The Meandering Angler: Sonomans report on steelhead

Hear from Steve Kyle’s British Columbia bust and Tom and Katherine Culligan’s Southern Oregon success.|

I received two reports from Sonomans who went north last week to fly-fish for steelhead. There was some good news and some not so good.

Steve Kyle, with whom I have spent many hours fishing, ventured far north into British Columbia, where climate change appears to be wreaking havoc, especially on migratory fish like steelhead and salmon. Here is Steve’s report:

“British Columbia is struggling with drastic effects of climate change that has produced no rain for months, very low river water conditions, multiple forest fires and smoky skies scattered across the province. Also, there is a lack of returning fish in which, just a few years ago, there were thousands of steelhead, and millions of returning salmon species. Our grandchildren are not going to appreciate what we have left them to clean up.

I was there for two weeks and fished with eight anglers in two different fish camps. After 11 days, I caught only one 7-pound steelhead. Many of my fellow anglers were not even that lucky.

I also hooked myself when the wind blew the business end of the fly line into my right ear. The hook-point went through my ear and stuck out of the other side.

Why does a reasonably sane man, who is a few weeks shy of turning 81, do stuff like this? I ask myself regularly, especially now that so many of my old steelhead fishing friends have quit this sport because of age. If a church, or even a street-corner preacher, could deliver the same tangible sense of peace, spirituality, connection and emotional belonging to the universe that a steelhead river can deliver to me, the world would be a better place indeed.

The good news is that I get inspiration from new fishing partners who are closer to my children’s age and affectionately call me ‘Grandpa.’ It’s why I can still get up at dawn, wade miles on slippery, river-bottom boulders, and then, at the end of the day, celebrate with high-fives, before returning to camp exhausted with no visible proof that we caught anything.

What a sport and tonic for the soul.”

The best news came from my friends and neighbors, Tom and Katherine Culligan, with whom I’ve also spent a lot of time fishing. They just returned from Southern Oregon, where they spent two days fishing the Rogue River with Jim Andras, the best guide in west.

Though less lyrical than Steve’s, their report was far more positive. They caught and released 16 beautiful steelhead in two days of fishing, including several that were 27 inches long. By any measure, that is fantastic steelhead action. Unlike the rivers in British Columbia, the Rogue seems to be in good health and the fish are, too.

Of course, Jim Andras probably knows that part of the Rogue River near Medford better than anyone. He also works hard to put his clients into exactly the right places to catch fish.

Tom and Katherine stayed in Ashland and managed to enjoy some live Shakespeare theater during their evenings.

If you want to enjoy a great fishing trip that is relatively close to Sonoma, consider booking a couple of days with Jim at You can stay in nearby Ashland, enjoy great dinners and possibly even theater provided by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival there.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.