Skating/waking a dry success rate

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Luke77, Jun 26, 2012.

  1. Matthew Gulbranson Resident Swinger

    Posts: 1,733
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +47 / 0
    Looking out at a nice sunny day has got me daydreaming about this again. Several of you have tossed out the phrase "if the conditions are right" then skating/waking can be more effective. If you care to share a little about some of these conditions I would appreciate it. I've only tried using dries a few times, but would like to give it another go this summer. I'm thinking that there are probably quite a wide array of conditions that work for fishing dries, maybe just highlighting some of your favorite conditions would give me a better idea of the ideal time/place/water for this pursuit.
  2. Stonefish Triploid and Humpy Hater

    Posts: 3,856
    Pipers Creek
    Ratings: +1,260 / 1
    Another question for those who have had success skating flies as I've rarely done so.
    Are you riffle hitching your flies or are there other ways you prefer to skate your flies?
  3. Jeremy Floyd fly fishing my way through life

    Posts: 2,554
    Quesnel, BC
    Ratings: +318 / 0
    For me it would depend on the type of fly. If it is a foam head or a huge headed deer hair skater, then no because there is no reason to put the extra stress on your leader. If I am skating a pattern that barely stays up, or doesn't at all on it's own, then absolutely.

    Necessity calls for a riffle hitch. If you can get away without it, then by all means avoid it, because you are taking unnecessary risks.
  4. g_smolt Recreational User

    Posts: 915
    58°19'59 N, 134°29'49 W
    Ratings: +160 / 0
    I have gotten fish on all of these, but the least succesful (for me) has been the Grantham sedge (2nd from bottom right). Deerhair w/no foam is a pain to keep up, and I don't like fussy flies - for me, they should fish without being high-maintenance. The check-legged fly at top is pure evil, and the little guy at bottom right is a murder weapon as well.

    Steelhead also eat mice. Fly shown in above pic, top right.

    Smallish (but by no means smallest) skater, with the teeth marks from a PM session.

    ...and one that didn't survive a morning beatdown by a pile of fish on an unnamed ID river. They tried to chew the tinsel off, too.
  5. JS Active Member

    Posts: 852
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    You have inspired me. That is pretty damn sick......I'm headed for the vice right now. The smallest thing that I generally skate is crystal caddis at least twice that size. Thanks for the food for thought.
  6. JS Active Member

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    What hooks are you using for your smaller foam stuff?
  7. skyrise Active Member

    Posts: 590
    everett, wa.
    Ratings: +51 / 0
    agree that wild fish are much more receptive. you B.C. guys are lucky. we in the Puget tropolis have to be happy with the cookie cutters. but they will come up at certain times. interesting about the small foam riders.
    gets me thinking. hmm.
  8. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,792
    Marysville, Washington
    Ratings: +643 / 0
    I caught my first steelhead on a dry nearly 50 years ago (a royal coachman bucktail derivative) and since then have had more than my share of success. In the process I have formed some opinions as to the "best" approach to success surface fishing for steelhead whether skating/waking or drag free presentations. Keep in mind the vast majority of my summer steelhead fishing and surface success has been on western Washington streams; specifically the north Sound "S" rivers.

    Whenever I can find summer steelhead that are still actively moving a surface presentation is a reasonable approach and often the best apoach. IMHO the best situation is when the fish are moving a few miles, then holding for short periods (whether a few hours or several days). Those fish whether hatchery or wild typically will respond to a well presented surface fly. Those conditions are typically found once flows have dropped some and stream temperatures have either risen or fallen into the high 40s to low 60s range. While it is always nice to have clear conditions anytime the visibility is above 30 inches it can be game on.

