While on a recent Steelheading expedition to Wisconsin's Brule River on the south shore of Lake Superior with my dad and new found cousin Chris, I was educating Chris about the "Three T's of successful Steelheading".
Timing, Technique and Temperament.
If somebody wants to know more about Timing and Technique they can hire a guide or spend hundreds of hours scouring the internet in search of that magic formula or secret fly.
If mastering the Temperament part of the equation is one of your goals it is my opinion that the Brule River is the best teacher you will find.
"In psychology, temperament refers to those aspects of an individual's personality, such as introversion or extroversion, that are often regarded as innate rather than learned"-Wikepedia
While debate within the psychological community rages on about how to best evaluate ones temperament I have chosen the, "Nine Temperament characteristics of Thomas and Chess" for this discussion.
Nine Temperament Characteristics of Thomas and Chess
1.Activity-Your potential to sustain a high level of activity over the course of several hours and days will greatly increase your odds of Striking Steel. One cold spring morning after many hours of fishing the Brule and not catching any Steelhead my dad and I made it back to the lot where we had parked our vehicle. There was this weathered looking old guy there who seemed to still have his wits about him. I asked him how he did and he rattled off that he had landed 5 and missed 3. I couldn't help but ask him, "What's your secret?". He turned to me as he walked away and uttered four words that would have a permanent impact on my Steelheading success. "You gotta keep moving".
2.Regularity-I've heard of people Striking Steel on their first trip to the Brule but I also know a few guys who have been struck by lightning. Make your Steelheading a tradition. Whether you go every day or the first weekend of November every year, "The more you attend, the more you will comprehend".
3.Initial reaction-Don't fall into the trap of leaning to heavily on plan A. Of course these methods worked for your buddies yesterday but today might as well be the dawning of a new era. If your plan is not flexible the likelihood of your rod being flexed by a Steelhead is very minimal.
4.Adaptability-Like a politician licking his finger and sticking it up in the air to see which way the wind is blowing you must be open to changing your outlook. While animals in nature who fail to adapt usually die you will just be the guy who has to tell his kids that he failed to catch a Steelhead.
5.Intensity-Being too "laddy doddy" or having "danger anger" will not help your cause but a healthy combination of both will surely lead you to the promise land. Keep that high level of passion but use relaxation and meditation techniques as a tool for tuning in. Last weekend while trying to figure out where we should go on the Brule I was sad because I had forgotten to bring my, "Steelhead Dowsing Rods". I channeled my inner rod and the results spoke for themselves.
6.Mood-Don't worry. Be happy.
7. Distractibility-Neither the squirrell on that tree branch or that beautiful woman fishing down the shore are going to help you catch a Steelhead. Focus on what you came here to do. Use the other 40 weeks of the year when Steelhead are not in the rivers to pursue your other passions.
The Brule River Sportsmens Club publishes a handy Steelhead Fisherman's Map of the Brule River. It is pretty much like an American Express Card in these parts because you don't want to leave home without it. I purchased mine at the Gas Station in the town of Brule for 6.99 plus tax.
8.Persistence and attention span-After many hours of setting your hook on every rock or stick that your fly comes in contact with it would be easy to to give up. Tom Petty would tell you, "Don't back Down".
9.Sensitivity-Many times when defining the term sensitivity I contrast the words, "Sensitive and Emotional". Just because you can sense that your friends are jealous because you are catching all the Steelhead now that you have mastered Timing Technique and Temperement, you shouldn't get all emotional about it. Keep an even keel. Help them get to where you are because someday you will need them when they have the magic formula or secret fly.
Speaking of magic formulas and secret flies I often hesitate when it comes to dolling out advice because I have only managed to catch four Steelhead total in my life. But it is probably four more than you have caught so listen up pilgrim.
Here are photos of some fly patterns that I "Lean On" heavily when mining steel. Mostly because they are the only ones I have.
Eddie Rivard Fly Fishing is now on Facebook