So how do you get down in winter?

Yeah, sure mending can get you down but as soon as the line comes tight and the swing starts you're rising and rising fast out of the targeted zone. In deeper flows the sink tip keeps the fly lower through out the swing; now the fly will still rise, just not as fast and as much. Now of course the targeted zone can be the entire water column in the summertime when fish are active and aggressive but in the winter time you got to be the aggresor and bring the fly to the fish.

Think of it this way, your fishing waste deep in walking pace flow, casting out 65' with a weighted fly and a type 8 tip at 90 degrees accross stream into 4' of water, you mend a couple of times, you've got great depth, your now about 40' out and down stream when your swing starts, the fly quickly starts to rise from 4' of depth to 1' and your only half way through the swing, you finish your swing in 3 1/2' of water... now there are alot of other factors but let us assume it happend just as it was discribed in a cold winter stream targeting steelhead....who wouldn't think more depth would be a benefit, fishing lower thoughout the entire swing?
I like where your going with this, I just dont usually fish a body of water that has a uniform 4ft depth. I cant think of very many winter swing runs I fish that are 65ft at 90 degrees and 4ft deep. More like 65ft at 90degrees and 6-10ft deep. I then feed and pinch into the seem geting good depth as the fly rises with the swing I finish in the strike zone at 2-4 ft of water. I am on my way out the door to fish the Sandy R. I will be doing more research and maybe even try some of that T17.

Jim Ficklin

Genuine Montana Fossil
I get down with a bottle of wine, roaring fire, some good jazz, and a hot blonde
Good concept, but I substitute smooooth whiskey for the wine, old time Rock & Roll for the jazz, & eliminate the hot blonde entirely (at my age, she'd have to be a desperate hot blonde and then would ultimately only be disappointed). Apart from that, I pretty much mimic Jeremy's technique.


Ignored Member
Think of it this way, your fishing waste deep in walking pace flow,
First off you are wading to deep. When I see people wading up to their balls I wait for them to get done then fish the water they missed up close. Second, why does everyone think the line rises during the swing? If you are controlling the speed of your swing correctly the line should not rise.
Good discussion. I was tossing 15 ft of T-17 on Sunday. However, I'm tying and fishing weighted flies less and less. I do fish a weighted fly but more to get the hook riding up than to get the fly down. With a few feet of leader, how much extra depth do you get with a tungsten weighted fly? Is it worth the risk of dinging an expensive rod and all the extra hangups?
I agree that's wading too deep in most conditions, but for the sake of the illustration, your waist deep because that's how deep the run is... it's right off the bank with trees to your back. So how do you controll the line correctly so it doesn't rise, short of feeding it line during the swing?
"Why does everyone think the line rises during the swing?" The problem is most fisherman don't think or know the lines rising, and proceed through a run believing they have really covered a particutlar run but in fact have only really scratched the top water.

In all sincerity please tell, I know I have lots to learn...So how do you do it? I'd like to learn to loose my dependency on sink tips in winter.



Ignored Member
If I were Wadin' Boot I might be able to write up how I think it works. As you know each piece of water is different and no run remains the same down its entire length as such each cast will and must be handled seperately. Not being a capable word smith like the Boot I can only offer to go fishing someday, look at each other's methods and learn from each other. Also I don't think you are going to get rid of your sink tips.
Thanks Kerry, I agree every piece of waters different and rarely do we ever fish a piece of it with only one current flow. Realisticaly the flows most of us fish are heaviest and deepest away from us and shallow and slow as they near us, knowing that, the factors are a matter of I adjust for the heaviest part and get hung up when it gets too shallow or plan for the shallow slow hang down and mend like a mad man and feed line to cover the deep part, I always try to opt for the middle, mend to get some added depth and then speed the fly up by leading it to avoid the hang up on the hang down.

Would love to fish and learn with you sometime,

With every steelheader I fish with, my theory seems shifts a little on what tip setup, where the cast is placed, to walk with the cast or after my thoughts have changed over the years. Lately I am trying to fish tips that allow me to fish my flies all the way to a full hang down, and most of the heavy tips that I have been using aren't allowing me to fish all the way until things are straight down. So I guess I have been fishing shallower, lighter, and slower, and the results have been eye opening. Obviously this won't work in all situations, but opening my eyes to new types of steelhead water has been cool and fun.