    While taking a steelhead on a drag free dry can be the ultimate thrill the hard reality is that at least here in Western Washington finding a regularly rising ("feeding") fish is highly unlikely - in the all my years on the water can count the number of times I have found one on a single hand (though in ever case they readily took a well presented dry). That said taking fish dry free is not hopeless; a dogged presentation of a drag free dry will produce fish it is just a very efficient way to cover water and find a fishing willing to rise. It is common in fishing a skated or waking pattern for a steelhead to show itself without taking the fly. Many of noted that those fish can often be taken when the fly is represented or with a pattern change. I have had some good success when I find such a fish on a drag free presention. The drill is after the fish shows itself to note its hold spot strip of 5 or 6 feet additional line and present the fly drag free so that it will start its drift several feet aove the feet and be prepared to extend the drift for several feet pass the fish. With this approach have taken a pretty decent number of fish drag free including lots of hatchery fish. One word of caution the angler will probably convert a higher percentage of those moved fish to hook ups if they stayed with the waking fly but for me the reward of taking the fish drag free more than offset catching a couple more fish.

    In very much old school in fly preference when it comes to my steelhead dries. My two favorite have to be Haig-Brown's steelhead bee and a grey Wulff though by always has some variations of bucktail coachman, muddlers, fall caddis and some sort of Lamire grease liner. I do agree with g Smolt that todays foand/or bomber patterns are easiler to fish and likely more durable I do think an angler is well advise to learn to fish those old school patterns well - the line control skills learned to fish those flies well - under constant line pressure while slowly swing across the currret will pay dividends regardless of the pattern fished (BTW those same line skills will improve your wet fly swing game).

    Maybe converting "takes" to hook-ups is the hardest part of the dryfly game. I find it helpful to remember that those summer steelhead are often pretty clumsy in their takes. The often miss the fly and tpically move quite a bit of water. In the excitment of moving a fish to the surface it is hard not to fall into "trout" mode and set the hook at the "splash". the result is the hook set is often prior to the fish actually taking the fly or will the fish's mouth is still open. The trick is to delay the strike until the fish has clearly taken the fly and started back down to the bottom - much easier said than done. The first rise or two of the season almost always results in a premature strike on my part. It helps if I can keep my nerves under control by fishing each cast as if I expect to rise a fish. By far the most difficult fish to hook is the one that takes more or less immediately downstream of the angler. The trick here is to either to delay the strike until the fish has clearly taken the fly and turned to the side or if you can not wait that long strike the fish with a long lateral rod sweep towards the near bank.

    Salmo g - one of the best ways to build a delay in your hooks set is to enjoy the scenery; of course that meanone misses the thrill of the take.

    I reserve a riffle hitch for my low water flies that I'm fishing grease line using either a triliene or loop knot for attaching my waking dries.

    The next four months depending on conditons are prime time of the steelhead surface game but I do have one word of caution - steelhead on the dry is very addictive. The one long lasting addiction I have from my 1960s days is chasing steelhead with surface flies.

    Tight lines
  9. Andrew Lawrence Active Member

    Posts: 734
    Renton, WA.
    Ratings: +100 / 0
    Interesting conversation! Out of curiousity, does anyone tie their skater/waking flies on tubes? If so, would you wiling share any patterns?
  10. golfman65 Guest

    Posts: 0
    Ratings: +5 / 0
    I have used tubes for about a year now (dry) some work better then others...these are ones I tied at first...I have moved to foam much more and swept back wings like gsmolts...

    there are many ways to do this...on the ones in the pic's I pinched the end of the tube and then heated the pliers holding it to flatten can put a hole through the side but I've since found one through the bottom works better for my flies..

    I've also found they work fine without pinching the front but I still do on some as they skate better with some patterns..

    last but not first steelie out of a river up north a couple three years ago was on a size 14 dry dead drifting it pictures 018 (Medium).jpg pictures 019 (Medium).jpg pictures 023 (Medium).jpg ...I put my spey rod down and was fishing for trout with my 000 wt. hooked and landed a small wild fish that was sipping yellow sallys off the top...was very cool...
    Andrew Lawrence likes this.
  11. Andrew Lawrence Active Member

    Posts: 734
    Renton, WA.
    Ratings: +100 / 0

    Thanks golfman65! You got my wheels turning. I am going to have to tie something similiar to what you posted.
  12. cuponoodle breakfast gritty

    Posts: 1,640
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  13. Sean Beauchamp Hot and Heavy at yer 6

    Posts: 2,101
    Shoreline, WA, U.S.
    Ratings: +442 / 1
    What smalma said about moving fish really rings true for me personally and certainly wasn't a factor I had given thought to. The "day of days" Evan and I had last fall surely falls into that category. A day ill never forget.

