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Fly Fishing For Steelhead: An Audio Narrative

Chris Thompson (L) and Terry Uhl (R) ready to fish the Rocky River (pic: Brian Bull)
Chris Thompson (L) and Terry Uhl (R) ready to fish the Rocky River (pic: Brian Bull)

“My name is Chris Thompson, this morning we’re going to chase some steelhead.

“The weather is known as ‘steelhead gray’: Overcast, misty, about 40 degrees. Which means it’s about perfect.

“So this is one of my fly rods. It’s 10 feet long. It’s known as a seven-weight. Which defines the kind of fly line that’s on it. Steelhead are very popular fish because they fight tougher than just about any other freshwater fish out there. They like to jump out of the water when hooked so they provide an aerial show.

“One of the things that makes steelhead so fun to catch is how beautiful they are. They have a pink stripe, either a pink or bright red gill plate, a green back with black dots on it. and the main course of the fish is bright silver. So if you get a fish fresh from Lake Erie, the saying is, ‘It’s silver as a dime.’

“I usually don’t weigh them, I usually don’t measure them, I usually don’t keep them. They’re kind enough to allow me to interrupt their day, and then I try to let them go as quick as I can.”


“My name is Terry Uhl, I’m a 25-year plus resident of Cleveland. And one of the joys of moving to this area many years ago, was knowing what kind of outdoor resources there were. To have the Rocky River on the West Side and the Chagrin River on the East Side near where I live, is as good as anything I could find in Colorado or Wisconsin.

“Literally as you’re entering the river, and I’m walking in now, you gotta look for the pockets where the steelhead would be waiting almost literally with their mouths open, for any food to come down as the river heads towards Lake Erie.

There’s a variety of different lures I’ve got a nice bright yellow and orange which’ll stand out, although the water’s pretty clear, I probably don’t need to have something so bright.

“You gotta sure you don’t ruffle too much, so that the fish know something’s different move away small steps into water, undo the lure from the rod, and getting ready to cast, then it’s just the patience to cast in out, back and forth, take your time, look for an opportunity and keep your eye on the bobber.

“The weather, year to year, kinda changes the river. The rocks get moved around. Tree limbs fall in. Your favorite spots may or may not still be there.

“Alright, here we go!”


“I’m Chris Thompson, headed back to the beautiful Rocky River…we’re fishing a bend of the river that cuts into a high bank that’s….probably, what? About a hundred feet high….

“The saying goes, ‘The tug is the drug’. And the tug is when the fish hits the fly, and you set the hook and you feel the head shake…of the fish. And he pulls. And you pull back and the fight is on. And sometimes the fish wins, and sometimes we’re lucky enough to land them.


“That sound there is screaming reels. [WHIRRRR]

“That’s what you’re always looking for in a steelhead….[ZZZZIPPPPP]


“It’s beautiful….oh! Off he goes! Yeah, interrupted his life a little bit…..

“There’s something about being able to stand in water, cold, clean water…..and feel it rushing between your legs, carrying away with it all the thoughts and worries that occupy your unimportant life, and bring you back to God’s creation.

“I’ve gotten so much joy and relaxation and peace out of standing in this river, I hope a lot of generations into the future get to do the same.”