Skip to main content Skip to main content

What's that Reel?

What's that Reel?
Ross Purnell with his first Dean River steelhead

We've had some emails and phone calls in the past two weeks about the current cover image of Fly Fisherman, so I thought I'd use this space to answer all those questions at the same time.

The photo was taken in July 2011, on the lower Dean River below the falls. It had been a dream of mine for 20 years to fish the Dean and on day #1 I was fishing alone at Slide Pool . When I hooked the fish I was obviously excited, and also disappointed that I wouldn't get a photo of my first Dean River steelhead. Then, a boat appeared coming around an upriver bend and the solitary occupant yelled "hey, do you want a photo!?"

As it turns out the boatman was professional photographer Adam Tavender (, someone I had had worked with in the past but never met in person.

Questions I Have Been Asked

Q: If that's the Dean River, why is the water so clear?

A: Honestly I don't know. I've also heard many times about how the Dean can go cloudy with glacial melt on hot summer days, but it's certainly not always like that. This was the middle of July, it had rained quite a bit before our arrival but the river was clear all week.

Q: What the heck kind of reel is that?

A: Cheeky Ambush 375. It was a tight squeeze for a 550-grain Skagit line but it performed flawlessly, and as you can tell I like bright colors. I just got back from another BC steelhead trip (Oct, 2012) where I used a blue-and-green Cheeky Thrash 475 (that's 4.75 inches) and it was much more appropriately sized for West Coast steelheading (or tarpon). You can see all five sizes of Cheeky reels at

Q: What fly did you catch it on?

A: A black and chartreuse Metal Detector, which is an Intruder-style fly sold by Umpqa. But that doesn't really matter. The fish were aggressive and hit many patterns. It was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time, and being persistent. Hot pink was probably the best color for me over the course of the week.

Q: That doesn't look like a steelhead.

A: And that doesn't sound like a question. But somebody actually said that to me, so I'm treating it like a question. Most people are accustomed to upriver steelhead that look much like a giant rainbow trout, with broad red stripes, heavy spotting, and a green or olive back. In the ocean, steelhead don't look like that. Their backs are ghostly gray, white bellies, and their tails and fins are white or transparent. This fish was caught maybe one mile from the ocean, and very likely just came into the river that day, so it looks like a ocean steelhead. 

Ross Purnell with his first Dean River steelhead

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Popular Videos

How to Tie the Black Beauty Fly

How to Tie the Black Beauty Fly

Master fly tier Charlie Craven discusses the tools and materials needed to tie the Black Beauty fly.

Tying the Problem Child Fly

Tying the Problem Child Fly

In this fly-tying video, learn how the Problem Child fly is made.

How to Tie the Micro Matcher Fly

How to Tie the Micro Matcher Fly

Charlie Craven shows how to tie Newman's Micro Matcher fly in this step-by-step video.

See All Videos

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Fly Fisherman App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Fly Fisherman stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Fly Fisherman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now