    Anyone ever fish dries outta the boat on the move for them? Certain rivers they eat the shit outta the indicator I plan on tossin a chubby around this fall and seeing what happens. Just for grins.
  14. thewaker Tight line takes ain't no fakes!!

    Posts: 263
    Bend, Oregon
    Ratings: +3 / 0
    Put it on and leave it on,fish it with will see results.
    golfman65 likes this.
  15. ralfish Active Member

    Posts: 291
    Ratings: +34 / 0
    The only time I use tubes is when I find a fish that taking short. With a tube I can adjust how far back the hook sits. Second row is what I use 90% of the time wakers.jpg
  16. Robert Engleheart Robert

    Posts: 1,145
    Lemoore, CA
    Ratings: +111 / 0
    I like those dime-sized foam bodied flies. Kinda like the bigger ones I've been using I got from The Fly Shop (Idelwilde ska-hoppers?). I think some of those in dark (Black/blue) and tan/orange (for the Oct. Caddis) would really be the ticket on the upper T.
  17. inland Active Member

    Posts: 592
    Ratings: +45 / 0
    The best conditions to fish one are when you want. You aren't looking for anything 'perfect', just the twinge to fish them. I skate/wake maybe 15% of the time. Success wise they kick ass. There are days when the fish chew them to pcs, where wets aren't showing anything. There are days when wets pick up fish the waker isn't producing. And days in-between. A good friend, the 'best' steelhead angler I know or ever will know, spent several seasons fishing the deschutes with nothing but wakers. His conclusion? It all evens out over a season. Some days are waker days. Some are not. You sure as hell do not need wild or unpressured fish to get them up. There are no unpressured summer fish in the lower 48. Some less pressured. Of course others are insanely persued. Those fish continue to take dries as well as any other fly fished on a dryline.

    The only method I prefer to waking is hitching wets. Similar takes. Similar method.
  18. golfman65 Guest

    Posts: 0
    Ratings: +5 / 0
    How did you get the head to do that on those flies? (second row)

    p.s. for all the hell you went through with the hip, those drugs must have done something right..I don't remember seeing your ties near as nice as they are now...
  19. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,792
    Marysville, Washington
    Ratings: +643 / 0
    golfman -
    While I don't know how ralifsh formed his "wobble heads" on those flies I fished very similar patterns a lot 30 years ago and the way I did it was to leave the hair in front of the wing long at the first triming. I would then coat that hair in head cement or epoxy squeeze it flat and before totally dry trim to shape.

    His photos are pretty clear as to the appropriate shape (a round and flatten planning face that extends to hook eye or slightly beyond). An effective way to tie a sparse pattern that will wake very nicely while under prssure. Depending on the tie I found such patterns to be extremely effective in a wide variety of conditions - every thing from near-white water riffles to slow flats.

    To the original questions on the "S" rivers I found waking/Skating patterns to at least as effective as the traditional wet fly patterns from the time th snow melt run-off starts dropping on into the fall until the rains bump the flows to levels consistently above the summer/early fall lows; typically form mid-July through late September with several weeks extenson possible depending on conditins.

    Tight lines
  20. Jeremy Floyd fly fishing my way through life

    Posts: 2,554
    Quesnel, BC
    Ratings: +318 / 0
    "the ticket on the upper T"

    Robert, if you are thinking the Norcal T, try a sparse silver hilton with a tiny foam head. Thats the most successful fly I had for skating down there.
    Robert Engleheart likes this.