Eggs, nymphs, comets, splitshot, and "hooking up" were at the top of the list. I landed my first Salmon River Chinook Salmon and Salmon River Steelhead during that trip in 1999. It was all downhill after that. I was hungry for any information that was Salmon and Steelhead related. Especially the various types of flies that were used on the West Coast and East Coast.
I had never tied on a "spey style" hook nor had I ever used some of the materials. Tracking down the items I was looking for was half the fun and I was meeting a lot of new people and making new friends. The history behind the flies and how they were fished were also very interesting and kept my gears turning for anything "spey" related. Athough most of what I read was about Atlantic Salmon, it was working for the West Coast steelheaders so it had to work in the Great Lakes right?
I purchased my first spey rod in 2004 and began practicing with it locally, and even took a summer trip to the Salmon River for more practice and to learn the river better. When the fall season rolled around I didn't have the confidence to jump straight in with the spey rod, so I stuck with my single hand rod so I could either nymph or swing flies. The high water at the time was an influence on my rod choice as well.
The following summer (July 2006) I took a trip back to the Salmon River to continue practicing spey casting and to continue to learn the river better. I was sticking with mono leaders and un-weighted flies, not really worried about catching anything. One evening I decided to put on an orange Moose Turd and skate it on the surface. What the heck, it was fun watching the little fish take pot shots at the fly. I guess it was the right place, right time, and right fly because one of those little fish turned out to be a nice 26"-27" Steelhead. I was walking on water. My first Steelhead on a spey rod was also the first Steelhead I ever hooked or landed on a topwater fly!! I guess you could say that experience sealed the deal, because after that I have been doing nothing other than swinging flies with a spey rod for Steelhead in the Salmon River.
In the winter duldrums I started to play around with tube flies and figure out what I wanted to tie on them. I had also become very interested in tying married wing flies such as the classic salmon flies that were used for Atlantic Salmon. I had a full plate, or maybe a full vice would be more appropriate. It was nice to switch between tying a fly for show then tie a couple for the box. It was very frustrating at times when it came to the show flies, but I noticed my thread management was getting much better on working flies. The tube flies were improving as well. I had a crayfish pattern that I couldn't wait to swing.
The 2008 season was a great time. I put the conehead flies away and stuck with various types of spey flies new and old, along with the tube flies. I also started to use lightweight polyleaders because I didn't want to fish deep and dredge the bottom. It was a bit different getting used to casting the polyleaders, but it wasn't long before I had some tugs on the tube flies and the spey flies. I was basically building upon positive experiences and learning how to control the speed of the swing so the fly wasn't moving at mach one.
It has been a great ride from then up till now and I hope it continues. It has been nice to meet more like minded people on the river. I'd list them all, but I'm pretty sure you guys and gals know who you are. I feel very privileged to share time on the water with all of you.
Spey Nation was also started during those years and it has been a tremendous success. More and more people have been giving spey rods and switch rods a try. I don't see it stopping any time soon, and that is good because it seems people are beginning to change the way they think about fishing the Salmon River. Not necessarily people switching to spey rods and switch rods, but their approach to targeting the various species without snagging or lining them.