Steelhead Therory Part TWO

Part Two on BIG water Presentation

My goal when I swing a fly is to trigger the ocean instincts that a steelhead have from eating everyday in the salt. When I nymph I am trying to key in on the trout instinct that the steelhead have from their young life in a stream. When I wake a dry I am trying to illicit the strike response of the trout instincts once again, with one difference, we are also trying to get a bored fish into moving; to essentially play with the fly. The previous statement could apply to all of the types of presentations.

I made an observation once on the Grand Rhonde in early October. I quote verbatim from journal entry 10/14/05.

“I saw some crazy things on the water today. I met with a man by the name of Jack Cook who guides on the river and he was certain that the fish are looking up. I took his advice and caught my first steelhead on a dry, but I saw a crazy thing. I saw a steelhead actually chase a mouse and bite it, then let it go then chase it some more till it killed the poor thing. I caught that fish and it was awesome. He ate my fly four times then he finally got stuck. He was a 26” wild buck.”

Now if this isn’t proof that steelhead aren’t playful creatures IDK what is. Now on that occasion it was 6 in the evening and the caddis where everywhere. The temp was over 50. This is summer run nirvana.

Winter: Journal Quote

“Martin Luther King is the man. I love his holiday. I love to honor him by braving the single digit temperatures to fish for giant wild steelhead on my beloved Clearwater. Today the flows are perfect dropping from a peak of 12,500 cfs. I have a dozen of the biggest steelhead flies on the planet, now it is time to catch that giant. The Pit is so perfect right now. The side channel is breaking the current creating the perfect bucket. This is where I am going to fish and fish hard. I work out my custom made 20’ type 8 tip till the junction is just out of the tip of my 16’ Meis. The line stops and I pull back. A deep head shake then a blistering run of a 34” hen. Ten minutes later and a dozen frozen guides the fish is landed and released. I had on an ungodly string leech that should be called a string snake by the way is slithered through the water. I had no more grabs but I had found a fish.”

Winter fishing can be great with a swung fly if one doesn’t mind working a run a long time. A good number of the big winter fish are close to shore if the water is up. I have found that fly makes a HUGE difference. I won’t fish a fly that is smaller than a typical Popsicle. My favorite is a fly that was recommended my good friend; it is a double beaded string leach.

Ok so there is a huge debate on depth control. Now here is something that we must take into account. Fish on the Skagit are grabby mean fish. Clearwater fish are dare I say funky. One day you get um on a dry line in 40 degree water the next day you can’t buy a fish on 15’ of T-14. So here is the kicker. Bring tons of tips. Type 3-8 and a T-8 and T-14 head if your line can cast it. I fish all CND lines, but all of you Skagit boys have the best tool for tip fishing. No matter how heavy the dude is you can cast it for the most part. So in other words go with your feelings I like being a foot or so off the bottom. But that being said a few fish will hit the fly even if it is on the surface.

The Swing: Don’t mend more than once. Read Dec Hogan’s book and be merry. Ok I guess I will give you a small idea of how I swing a fly. Make a cast 90 degrees if you are fishing a tip. Through a HUGE mend; with my line I have twenty feet of slack to set the tip up for my presentation after my mend. Now here is a thing you should know too. This applies ONLY to fishing a FAST seam like the ones of my Clearwater. When you fish a classic bar on the Skagit you got to make adjustments. On some runs you don’t need to mend at all, the river just sets up the fly perfectly for you to make a perfect swing. These runs are cool. Nuff Said. Read a Passion for Steelhead.


Now I am preaching to the choir but here is something that people often overlook. Take your time on some parts of the run and speed fish the yucky stuff. Thus you are in the “Bucket” for a longer period of time. I take one step when I am in the spots where I have caught fish before, but when I am in a spot that isn’t quite kosher I take three steps. Try it, you may be rewarded with a fish that others may have passed up.

Spring River Journal: April 3rd 2005

“I fished the Skagit today and FINALLY got one. I paid homage at the chapel for good karma before fishing the Chapel Drift. I was using a BIG intruder. The fish wasn’t all that big, maybe five pounds or so, but it was wild. The fish was on a cool seam that begged to be fished with a 60 degree cast. The fish just climbed on right as the fly was set up and went through the seam. She jumped five times, and was quickly landed and released. I also took a couple of cute bulls on the same fly.”

I like Chapel Drift. It reminds me of my home water: The Clearwater. Anyhow I have taken two steelhead from the run and it fishes well. One thing that I must add is that all of the fish where somewhat small for Skagit fish. Now the run has a sexy seam on it that is one of those things that if you cast the fly right you will fish it right without much of a mend at all. You just throw it out and let it go, and if you are lucky you catch a fish. Pretty simple huh? Well try doing it for a week without a bite… such is steelheading that river…


This is just a jumble of my notes that I attempted to turn into a coherent string of thoughts in order to help all of us learn about these awesome fish.

Tight lines
Mark T Bové
Speykid said:
“Martin Luther King is the man. I love his holiday. I love to honor him by braving the single digit temperatures to fish for giant wild steelhead on my beloved Clearwater.
It's nice to know that one of the greatest civil rights leaders of all time had such a profound effect on your life. :rofl: (only kidding).