Ask me about 'how I get down in winter' two weeks from now, and my story may be different.

Old Man

Just an Old Man
I get down off of a duck or the Old Lady.. And I nymph in the winter time. With tiny flies,a bobber and a "BB" shot for weight.

And to top it all off I DON"T fish for STEELHEAD. They are a waste of time. Just Browns and RB's. Where I fish they are RB's not Steelhead.

James Mello

Inventor of the "closed eye conjecture"
If you're fishing 12'-16' feet of T-17 and only occasionally ticking bottom, you may want to spend some time working on controlling that rig rather than adding more mass. In general I fish standard Rio tips (150gr), and unless I'm fishing something specialized, I don't really feel the need for more than my type 6 tip.

James Mello

Inventor of the "closed eye conjecture"
Try different casting angles and try to make it so there is no "tension" on the line as it's getting ready to get swung. Play with different rod angles hold it up or down, off to the side. Watch closely where the line enters the water and compare how those parts of the line are moving in relation to the belly (is it being dragged by the belly for instance).That just flat out takes time on the water and watching both how the line behaves during the swing "setup" and as tension is being applied. Also, don't be afraid to experiment with different kinds of mends. Some water requires upstream mends, others downstream, while some don't require any. Also most folks that fish that I see often fish water that is too fast. The walking speed water you are looking for is where the *fish* are, not where you want to cast to or where you are standing. More often than not (and I'm just as guilty), folks cast too far into the current and end up with their flies not swinging effectively in the water that holds fish. But note, that does NOT mean you don't need to be able to cast long distances. Lots of runs will have dead water separating you from the fish which requires you to cast far, then make downstream mends to avoid having the fly get pulled....


Well-Known Member
James W.,

How I get down in the winter is changing a bit from when I began and SA Hi-D was the fastest sinking commercial fly line available. Then I tried shooting heads with 12 - 14' of lead core in them, a la Glasso style. Then SA High Speed Hi-D came out in 1977, and we thought we'd discovered the bee's knees of sinking fly lines. SA HS Hi-D is about a type 3 in current fly line nomenclature. Throughout all that, I almost never used a weighted fly. And I hung up and lost scads of flies using that gear. I believe the term is called watermanship.

This is to preface saying that I've never used T-14 or even seen T-17. I cannot fathom it being practical. I have a couple 15' T-8 tips I made a couple years ago and find that they keep me wrapped about the stones far too often. I'm finding that a type 3 and type 6 15' tip get most of my winter steelheading work done. I don't know how you can get a complete drift with the tips and weighted flies you describe using. I like to use the fastest sinking line that allows me to fish all the way to the hang down without hanging up. For me, that's a 15' type 3 or 6 tip in most steelhead holding water.

Some of the above posts describe what I think are key to watermanship: angle of cast, distance, upon what water you cast, mending, and line management. If steelhead fishing were a weight-lifting and throwing contest, I'd probably fish for something else. My impression is that you're making too much work of the "gentle art." My recommendation for steepening your watermanship curve is to fish a floating line and a sparsely dressed fly with one or two coneheads at the end of a 10 or 12' leader. Your learning objective will be to hang up in prime steelhead holding water. I think you'll quickly learn that you don't need a half pound of lead or tungsten to put a fly in the winter steelhead zone.

Good luck.

Actually I typically use 8' of t-14 all winter, and rarely ever use anything heavier, but the question was prompted because I wanted to hear what others do...the 12-16' of t-17 I mentioned was for a particular run that I love to fish, and when it's high and really pushing it still produces some nice steelhead. I'm totally on board with the whole mending thing and I understand the principles and techniques well, I guess someone just needs to tell me...."FIND SOME SLOWER WATER YOU IDIOT!" The fact is the run I love so much is very popular and unless the river is near blow out I rarely get it to myself, so I like to hit it high and I'd have to say those are usually my better days on this run. Typically I use 8' of t-14 and just fish the edges but lately I've been thinking I'd try casting the addintional 40' to the current seam and swinging it into the edges where I typically find fish...I guess I'm just getting greedy and should just stick to the water I know I can effectively fish.

By the way I don't recommend anyone use more sink tip then they can effectively mend and have always been an advocate of less is more, besides a belly in your sink tip is exactly what you don't want!

Thanks guys, please keep the comments coming, I really appreciate all the insight and I'm sure others do too,