into a bank we could land the fish, took some pics and immediately tried it again. Right away “fish on” and Dreu was playing the fish to the boat with yet another beautiful steelhead landed. The next two hours it was pure craziness with fish after fish slamming the small egg setup with reckless abandonment and the old Hardy fly rod holding strong.

To think, if we had only figured out this smaller egg fishing technique a little sooner in the trip!

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