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Q&A with JD Love

by Diana Rudolph   |  October 20th, 2010 1

Steelhead bum


Well, not really. He is also one of the top steelhead guides in the world. JD Love has guided on the Olympic Peninsula for over 25 years and has been a steelhead fanatic since he was a young boy. Three years ago, I moved to the Olympic Peninsula sun burned and toting an assortment of 9-foot saltwater rods. JD Love was instrumental in helping me make the transition from a single to double handed rod. He also taught and is still teaching me a great deal about steelhead and the coastal waters of the Pacific Northwest. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to fish with and learn from him. He is extremely well read, great fun to be with and fishy, really fishy. He is a steelheader.



A half dozen questions with JD Love:

JD on the oars.

1). What is your most memorable fish?

Well, you know, I think it is probably not a fish that I caught. There are quite a few fish that would qualify, but Sandra’s (JD’s better half) first steelhead is my most memorable fish. Not only did she take so long to catch this fish, but it was also so outsized for the area that we were fishing. She caught it at the mouth of the Grande Ronde and it was a 38” steelhead in a river that rarely produces fish of that size. I have never caught one that big there. And, also, the fact that we almost drown to catch this fish makes it pretty memorable. She still has a picture of that thing laying around here somewhere and when I see it, it always evokes great memories of catching or capturing this steelhead under really pretty bizarre situations.

What about one more fish story?

Twilight (fictitious name, but aptly disguised) Creek is a tiny little trickle on the coast, but it is a beautiful place to go fishing. Sandra and I took the dogs down there one afternoon. Shouldn’t have the dogs in the park, but we did. It was on a high tide and I hooked this nice big steelhead in the last pool of the creek before it enters the ocean. This fish took off downstream, right into the surf. So, I’m playing this fish in the surf and a rouge wave comes in and literally knocks me off my feet. I’m caught in the undertow. The wave recedes and I’m gasping for air. The dogs are completely washed away. I have no idea where they are and I look down the beach about a hundred feet and there’s my steelhead lying there. The dogs ended up a hundred yards away on the other side of the creek and down the beach a little ways. So, you know, a life and death steelheading experience.

Coastal river.

2). Why steelhead?

I suppose it’s because I grew up fishing for them. It was really the first fish that got me charged up and if I was a youngster that had grown up fishing tarpon or maybe even stripers or any other fish, it could have been the same thing for me. In my case, it was steelhead. I had done some trout fishing and all of the sudden I caught a steelhead. It’s kind of hard to describe. All those hours anticipating and finally you catch the darn thing. It really hooks you. There is no logic to it. In fact, many people have wasted their lives chasing these fish for no real good reason other than they get hooked on the darn things. Good steelheaders are pretty passionate and obsessive about it.

3). What are the advantages/disadvantages of a double handed rod vs. a single hander?

For the fishing I do, which is steelhead fishing, two handed is a big advantage. For one, it is easier. It’s easier on my body. I can throw a decent cast with very little effort and I spend more time fishing. It’s as simple as that. My fly is fishing more often. I’m sure with a single handed rod I can control my fly well and get the same distance, but two hands makes it easier and more fun. We throw a lot of casts when we’re steelhead fishing and with two handed fishing I can mix it up, because there are a variety of casts that I can make. With single handed fishing, you just toss it behind you unless your trying to spey cast with your single handed rod, but then you might as well pick up your two handed rod to do that.

4). How has the fishery on the Olympic Peninsula changed since you have been guiding?

Sol Duc portage.

The biggest single change is fishing pressure. There are just a heck of a lot more people fishing here. It’s inevitable that people come here because we’re still open all the time. Steelhead are cyclical. There are good years and bad years, but I don’t think there are probably any less fish here now than there were maybe 20 or 30 years ago.

Besides more people, there better equipped. They have better boats, better rods, and better information. As fisherman, we are far more effective than we use to be and steelhead fishing has been hugely popular ever since I was a kid. Maybe more popular when I was a kid than it is now, but all of the pressure is directed toward a handful of rivers. When I moved over here, the Sol Duc was seldom floated. People were scared of fishing the Sol Duc, because it was a gnarly river float. Now because most of the traffic is guide traffic, it is the most popular river to float because its beautiful, has rapids where they can demonstrate their skills, and so, the fishing pressure has gotten heavier.

That’s the biggest change to the fishery. And, our knowledge. When I grew up or even when I was a young guide, if you could go down the river and catch 2 or 3 fish a day that was a really good day of fishing. It’s still a good day with a fly rod, but with the advanced techniques of the gear guys that is just a poor day of fishing. They’re hot lipping a lot of fish. Roderick Haig-Brown wrote in the fifties that if we want to have good steelhead fishing we have to get rid of roe. It is just too effective. I personally used fish roe. Caught a lot of fish with it. I gave it up. I hate to have many rules, but that is one thing I would like to see them get rid of…roe.

5). What is the greatest threat to preserving the steelhead population?

I think steelhead are kind of like wolves. They’re basically allergic to humans. The more humans they have in their watershed, the less we are going to see. There’s natural cycles and disasters and who knows what. They have outlived periods of glaciation and on the Elwha, they have even outlasted the dams. The dams are coming down and the steelhead are still there. That is a pretty amazing feat, if you think about it. So I’m not too worried about the steelhead. In the scheme of things, I am more worried about mankind.

6). Furs or feathers?

Fur. I like hair.



* “Love Machine” lyrics by The Miracles.

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