Is the *insert fly of choice* really that successful?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Luke77, Oct 25, 2012.

  1. So, being a steelheader, I understand your confidence in a fly is more important than the actual it?

    I started tying when I was 17 and I learned on the green butt skunk. It's easy to tie, big, and a very good steelhead fly. But why? What makes these commonly used, sparse, easy to tie flies successful? Or better yet, what makes the big, half chicken, half rabbit flies successful? Is it a correlation between number of people fishing them? More people fishing them = more success, just by the numbers? I really don't know, but I DO KNOW that I am just a babe in this game compared to most of you guys, so lets hear it!

    What gives? Am I better off just picking a fly out of the box and using it all day, or actually trying to think it out in terms of clarity, flows, length in the river, season, etc? I mean, these are steelhead after all...EVERYONE knows they don't eat in freshwater. *har har* ;)
    constructeur likes this.
  2. When the water is big and dirty...go big. When the water is small and clear...go small. Pattern doesn't matter. There are exceptions to every steelhead rule.
  3. When it comes to steelhead while it isn't very important which fly you are using (where you put it and how it is fished far out weights the fly pattern itself) it is important for the angler to have a variety of patterns - different sizes, profiles, colors, etc. Why? So during the all too common slow times you can change flies. It gives the angler something to do. By changing flies at least semi-frequently you will have fresh knots and with a change the angler (at least for a short period) fishes with renewed focus.

    That said if I were to focus on steelhead again I could easily fish with just three flies.

    A Haig-Brown steelhead bee for skating/waking/drag free on the dry line. Why? - love the tradition and have had great success with it where ever I have fished it.

    A simplified version of aLady Caroline for grease line fishing. Why? The proile appeals to me and it has consistently produced for me.

    My own version of a winter sculpin for deep line fishing. Why? My own pattern that has produced all the 40 + inch winter steelhead that I have caught on a fly - enough said.

    Steve Call and stilly stalker like this.
  4. When and where you cast

  5. You're swinging your way down a run when you feel a good solid tug or you see a fish boil near your fly but doesn't take. You follow up with the same fly and same swing. Nothing. Now what...? Back up and go to a smaller fly with the same color and profile and swing your way back to where you saw it. Nothing still? Back up again and go with a completely different color but same profile and again swing through to where it was located. Nothing again? Back up and go completely different profile and change colors again. Chances are you found a player and it'll take again, you just have to find the right trigger fly. Different colors of the same fly and varies profile patterns are a beneifit in this situation.

    Big dark flies seems to silhouette well in low visible water and over cast days. 2 contrasting colors give the illusion of life and movement. They also provide 2 vary different colors that may show up better in different conditions. That is why patterns like Dec Hogan's Skagit Mist make good flies. They have several colors and provide movement that show up in varying conditions.

    Steelhead can be thought of like a kitten. You throw a piece of yarn on the floor near it and will just glance at it. However, if you wiggle it enticingly and move it slowly in front of it just out of range that same kitten is likely to jump on that yarn. That analogy works for me because it keeps me thinking of how to get the fly close enough to spark the interest and then the angle of the cast and pattern help provide the movement and speed to make them pounce on it.

    My 2 cents anyway.
  6. I think there are factors that make proper fly choice important. these would include river size, clarity, time of year and light intensity. These are going to determine size, color and profile of the fly. A six inch intruder is not going to catch anything except the bottom on a coastal creek, but an egg pattern or nymph will slay them. On the other hand that intruder will tempt fish on a large glacial tinged river in march where the spade that produced fish on your favorite summer river will get ignored.
  7. "Is the *insert fly of choice* really that successful?"

    Yes, it is, if presented properly in the right place at the right time. We're talking steelhead fishing, not rocket science, right?

  8. Yes fly can make all the difference but particularly so for summer fish. Pattern can be the difference between shrugging your shoulders and saying "the fish aren't there" or "today they aren't players" and getting absolutely ripped on. I've watched steelhead sit glued to the bottom while 5 different patterns swung over head only to watch them lose their minds for the 6th.

    Winter fish in my personal humble opinion becomes more of a game of ultimately having the right tool for the job. Finding the right balance of sink tip (or lack thereof if you are a floating line guy) and weight/build of fly to get it in their face at the right speed is most important and having something wiggly and sparkly to entice them comes next.

