How to fish these conditions

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by golfman44, Oct 21, 2013.

  1. All hypothetical here but how would you fish these conditions (depth, fly, what water type would you target, etc)? I think I have an idea but just curious what you all think. Talking about swinging

    Gin clear water
    Water temp low 40s
    Mid October Columbia trib
    Sunny as fuck
    Lots of pressure

    Thanks broskis
  2. Dredge it.
    Bob Triggs and golfman44 like this.
  3. Kerry is right. Although those conditions seem to suggest dry/skating/waking flies, the low 40's is a bit cold for attracting topwater action. And fishing deep in bright midday usually works a lot better than surface tactics.
    golfman44 likes this.
  4. low 40' not as active down down

    chances of catching anything in these conditions....low
    So skate a bug and enjoy yourself and laugh at the bitches...
  5. thanks golfman
  6. I wouldn't assume anything. I've found them in glassy knee deep tailouts, choppy heads of runs and podded up in the deep slow stuff..... All in the conditions you described. They'll be where they are. And, assuming where they'll be might just have you fishing where they aren't.

    It's not too hard to start at the very top of a choppy shallow head of a run with a lighter tip and switch it up as you make your way thru into the deeper stuff. Lather, rinse, repeat.
    golfman44 likes this.
  7. I've caught enough steelhead in clear sunny weather with gin clear water that I won't go sit in my car and wait for what others consider better conditions.

    I'd watch how others are getting skunked and do something different.
    Irafly, Bob Triggs and golfman44 like this.
  8. Floating line. Oct caddis wet or dry- riffle hitched. It's Oct. and they are summer fish. They'll come up.

    The key is to fish the little pieces, not the everyone pieces. This can be easier with a floater too. Steelheading is so much about the water you fish.

    Go Sox,
    golfman44 likes this.
  9. Can you elaborate on "little pieces" vs "everyone pieces"? Thanks for the response
  10. Not all steelhead water is obvious. Find water that will hold a fish that everyone else would pass by. Fish the high side, the far side. Find the short section that will hold a fish. Work...think...observe...try. Find shade. Remember an underwater rock can provide shade at times.

    This can be done easier with a floater cuz a fish may be in a small bucket surrounded by shallower water. A tip would hang.

    Go Sox,
    golfman44 and Cruik like this.
  11. When the water's clear and there's lots of pressure, I feel like I don't do well in the deeper, slower runs I would expect the fish to be in. If I'm correctly guessing which river you're on, I'd say that there's still quite a bit of water in that river. Which is good. The water's probably cold, but that doesn't mean the fish aren't still on the move. If you're getting no love in the classic spots, try fishing pocket water along the fast areas. A lot of times you can find overlooked microspots. The perfect spot for me is right alongside the mainflow where there's a boulder that breaks the surface and creates an eddy behind. Fish are often sitting right where the eddy regains a linear flow, right in front of a submerged boulder. It sounds specific and obvious, but there seems like there's a lot of spots like this and they don't get fished. A lot of times with these microspots, you don't see how perfect they are until you get real close. Bead bobber-doggers have a hard time fishing them as they float by and the spots don't look good enough to hike into. Also, I feel like fish holding in those spots are more likely to be players.
  12. Deep, natural or dark fly, maybe twitch with the tip of the spey rod and slow that shit down.
  13. Interesting question: I've been fishing the conditions you've described the past week. I've connected with 4 steelhead swinging a bright fly a foot or so under the surface. Even in the deep pools. I've been fishing with a floating poly leader and 2ft of T-11, behind which I use 3ft of 10lbs Maxima with a bright sparse spey style fly. In some spots I've been able to sight fish. I stay high and dry and peer into the water and watch the boulders or other structure for several minutes. In 1 spot, it took me close to 15 mins before 4 steelhead materialized right before my eyes in amongst some boulders. My first cast was too close and I saw them flinch as my line touched the water, and they slowly slipped away. Next day I encountered 2 in the very same place. I bushwhacked up river, eased into the water and moved into position where I could work line out extending my casts to present the fly closer each time. I expected to have to pass the fly right over their nose in order to get them to take. I was caught totally off guard when the smaller of the 2 attacked the fly when it was still 10 ft or so ahead of them. It just bolted up under the fly and came clear out of the water in a backflip and crashed down. I must of been wired tight as a drum because I swung the rod tip up and set up on it like I would a searun on a dry fly and popped the fly right from its' grip.

    I've seen the bobber guys hiding their silhouettes in the bank brush pull fish from the deep shadow pools and I've seen guys focusing on the deep dark holes with 7 - 10 ft of T-whatever also catch fish. I've been enjoying staying on the move and fishing a lighter set-up.

    Charles gave a very good piece of advise: all a steelhead needs is about 30" of space to rest. Think of it as though you were hiking a steep mountain on a hot day. You'd want to take your breaks in the shade to rest, cool down, and catch your breath. So does the steelhead.

