steelhead and water temps.

Discussion in 'Spey Clave' started by Panhandle, Dec 1, 2008.

  1. Panhandle Active Member

    Posts: 4,103
    Selkirk Mountains, Idaho Panhandle
    Ratings: +23 / 0
    I'm interested in any scientific evidence, or personal experience relating to fish movement and metabolism in water temps below 50. My experience leads me to believe fish (mostly) require vertical presentation (nymphing) between 39-42 degrees. At what temperature change do they shut down metabolically, or when are they far less likely to move to a swung fly?
  2. Big Tuna Member

    Posts: 1,958
    Wenatchee, Washington
    Ratings: +39 / 0
    While it's more of a challenge at those temps, I've had success swinging down to 38 degrees. On Saturday, I had 6 grabs, resulting in 4 hook-ups and 3 fish to hand and the water temp was 40 degrees...all swinging. I will admit, it was an abnormally good day:)
  3. Panhandle Active Member

    Posts: 4,103
    Selkirk Mountains, Idaho Panhandle
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    That's awesome. :beer2:
  4. LBC nymphing beads with a spey pole.

    Posts: 252
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    BT: thats sweet. I had one day like that last winter. not sure of the actual water temp but it was the middle of December. In the 30's Im sure. Hooked 6 fish in an afternoon, 4 in the same run! All swiniging. THose days are few and FAR between, I know that. good to hear that your wappin em.
  5. twohand New Member

    Posts: 3
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Here in Michigan most of our rivers have already bottomed out at 32bawling: The fishing starts to get tough below 35 but I don't get depressed untill it hits 32. We still catch fish when the temp bottoms out, the pulls are just fewer and farther between. One thing that worked well last year in super cold water was a 6" long peach (yes, peach) colored leech pattern with a generous dose of pearl flashabou.
  6. Red Shed "junkyard spey"

    Posts: 517
    Peck, ID
    Ratings: +7 / 0
    The Clearwater has been running @ 40 degrees or there abouts for many days. There are some fish being caught and it isn't by nymphing and it's not vertical.
  7. the-buddler New Member

    Posts: 10
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    I am still confident on a deep swing with water in the 39-45* I have caught a number of fish on the deep wet fly swing, in temps from 34-38* , but it's effectivness is way lower in those temps. :beathead:
  8. Salmo_g Active Member

    Posts: 7,483
    Your City ,State
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    Below 45*F, metabolically speaking, steelhead are relatively inactive. That applies to WA state, west of the Cascades. That said, I've had some terrific fishing on swung flies and very active fish down to 38*F, but those were exceptions and not the rule. I have no idea why, but often there are no good explanations for what steelhead do.

    BTW, temperature thresholds vary with latitude and elevation. So steelhead are responsive to surface presentation at cooler temps in northern BC than in WA or in CA. Context is critical when drawing boundaries around fish behavior patterns. Don't assume that a particular rule is exactly the same when fishing in another part of the steelhead's geographic domain.

  9. poirierpro Member

    Posts: 240
    Spokane, WA
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Great post Pan!!! Me and a buddy were having this very conversation on the Met last Sat when we were swinging leeches with no success...only after changing up to nymphing did we get some hook ups. But at what temp does this dramatically change? I dont know...wish I did. But I do know that I have hooked more steelhead in the winter months in softer water and often VERY slow water. I also think nymphing with a spey rod has increased my success rate due to the longer drifts and simply keeping my fly "in the zone" longer. I'd like to hear some more about this subject.


    PS I love steelheading
  10. inland Active Member

    Posts: 595
    Ratings: +46 / 0

    Inland summer fish I have done very well with a deep wet fly swing down to 34/35F. The taking lies do seem to favor slower water. But not always. Rest assured that northern BC doesn't have the monopoly on fish taking near/in/on surface presentations once it gets cold (<44/45F). I really think its river specific. Some of the best dryline fishing I have had came in water 42F dropping to 39F in a few short days. Granted the river was dropping from a spate and they went off. Hammering wets and fighting like it was mid Sept and 55F. Not mid November. If you stick to your guns you will still find fish with a dryline when the water is cold. All in all it does get harder and somewhere in there the switch-off happens to when they are far more likely to be caught with a deep swung fly. That too is river specific. And lie specific within the rivers. Find the taking lies. And how they change with differing water levels and temps.

