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Steelheading on the Salmon River

by Les Albjerg
(Caldwell, Idaho)

When looking over the huge selection of rods that TenkarBum carries, I would encourage everyone to spend some time checking out the carp rods and the Kyogi in particular. This is a fantastic rod.

Yesterday, I finally fulfilled a dream of mine and that was to fish the upper Salmon River with my Kyogi 63. Last fall I hooked and failed to land a B run Steelhead (15-20+ pound fish) with the rod. I had it up to the boat and the guide knocked the hook out of the fish's mouth with the landing net. B run fish spend an extra year or two in the ocean. The upper Salmon has steelhead in the 8-15 pound range (A run). Last fall taught me that the Kyogi 63 is capable, yesterday taught me how flexible this rod is. It was a tale of extremes.

The morning in Stanley, Idaho began crisp and clear with no wind and 11 degrees. There is still 3 feet of snow on the ground. The river is running about a foot and a half high but was fishable. In the first place we fished, I used a shrimp and two split shot. On the third cast I hooked a steelhead. It was a short lived fight of about 30 seconds. He outsmarted me! When hooked he turned downstream and I dropped the rod to put pressure on, and he spun around and swam right at me. I was too slow raising the rod and he was able to spit the hook! The lesson was learned! The Kyogi performed perfecly. So, here is a powerful rod that can cast soft bait with no problem. I was not impressed with the canned shrimp I bought to try out. I was using 6 meters of 12 pound copolymer line with 18 inches of 1x fluorocarbon. My fishing partner was flyfishing and had to stop after about 5 minutes to clean the ice off his guides. I chuckled until I went to collapse the Kyogi and discovered the top two sections were frozen! Solution: take off your glove and hold your hand over the joint until it thaws.

We went 30 miles down river to get out of the cold. The next place we fished is were the East Fork comes into the main river. A big lesson, don't forget your line holder! I spent 15 minutes untangling my line. The yarn line markers are awesome! I switched from bait to a weighted #8 Kaufmann's Stonefly pattern. I fished with no weight. The Kyogi can fish a weight nymph all by itself! I was amazed at how well it could cast such a light bait. I was dropping the fly just where I wanted to. Nobody was catching fish in this spot. Josh was hoping to see me hook into a large B run fish. They run up the East Fork to spawn. I did hook and land a fish! I dropped the stonefly into a nice seam and felt the unmistakable take, and set the hook! It is amazing how much power the Kyogi has when you set the hook like it is a steelhead and a 4 inch cutthroat comes flying out of the water at supersonic speed! I am not sure who was more surprised me or the fish! The lesson learned is the Kyogi is a sensitive rod! There was no doubt in my first hook up that felt like a freight train, and the second that was a tap-tap! At 11:30 we headed back up stream and most of the good holes were occupied. We drove to Josh's favorite hole, but the snow was too deep for the half mile hike. Plan B was the hatchery holes. It was a good move.

Once we got to Stanley again we could see the storm moving in. I was fishing the first hole with a two fly setup when the wind went from about 5 miles an hour to well over 20 with gusts into the 30 -40 miles an hour! Just before the snow started to fly, I drifted my flies through a nice hole, and bam! I hooked into a steelhead. It took me into the riffles and I was able to turn it 4 times, then the line went slack! I broke my hook! That fly was tied over 20 years ago, and I noted that it had mono on it before tying it on. When I change flies, I always leave a tag so I know it has been fished. This morning I went through all of my nymphs and tossed all those that had been used. Upon close examination I could see the rust! That cost me my first fish! He was pretty much spent when the hook broke and he didn't just dash off! The Kyogi never felt maxed out and I didn't have to chase the fish. When I turned around in the blizzard there was a guy behind me that looked like he came out of the Orvis catalog with a big smile on his face and he said, "That was amazing! I have never seen anyone fish steelhead with Tenkara." We chatted for awhile, and I told him about TenkaraBum.

The blizzard howled, and I continued to fish. I had to put a float on to get the drifts I wanted. However, I could still cast cross-wind! Josh couldn't with is large diameter fly line. At about 3:30, I turned around and there were three flyfishermen watching me fish! I took one step toward them and they said, "Don't stop fishing we are amazed at the drifts you are getting in this weather." The Kyogi is a wind rod! I told them about TenkaraBum. From about 2:00 to 5:00 I had 4 more takes. The fish were too fast for me in the lousy weather. At 5 we were too cold to keep fishing.

