Angler Ryan Peterson heard whispers of a “ghost run” – massive steelhead swimming undetected up the Klamath River months after spawning season.

Fish like these aren't as plentiful as they used to be. Photo by Fitz Cahall and Bryan Smith

Not all ghost stories involve apparitions, wraiths or specters. Sometimes, it is the eerie happenings in the natural world that inspire campfire talk. In this case, steelhead salmon normally leave the ocean over a few weeks during autumn to spawn. They swim upstream when the water is low and clear, lay their eggs and get out. The low water means they are visible and become food for bears and anglers.

But what if a few of those steelhead took that swim during the high-water season of winter? They would be obscured by clouds of silt from runoff. And without the threat of overfishing, they would potentially be much bigger.

Many adventures begin with a question. This is one of the tall tales Ryan Peterson had heard rumors about. The fishing world is filled with legends, but this one seemed different. Possible. The trick was trying to prove it.

Video created by Fitz Cahall and Bryan Smith.