steelhead fishing

Steelhead Fishing Bloopers: Adventures of Mac Lightfoot

Blog Series by Mac Lightfoot

For Mac, steelhead fishing is the pinnacle of cold-water sportfishing. He’s already spent time at Rainbow Trout Anonymous getting off the ‘bow addiction, but the anadromous version of said species is just too much for Mac’s addictive personality. So the itch is strong and deep to catch metalheads.

This species has reached such a vaulted platform in Mac’s head that it has almost become an uncatchable fish. Add in the relative rarity and low numbers of the species in Alaska and you have the makings of full-blown madness.

Most of Mac’s steelhead fishing experiences have been futile. Swinging Green Butted Skunks in the Anchor, drifting Jerry Garcia glo bugs on the Karluk, high-sticking polar shrimp on the Saltery, retrieving articulated leeches on the Thorne; thousands of casts and a handful of fish.

And then there’s the Situk.

Universally accepted as the best steelhead fishing water in AK, Mac has had many fine days on the Situk. On a recent trip with B Woobank, aka Busta Fly Rod, we spent one action-packed day floating a quiet late-May Situk nymphing beads on fly rods with steelhead-freak Aaron Shook. His mastery of the species is obvious, even to one like Mac who has shown pure ineptitude trying to capture the mythical creatures.

Mac tallied the fish hooked that day somewhere north of 20. A little more than half came to hand. This is the tale of some of the ones that did not come to hand.

The most epic of the recent steelhead fishing blunders we will call “Fallen Reel”. In the midst of the drift mid way down the river, a chrome and very aggressive hen doubled back on the bead and slammed it with pure evil intent. Catapulting back downriver, she stopped and executed a high-gravity turn, moving 90-degrees perpendicular to the current flow and directly away from the anglers, all on her tail. All Mac could do was stare slack-jawed and avoid bloody knuckles.

The supercharged hen then raced downriver and into a snag. Mac somehow managed to pull her free and then his fly reel fell off the rod. Mac held the reel and looked at B Woo and Aaron for help, B Woo tried to help and Aaron just laughed. By the time Brian and Mac got the reel re-attached, the hen was long gone.

Further downriver, Brian battled a strong buck while Aaron manned the net. Mack was into a feisty hen himself while Brian eased the fish into Aaron’s waiting net. While they took pics of the fish, Mac grabbed the net and attempted to land the fish himself. The long rod and leader, accompanied with the long-handled heavy-duty net made it difficult to get the unruly steelhead into captivity. After several nearly successful swipes, Mac had still not completed the task. Brian and Aaron volunteered to help, but Mac bullheadedly continued to flounder. Finally, he laid down the net and attempted to leader the fish by hand. Then the leader snapped.

Earlier in the day, near the top end of the float, the group came around the corner to a nice pod of fresh fish. In the middle was an aged buck, large but well past his prime. We shall call this specimen Zombie Fish. For most anglers, it would prove difficult to hook the one fish in the pod that you didn’t want to hook, especially considering the aggressive fish surrounding this decaying steelhead. You guessed it, Mac hooked that one.

One last example further illuminated the depth of Mac’s steelhead fishing bloopers. During one particular drift, a small buck inhaled the bead and swam downriver. Mac wasn’t paying attention, but Aaron was and he repeatedly yelled for Mac to set the hook. Emerging from the fog, Mac finally pulled back and miraculously the fish remained pinned. It’s a testament to the productivity of the Situk that Mac could land even one steelhead, but that won’t stop him from going back as often as possible and finding more ways to blunder while steelhead fishing.

Find more Adventures of Mac Lightfoot by clicking here