Our friend and accomplished photographer David Lambroughton created this sign that hangs in the clubhouse at BC West. David wrote the text which appears below, and it’s excellent advice on the right way to land a steelhead. Thanks David!
The Honorable Foot
Unfortunately, it has become almost the standard technique for landing steelhead, and it certainly works well: You beach them. This is best accomplished by leaving 20 feet of line outside the rod tip, and with steady pressure and a minimum of unnecessary motion, simply backing out of the water.
Without sufficient water depth to turn, and with no reverse gear, any thrusts of the tail serve only to drive the fish farther out of the water. You can literally swim a fish right onto the beach this way. And there it will bounce, eyelidlessly and with gills flaring, among the rocks and sand until it is grabbed, admired, and hopefully released. But such treatment is unnecessary and does nothing to minimize our impact on these magnificent creatures.
The next time you have the honor (and that’s what it is) of landing a wild steelhead, leave the fish at least a foot of water. With a 7 or 8 wt rod and the usual 10 to 12 pound tippet, you’ve got lots of control. You’ll be a better fisherman for it, and your quarry will slip away uninjured, to spawn or fight another day.