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Justin Miller

Biography: 

I began fly fishing in the Sierra Nevada for small trout, what feels like a long time ago, sometime in the mid 90’s. I was hiking and climbing a lot then, and fell in love with fly fishing while wondering the mountains. I always loved the seclusion, but really fell in love with the method of presenting a fly, versus the other forms of fishing I had always enjoyed. A few years down the road, I would watch Lonnie Waller’s videos on swinging flies for steelhead, and they would alter my path in life and fly fishing forever.

I transferred to Chico State in Northern California, to get closer to the fabled Sea Run Trout.  In Chico, I spent most of my time in class and on the water studying the steelhead. I was mostly fishing bobbers on fly rods in the Central Valley, until I took my first trip to Northern BC for steelhead. My Dad and I went up there after I graduated from college, and on that trip we learned the Swing method, just like I had watched Lonnie do on the videos. I really fell in love with the method, and the grabs it produced. 

The Fly Shop hired me just after graduating from college, and this is where my real fly fishing education began.  My buddy and mentor, Mike Vanwormer, put a spey rod in my hands soon after that, and I realized 2 handed rods were the way forward. It opened up so much new water, and let you cover so much more of it efficiently. I didn’t take long before I had hung up the single hander and bobbers, for steelhead, for good. Swinging for steelhead was the only thing I wanted to do, and that’s what I did.

I began exploring all of the different rivers, fishing all the seasons, and travelling as far as I had to, to chase steelhead with a spey rod.  I fished summers on the North Umpqua, fall on the Trinity and Klamath in Northern California and winters on the California, Oregon and Washington coast. I managed to find a way to get back to BC a couple of times a year. The Skeena system in the fall is a mandatory yearly mission…the Bulkley, Morrice, Skeena, Kispiox, Copper and Babine rivers. I also have to make the annual pilgrimage to the mighty Thompson in late fall, and for winter chromers on the island of Haida Gwaii. I have found them as far North as Alaska, and east to Idaho.

I started guiding Northern California, in the autumn, swinging with spey rods in 2006.  More and more guys were getting interested in it, or bored with the bobber thing. The program took off and allowed me to keep doing what I love: Swing flies for steelhead. I got sent to the Kamchatka Peninsula, in Russia, to guide for the first time in 2008, and have been back every year since. Kamchatka is one of the most remote places left on the planet, were helicopters are the only access to countless untouched fisheries. There, we chase humongous rainbows in the summer, and in the fall, monster unspoiled runs of dime bright wild steelhead.

Steelhead have lead me all the way around the pacific rim looking for them, and I am still looking as hard as I can.

Blog posts

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Best Running Line for Shooting Heads

There is always a ton of debate among spey casters about what is the best running line on the market. Which one is the easiest to hold? Which one is the slickest, or the thinnest or the most supple and which one tangles the least… Everyone has an opinion, and this is just mine. But, I am pretty sure I am right.

I have used a million different running lines. Each one usually did well in...

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Pinky Out Steelheader

My buddy Lightnin' always says that when someone is being uppity or sophisticated that they are carrying themselves with their "pinky out". It is a reference to the posh tea drinker that sips all snooty like, with one pinky out, straightened and off the handle of their cup. There are many things besides tea drinking that one can call someone out as being pinky out, but only one that I will...

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Swinging is like Baseball

Swinging flies for steelhead, like baseball, is not for everyone. It is a love developed by only the minority of both sports fans and anglers. It is just too complicated and tedious for the casual spectator or participant to appreciate, so those that are into it are usually hard-core. Most true believers in either sport acquire a real passion over time, passed down from family and friends from...

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Rio Marie Big Bass

Big Peacock Bass are the junkyard dogs of the jungle. They will defend their little piece of structure or bed or wherever they call home from any invader, for any reason. Pull a fly through  their kitchen while they are on guard and they are guaranteed to try and hurt it, and you, real bad. It is just their nature. All peacock bass are tough as nails, but the really BIG ones are impossible to...

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The Spey Casters Grand Slam

I learned how to cast a Spey rod to swing flies for steelhead. Steelhead have hands down been my favorite target species for a long time now and there is no option on method to use. Once you swing flies with a Spey rod there is no going back. 

The efficiency of Spey casting is hard to argue against. They basically cast farther with less effort, more often. Spey casting covers the most...

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Spey rod for the big ones

I have a new favorite setup for the big ones.

It used to be that when we went after big salmon we had to fish 14 to 16 foot rods in 10wt. As a steelheader, I have gotten very comfortable with my shorter 12.5 to 13.5 ft rods and do not like casting the extremely long rods that much any more. I like the compact lines and compact casting strokes that go with the shorter sticks.

This...

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Kola Peninsula: Varzina River

Join Justin Miller, The Fly Shop Sea-run Travel Specialist and Spey casting junkie, as he makes the leap between the Steelhead world and Atlantic Salmon. Justin has fished and guided steelhead from California, all the way around the Pacific, to the Kamchatka Peninsula and is excited to explore some of the best, most remote salmon rivers we can get to, and swing flies for some of the biggest...

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traveling the world for off the grid steelhead

I like swinging flies for steelhead. Anywhere. Everywhere. I have been fortunate to chase wild steelhead throughout their range, from the virgin growth redwoods of California, to the stark deserts of Idaho, to the fabled rivers of BC. But the most ridiculous steelhead expedition I have ever been on was by far and away, literally, the Russian Far East, guiding for the Kamchatka Steelhead...

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Come hell or LOW water

Make it Rain

This is no joke. I am going crazy.  It should be the heart of the winter steelhead season in Northern California, and I should be making all kinds of excuses to be on the coast, chasing big dime bright steelhead just coming in from the Pacific.

But it won’t rain…

This time of year I am usually looking at the flows of dozens of different rivers within 300 miles...

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ISE Sportsman show update

It’s showtime! I have been running around dragging booths, TV’s, business cards and guides to promote The Fly Shop and the amazing places we represent for over a week, and we are only half way there! The ISE Sportsmen’s Show continues this weekend in Denver Colorado.

Last weekend we were down in Sacramanto California promoting our local guide service in Northern California and I did a...

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Swinging flies for Trinity Steelhead

The Trinity River in Northern California is my home river.  I have had the pleasure of swinging flies for steelhead all the way around the Pacific rim, from California up and around through the States, BC and Alaska, and down into the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia, but the Trinity always feels like home.

The Trinity, for me, is a summer run river. We fish it in the late summer and fall...

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Justin Miller hosted trip winter steelheading

Every year more and more trout fisherman are learning that they have been missing out for years not swinging flies for steelhead. However as more people are drawn to the sport, those of us that have been steelheading our entire lives have been in search of more challenging situations with a spey rod.  These are the trips that I like the most. I host trips around the world where great...

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