This was my first time ever fishing fixed line for a whole day. The big lesson I learned is the Kyogi is a versatile rod. It isn't a light weight rod, but it can be fished all day. It can detect 4 inch fish. I am sure Josh was getting hits in the weather with his fly outfit, but couldn't detect them. I could with my line off the water even in the wind. This isn't just a Carp rod. It is beefy, but it has grace too! I have a red one, and my "fan club" all comment on how beautiful it is as well. I cast it two handed, but often followed the drift one handed. My final thought is if you are not ambidextrous like me do take the time to learn casting both ways.

Take a good look at the Kyogi it is more than a Carp rod. I am tired of long releases on Steelhead and am looking forward to landing one! The season in Stanley is just beginning. The Kyogi comes in my favorite color, yellow and I still have a hole in my arsenal at 54.

Comments for Steelheading on the Salmon River

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Mar 25, 2017
Just a matter of time
by: Chris Stewart


That is a great story, and since you have now gotten two steelhead right up to the net I am sure it is just a matter of time.

I'll take that last comment as a hint and see if I can get some yellow rods. I did order one for a guy and I must say it was a nice looking rod!

Mar 25, 2017
by: Chris L

Les, that is an killer writeup.

Chris, Everything is better in yellow :)

Mar 25, 2017
Long Release Expert
by: John Evans

Hey, Les--
Fine story. Say, if you ever need any expert advice on the "long release" you mentioned, I'm your guy! Can't tell you how often that's happened to me. Keeps us humble, doesn't it?

Mar 25, 2017
Save your rod trick
by: Les Albjerg

Since you have to be on the bottom to catch fish, snags are a reality. I didn't want a broken rod.
I didn't want to swim for my rod so I came up with the following solution:

Carry one of those cheap box knifes and a roll of electrical tape with you. (much smaller than duck tape.) When snagged beyond getting loose, and the end of the rod is in deep water, get a stick longer than your rod, tape the box knife on end of the stick, cut your line off making sure you avoid the lillian.

I had to do this once yesterday.
Make sure you carry more than one line.

Mar 26, 2017
A Whale of a Tale
by: Hoppy D (SD)

Les -- An epic saga! Your tale will give Herman Melville's a run for its money any day!

"To the last, I grapple with thee; From Hell's heart, I stab at thee; For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee."

Teach 'em some proper manners, Les!

Mar 26, 2017
by: Phillip

That sounds really fun.

I've been playing around with my friend's switch rod lately, and while impractical on the Beaverhead (it's hard not to cast completely across the river), it was fun. I can see a big carp rod being at least as fun. You know I'm a big fan of long, relatively soft rods for big fish.

I've also had my rod freeze. Unfortunately it was also way too cold to take my gloves off. With some gymnastics, you can gradually feed the offending sections through your jacket. Works well enough, and it's less a detriment to fishing than frozen guides.

Mar 27, 2017
Tenkara friendly
by: Les Albjerg

It was nice that everyone was so Tenkara friendly on Friday. My fishing partner Josh was amazed at how long my rod is. He was also amazed at the control I had working either bait or flies. I was a bit surprised at the friendliness of the 4 fly fishermen that I crossed paths with. They were all very curious, and positive to fixed line fishing. They asked good questions, and picked up on the advantages of how I was fishing. I was not expecting to be watched by so many other fishermen for such a long period of time. I guess Idaho is Tenkara friendly. If they only knew the adrenaline rush of being so connected with the fish on a fixed line setup, they would be ordering Kyogi rods for themselves.

I do like my long poles. I am looking forward to fishing my new 8 meter rod this week at one of the local ponds since the rivers are all at flood stage.

Apr 15, 2017
Now we are talking!
by: Spaztazman

I use my tenamago and kiyose for big fish also on the kenai. Wading and out of the drift boat. Nothing like landing a 29 inch dolly and 27 inch bows on it. It's a blast!

Apr 16, 2017
More from Alaska
by: Les A.


Thanks for the teaser about using your Kyogi in Alaska! How about giving us more of the story and some pictures?

My fishing partner caught 6 steelhead last weekend! I had to work.

Jul 29, 2017
Very interesting
by: Thomas Christensen

Thank you for sharing. Very interesting. I have a Grand Teton from Tenkara Rod Co. which I used for sea trout fishing in my local river. Have had fish up to 24 inches, but they can grow much bigger. I am always interested in learning about other tenkara fishermen's experiences with larger fish.

Tight line and best wishes.
Thomas Christensen

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