    40's is cool water. The water will be a bit warmer in the shallower areas...
    fish-on likes this.
  14. In the conditions that you describe in general there will little steelhead upstream migration (those that are migrating will be doing so during low light periods). To best target those fish focus on the spots where they will pause that is also suitable for your fl. Assuming you are fishing on the swing those high % spots will mostly be in the tailouts or choppy water in the riffle. Both will fish well with a floating line (or light sink tip). For me I would approach the game with a low water grease line approach or a waking fly.

    Of course nearly everyone knows the above and you are likely to have company on most of those spots and realistically you can expect to single spot for a chance at those fish. Once the river gets busy and any fish migration ends the game becomes about the steelhead attempting to find cover. That cover can be depth (those deep pools everyone targets), shadows, large objects (best are log jams, but boulders, large wood etc will work), and broken water surface.

    For me I would focus on that choppy riffle water, white water boulder pockets, and other small pocket water. The fish will be in that water for the "cover" that the broken water surface provides; those spots will have the same temperatures and oxygen levels as the tailouts just above them - it is all about cover. Fortunately on of the best ways to fish such water is with a floating fly line either just below the surface or waking. In those kinds of spots there will be lots of micro spots where the fish can duck under the cover provided by the broken water yet hold in areas with little current. Such spots are typically in as little as a foot of water up to maybe 3 or 4 feet of water. As they daily fishing activity (people and boat travel moving about) a enough of the fish population will move into those very predictable spots that a knowledgeable angler that fishes carefully can be very successful.

    A great strategy is to sleep in , have a leisurely breakfast planning to hit the water mid to late morning focus on that shallow water game. Start your fishing above suspected fish holding spots swing your fly through the holding water from above. Remember that cover also makes it difficult for the fish to spot you so after a period of rest they are not particularly spooky and are often players. As you move or take fish (or see others do so) carefully note the spot/water type that the fish were using. Such spots will often produce fish consistently and similar spots are likely to do the same.


    BTW -
    A similar approach (though mostly with a sink tip and a larger fly) can be effective on the winter fish on my home "S" rivers and have produced some of my largest fly caught steelhead.

  15. This is a great thread. I was on a Columbia River tributary over the weekend. On Friday I fished a skagit line with ten feet of t8 and hooked a fish on the second run I fished using an orange and white hobo spey variation. I think boat traffic was fairly light that day. The fish came near a tailout.
    I switched to a dry line and started experimenting with surface flies. Didn't hook anything else all day.
    On Saturday, I fished a scandi and a sinking polyleader all day. Lots of boats and people. Every time we floated down to a good run, someone would be on it. A very frustrating day.

    On sunday I got up early and put my skagit line back on with the t8. I just had to go back to the rig I was most confident with. I was using a purple egg sucking tandem tube for the first pass through a good run. ON the second time through I hooked and lost a second fish on the orange hobo spey variation.
    No boats had passed through the run that morning, and the fish was right in the middle of the run.
    Anyway, after reading this thread, I think I might have change tactics some. I passed by a lot of water that I considered fishing, but then decided was too fast or too shallow.

    This reminds me of a float I did on the upper Bogachiel a couple of years ago. The guy I was with had been fishing indicators a lot and then swinging the best swinging runs. He had been fishing with guides.
    Each time I would suggest a spot to stop and swing, he would declare that spot as "not good swinging water."
    Then last year I talked to a friend who had floated that same section of river several times over the winter. He talked about swinging very short runs and hooking huge winter steelhead.

    One last thought: having a driftboat is clearly a disadvantage in some ways. If you are on foot or in a pontoon boat, it's much easy to stop and swing a short run by yourself, than it is to park a driftboat and share that short run with two or three buddies.

    Thanks, James W.
    Charles Sullivan likes this.
  16. I totally agree James W. a drift boat with 2 buddies can be an impediment. I fish alone generally and will float alone. It allows me all the little pieces that I would like.

    Last year I floated with another board member on a heavily pressured river complete with guides and sleds. He is quite adept at finding little pieces. By the end of the week, I felt as though we had put together enough little pieces that I really looked forward to fishing the stretch we fished most this year.

    Due to different conditions this year, I didn't, but I was able to fish a section where the fish were more prevalent and with many little pieces. It produced fish daily. More and more I have become convinced that exploring and finding smaller holding spots is the key on heavily pressured rivers. It's also a bit more interesting than the large bars, although there are some large bars that I'll always fish if open.

    Go Sox,
  17. Hey Charles, Theo who......?
  18. When encountering these types of conditions, the majority of my fish come out of pocket water and anything with bubbles on top obscuring their view up and your view down. I hate tips, so it'll be dry line with weighted marabou...if that fails, nymph it with the same fly. If that fails, move on & repeat...even doing this, I have a tendency to cover a ton of water simply because I work through the water pretty quickly.
  19. yep, find new water, steelhead arent all in the same places. Found some top secret water this weekend on a well known extremely pushed water and found great success

  20. wouldn't fish at all.. drive somewhere else catching one more fish isn't worth the hassle of the crowds

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