    Obviously some steelhead and some conditions make for stupid grabby fish that we all dream of. But some of the fish that are on the fence and reluctant to chase can still be tempted to eat the swing with the right fly and presentation.... That I am 100% sure of. That's what inspires me to tie flies and if it wasn't for tying I wouldn't get a fraction of the enjoyment I do out of this game.
    Steve Knapp and Ian Broadie like this.
  9. My experience is that loner/paired up steelhead tend to be pickier than fish in big groups. Seems that competition heats up when more fish are in the group. I've watched groups of a dozen to two dozen fish pile over each other to grab anything and everything thrown at them. My experience over the past season in observing more fish has shown me a lot of what Sean said, and I see that kind of behavior he mentioned when it's more of a loner situation.

    But, a big reason why guys like Sean out fish me is that I lack the creative brain that craves time at the vise.

    I typically tell guys getting started, though, to worry less about flies and more about how they're going to get it to the fish.
    Ian Broadie and stilly stalker like this.
  10. In the vast majority of situations, a yarn/feather/other thing presented close enough works really, really well.

    In a few situations, very few, steelhead will want you to be more precise.
  11. What comes first the confidence or the fly? Who knows. However, I won't show my secret fly to anybody. Some will claim that presentation is more important than the fly. Maybe somedays. The pattern does matter. I have never caught a first swing steelhead with a GBS.
  12. Im not a big fan of flies with no built in movement. Id rather throw a fly with a lot of movement any day. Ill throw a slimmed down intruder on a 15mm or 25 mm shank in black/crawdad/olive any day in clear summer water over any other traditional pattern because they breathe and wiggle like crazy. If theyre oversized for the situation.....well I dont think a 24+" fish will ever get scared by a naturally colored, 3" fly.

    I have fished the NF Stilly summer and winter for almost 2 decades. I only learned about intruders a few years ago, and so obviously fished other flies like marabou spiders, egg sucking leeches, green but skunks, GP's etc. before I began tying and fishing intruder style flies and caught plenty of steelhead doing it. The great thing about the NF in summer is that you often get the chance to see your fish come out of the shadows and take your fly.

    NF summer fish are pretty aggressive takers, but with a smaller more static fly Id often see them come out, follow the fly for a while and then take it, often half heartedly.A lot would come out, take a look then back offinto the shadows. With a big wiggly intruder, they rush out of the shadows with gill plates flared and SLAM that fly. All that extra wiggle and pulse triggers a very predatory response because it looks totally alive. Also, even in summer I like the extra weight of a shank and eyes. Will they come up to take? sure. Will they ALL come up to take? nope.

    Also, my "incidental" catch rates on summer chinook have gone way way waaaaay up too. Getting that squirmy, aggrevating fly deep down into the runs and holes where kings stack up makes it much easier to intice them to bite.
  13. This is all great advice. Every person on the forum could put in their two cents and all the sage advice wouldn't trump the most important factor of all and that is Time On The River. Stilly Stalker has put in a lot of hours on the river and has probably figured out which fly, which run, what time of year, what temperature, what clarity, water depth, etc., that it's become an unconscious process in choosing his fly. It's guys like that you want to fish with and learn from. Enjoy the journey.
  14. Where does this mindset come from? I mean in general and not calling you out individually, but I see this somewhat often on the forums where people talk about their secret flies they won't show it a "there are only so many fish, and if I help someone catch one it's one less I can catch" type of thing or what? Maybe I can see not giving the guy fishing the run before you your secret fly, but guys on the forum you'll likely never encounter on the river? If I was lucky enough to stumble on a fly creation that fish just went crazy for, I'd gladly share it with people so they could enjoy it too. To each their own I guess.
  15. maybe he's just worried someone will not only use the fly but take credit for it to become a signature tyer for a fly company... and then everyone will be fishing it.;)
  16. If everyone strarts fishing the same fly on a river it can turn fish off on that pattern thats all. I have found on summer steelhead that at certain times they can be very selective. I have one pattern in particular that I would never post on here because I don't want it getting fished by other people, which could decrease its effectiveness for me if on the same river as other people using the same fly.

    That being said if I am on the water and am catching fish and others are struggling and they approach me I will gladly give them a fly. Which was the case earlier this month on the OP. I believe that if someone is out on the water trying to make it happen and are friendly and ethical fisherman I don't mind trying to help them out if I can. After all I have been shown the same kindness by others who were kicking my butt on a lake a time or two.

    I do this so that someday when someone is kicking my butt on the river they might be kind enough to help me out.

    That being said just posting the fly pattern on the internet for everyone to see without them having to make an attempt to figure the game out on their own is not for me.
  17. mtskibum16, i agree.
    fished one weekend down south with Jim Teeny (we just happened to be at the same spot).
    he could not have been nicer. gave me some of his fly's to use and some instruction on where and how to fish them.
    if you cant share with others your knowledge, what ya gonna do when your grand kids ask to go fishing?
    stilly stalker likes this.

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