Low clear OP rivers- how to?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Clarki, Jan 14, 2013.

  1. Will be hitting no less than 4 OP rivers this Fri and Sat and find myself intimidated by the low clear, cold water. I'm thinking small and sparse. Should I focus on deeper pools with the low flows, or continue fishing typical runs? I've not yet had the steeli opportunity so clear, yet so confusing to fish. Any help or thoughts appreciated!
  2. Pay attention to what other people are using... and then do something different. Smaller sometimes = better but it everybody's going small and subtle go big and bold and red is an often overlooked color. As far as where to look for them the three things I look for are structure, water color (greenish), and a little bit of current creating chop. Depth isn't as important when fishing low clear water (use your best judgment) but early morning (before the fishes have been harassed) or in the later afternoon (when they have warmed up a little) are my preferred times.

    There are exceptions to everything I mention but it's a place to start.
  3. Thanks! Appreciate it!
  4. For winter fish, I don't think going big will hurt you.
    Gear fisherman use heavy line, 6" rubber worms, spoons, plugs etc in low clear water conditions and do well.
    Wild fish are just more aggressive if you put it in their face.
  5. Dry-line, long leader and weighted fly with lots of movement.
  6. Thanks guys!
  7. Look to wood and heavy structure. Small, dense, and far off works. Classic runs will probably only be populated just at light and *maybe* just before dark.
  8. I've only halfass fished for steelhead so by no means am I an expert. But from what I have researched, try to determine whether they are in the traveling lies or holding lies. When the water is too high or too low they will probably be holding in deep pools waiting for a chance to travel, if the runs aren't too low the will probably be looking to move, so my guess would be to fish the long runs where fish will be moving through on there way up the system. But then again I could be way off base.
    Good luck, hope you catch some steel
  9. During times of lower, cold clearer water, you do have some challenges. And depending upon the river, how long the fish have been in, how far upriver etc, some fish may be vary hard to connect with. By the time that they get past the nets and seals, and the lower river gear fishermen, and however many drift boats come through, with all manner of lure, jig, hook etc, they can become pretty jaded. First off, I would be looking at getting on the water early, at dawn. And looking for structure like deeper cuts, trenches, holes etc, logs and trees, cut banks etc. I would be looking for those slower boiling currents, and the eddy lines between fast and slow water, the quieter water at the edges of a steeper bank, that might be across the river from you. Even though the water might be low and clear I would be doing my best to slow the fly down as much as possible. And I would be trying to fish on or just beneath the surface, not bumping the bottom.

    So I might have to juggle things between floating line or tip, leader length, sink tips, different sink rates at times depending upon results etc. At times like that I opt for flies that I can control. I am not as worried about specific patterns as I am about being able to get that slow drift and swing out of the fly, whatever fly, that I am using. I don't want the fly to lay down on the bottom at any point. In the deeper zones I would be trying to get down a few feet. I like the steelhead spey flies for this work. And if anything I do use smaller flies, down to size 6, but with a heavy hook. And if I had to use only one fly all day, it would be a purple and black spey, with just a little tinsel. Once the sun gets higher in the day, and this time of year it is still in a low arc across the southern sky, I would be looking for sheltered and shaded edges, cut banks, treed areas etc., that might have a shadow over the water's edge all day, even on a sunny day. These fish will burrow sometimes, getting into small hiding places along logs, submerged debris, deeper trenches etc. So I am thinking that I want my fly to drift dangerously close to, and along these obstructions.

    Another approach may be to get up later, get on the water later, like ten or 11 a.m., and focus on the mid day and afternoon fishing. As the day progresses, certainly by noon, most reaches of water, especially above highway 101, become less heavily fished, quieter, and the sun is going down. So in those circumstances you can bump into a moving fish in the quieter and last hours of the day. Even in lower, clearer water, with sunlight etc, you need to keep the fly moving slowly. There is a temptation to wade more than one needs to during low water, simply because one can do so easily. Bad mistake. Keep it as stealthy and quiet as you can.

    There are some links on my blog to help you plan your trip a far as travel safety, road and weather conditions, and some ideas on the spey. http://olympicpeninsulaflyfishing.blogspot.com
  10. Stealthy, something i often forget! I remember as a kid watching videos of the classic belly-crawl presentation. Somehow in my maturity as an angler I forgot that the fish can see you coming. Thanks for the reminder and tons of advice, Bob. I'm going to get your writeup tattooed on my back.
  11. One more question. When using a moderate sink tip to swing the deeper runs, what length would be ideal for my leader? With the clarity I would think long, but it seems that the longer the leader, the less control and feel I would have during the swing... My other thought is to use a leader the length of the clarity, to ensure that the fish is not spooked by my line...

    Bob Triggs likes this.
  12. You have to adjust your leader length and sink tips to each circumstance. Varying flows, turbulence, eddies etc can dramatically affect how your fly will respond to any sinking tip, or a floating tip for that matter. Generally the deeper that you want to fish the heavier you will go with a sink tip, or the slower you will try to get that tip and fly to work, depending upon flows etc. And leader length will have a lot to do with what fly you are using. You can get remarkable control over a fly by using a floating tip and a longer leader, and a weighted fly. A weighted fly might not always be the best choice though. Often using a sink tip, combined with a shorter leader, using an unweighted fly, may be easier and more effective to handle. This is always circumstantial, and it may change from run to run all day.
    What he stated is so true of low-clear-cold conditions...Sounds bout how I fish here in the midwest during most of our winters.. Its usually cold, cold water too. Ground water has tightened up from the cold weather making it a whole nother ball game..

    Fishing in the PM is my money game when the temps drop. Solar energy on woody cover during cloud cover , or after the sun has moved off of it is a scenario I look for..

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