    Compared to drift fishing there isn't one. Drift fishing will nearly always outproduce no matter the conditions.

    One of the best weeks I have had for winter steelhead happened where the water quickly cooled from 44F to 39F with a late winter storm. Those fish were as grabby as I have ever seen them. Whether its 36F or 48F I have never done any better or worse on winter steelhead, from California to Washington, to a deep swung fly. It always comes down to IF there are any fish around.

  11. Panhandle Active Member

    Posts: 4,103
    Selkirk Mountains, Idaho Panhandle
    Ratings: +23 / 0
    Good stuff, Thanks.
  12. Will Atlas Guest

    Posts: 0
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    I've caught fish on the swing in sideways snow. Caught fish on the swing when it had been sub 40s for a high for over a week. Fresh fish = aggressive fish. Not so sure about summers because I never pursue them once the temps drop off too far, although I had a devil of a time getting them up near the surface after that first cold snap of the year over on the Ronde, and CW. I would point you to an article recently published by John McMillan. Not sure the mag but someone else cited it recently. He talks in the article about his observations of the importance of temperature, how it effects holding behavior as well as receptiveness to a fly. And he only swings.

  13. Panhandle Active Member

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    Selkirk Mountains, Idaho Panhandle
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    Will, I would love that article.
  14. Will Atlas Guest

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    I don't have a copy of the magazine, but I ought to get one since I know John. Not sure which publication it was in but I think someone cited it recently on the forum.

  15. speyforsteel Degenerate Caster

    Posts: 316
    Eastern Washington
    Ratings: +3 / 0

    I've caught steelhead in the lower 30's on the swing(where you can't shoot line and after you reel in your done till you thaw out the ice on the reel) in both the summer and winter varieties.
    I've seen people raise and hook fish on skaters at 38(measured with 2 thermometers) more than once and the biggest hen I've ever caught(BIIIGGGG BAD MOMMA) was in 39 degree's with a floating line and no effort to sink the fly at all.
  16. ak_powder_monkey Proud to Be Alaskan

    Posts: 3,209
    Eagle River, Alaska
    Ratings: +112 / 0
    my best day on the situk the water got up to 8°C! it was awesome
  17. Salmo_g Active Member

    Posts: 7,483
    Your City ,State
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    8*C is a very good temperature for steelhead fishing, especially in AK.

  18. Jergens AKA Joe Willauer

    Posts: 2,141
    Twin Bridges, MT
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    Thats what i was thinking (46f)
  19. chromeseeker Where's the Bucket?

    Posts: 132
    Your City ,State Vancouver, WA
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    I just finished reading John McMillan's article as well, pretty interesting and much of it is pretty intuitive, except the part about his success on dry lines vs. sinks tips when the water is in the mid to high 30's (better success on dry line). I wouldn't have believed it had I not witnessed it myself. I've hooked chrome bright fish on the John Day in January on a floater with 33 deg. temps and ice floating downstream.

    It would have been interesting in the article if John had mentioned how many wild vs. hatchery fish he hooked over those 8 years of testing and broken this down into dry line vs. sink-tip. I was hoping his email address would have been included in the article so I could ask him this question.

  20. SpeySpaz still an authority on nothing

    Posts: 1,827
    Roy, WA
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    same thing is mentioned in Trey Combs' work, big BC steelhead busting dries with ice floating by.
    I bet the race of steel has a lot to do with it, and the relative changes in temp as opposed to just what the temp is.
    Of course, we're talking about wild fish behaving as wild fish do, in a relatively undisturbed environment too. Hatchery clones aren't known for being wild about dries in my parts or in his, the Washougal watershed. But I'm pretty sure McMillan said something like that too, didn't he?