steelhead and water temps.

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

  1. James Mello

    James Mello Inventor of the "closed eye conjecture"

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    Anecdotally I've seen John Hicks hook up 5 times in a day with the water temp just at 38F... I myself have done well that low too, but those were on OP rivers with no pressure and midweek. In general for winter fish on the coast I'm more worried about the right flows and proper clarity rather than temps.

    Granted, I know solid scientific and anecdotal fishing evidence that temps affect the agressiveness of fish as temps near 50F, but in general we don't have control over it, so we just fish. I guess that's why we temper our expectations of a good day of fishing in the winter to be a solid hookup, and bringing multiple fish to hand in a day a spectacular outing.

    Finally I do remember a snowy day on the Sol Duc where we witnessed a steelhead slurping BWO's off the surface in some soft water. At first we though it was a sea run cut, but it eventually did a head to tail rise and we started throwing our gear at it in earnest. This was when I fished gear, so after a couple of casts, we ended up landing a nice wild fish around 9lbs.
     
  2. Erik F. Helm

    Erik F. Helm Frozen in the river, speyrod in hand

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    Just to give this a Midwest perspective, The other day I rose a steelhead on a swung fly, hooked it, and landed it in 33 degree water with shelf ice. The fly was only under the surface about 2". A guy I met on the river watched the whole thing. He was walking along when he observed the steelhead rise like a ghost, follow my fly, and eat it. The air temp was around 36 degrees. I was using a floating line with an intermediate polyleader and an unweighted fly. Friends of mine have caught steelhead on muddlers when the temperature of the water was at 32 degrees. It is not that we know what we are doing over here, but it is all we have, and instead of sitting inside, we venture out to swing two-handed rods in half-frozen water, and sometimes the fish cooperate.
    Have confidence in the swung fly.
    Erik
     
  3. Ryan Nathe

    Ryan Nathe Member

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    I thought the discussion was about steelhead, not lake-run rainbows...:D
     
  4. Erik F. Helm

    Erik F. Helm Frozen in the river, speyrod in hand

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    I guess I knew that was coming......at least you gave it a smiley!
    Cheers,
    Erik
     
  5. Hal Eckert

    Hal Eckert Member

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    Yes wild winter lake run rainbows, like this one, we will take them all winter keep them coming. This ones lineage goes back to 1880s

    :thumb::D

    [​IMG]
     
  6. SpeySpaz

    SpeySpaz still an authority on nothing

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    for some reason, catching a steelhead on an ass-freezing winter day really makes it for me.
    I love summer run fishing too, don't get me wrong, but something about midwinter flyfishing for steelhead really seems to capture the essence of it.
     
  7. James Mello

    James Mello Inventor of the "closed eye conjecture"

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    That is the brightest GL steelhead I've ever seen.... Nice fish.
     
  8. Erik F. Helm

    Erik F. Helm Frozen in the river, speyrod in hand

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    Yup, these 'cold water rainbows' are all dark and nasty...:)
    [​IMG]
     
  9. Permaskunk

    Permaskunk New Member

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    Please tell everybody you know that Steelhead in the midwest are dark, and nasty, and don't come to a swung fly. :thumb:

    And please ignore this "lake run rainbow", (from the largest freshwater lake in the world:ray1:)

    Nothing to see here.....please move along.
     

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  10. Ryan Nathe

    Ryan Nathe Member

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    Permaskunk, what is the difference between rainbows and steelhead?

    Steelhead go to OCEAN whereas rainbows don't. I am not saying that they are not awesome fish, just simply not steelhead.
     
  11. Will Atlas

    Will Atlas Guest

    gorgeous fish boys. They are more steelhead than some of the weakling hatchery strains being dumped into our local rivers. Still, nothing compares to a chrome wild steelhead, straight from the pacific ocean.

    For those interested in the McMillan article about water temps it can be found in the most recent addition of fly fishing and tying journal. Its a good read, and some cool photos. Amazing that he was able to catch winter fish skating every year.

    Will
     
  12. Steelie Mike

    Steelie Mike Active Member

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    Do not get offended you GL guys. You catch some beautiful fish and even the ocean run fish I catch locally get put down by the guys on the other side of the state. I would love to compare your steel trouts to steelhead, but I have got the chance yet. Looking forward to it.

    I have heard and seem too many guys fishing floats and indicators in cold water that have had their floats taken down by steelhead to know that steelhead will move to a fly on top in cold water conditions. The biggest problem with steelheading is finding fish and then find that one or two fish that are players. Gotta love the chase!
     
  13. Paul Huffman

    Paul Huffman Lagging economic indicator

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    I read that Fly Tying Journal by McMillan too. What I got out of it was maybe water clarity is another important factor. The percentage of steelhead taken on floating lines decreased with decreasing temperature, but then increased at the coldest temperatures, those cold winter days that are so cold the water gets low and clear.
     
  14. Erik F. Helm

    Erik F. Helm Frozen in the river, speyrod in hand

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    So... The saltwater makes the fish a steelhead. I tend to agree, yet what would we call a cowlitz, skamania, rogue, etc. steelhead that is transplanted into the great lakes and naturally reproduces? Except for small changes in the diet and the lack of organ function to excrete excess salt, it still lives in an enormous body of water and runs up rivers to reproduce.....
    Most of our fish are hatchery origin, much like yours, but we do have wild fish (though not native) that remain unchanged since the late 1800s...
    What if I take a bunch of our 'lake-run rainbows' and stick them in a Columbia tributary? If they then run to the sea are they steelhead? (even if they miss the urban graffiti and shopping carts in the water...)

    Another interesting thought is to think of all cutthroat and rainbows as land-locked fish if they don't live in the ocean or run to it. I think science has proven fairly that all fish originally lived in the sea, even freshwater fish. Remember we all are living in a single second of a ticking clock in billions of years of evolution.

    I am not trying to be provocative at all, just musing on the endless diversity of nature.
    And, by the way, you guys are very lucky to have a board like this, with all the active and knowledgeable participants. I am enjoying immensely reading and following all the thoughts and writings. Our equivalent board is unbelievable lame in comparison.

    Cheers,
    Erik

    P.S. Hey Adam, I enjoyed meeting you this year on the CW.
     
  15. Ryan Nathe

    Ryan Nathe Member

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    Erik F Helm,

    I am just fucking with you GL guys. Its all good. I wouldn't mind catching them either. But to answer your question, in my eyes if you took GL lake-run bows and put them in the columbia than yes most of the progeny would be steelhead when they smolt and out-migrate, but invariably some of those progeny will residualize and than they would be rainbows. We just create labels for our own sake, fish do what they do.
     
  16. Erik F. Helm

    Erik F. Helm Frozen in the river, speyrod in hand

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    Amen Ryan, trust me, if I had the chance to fish for wild steelhead more than a couple of weeks a year I would be there. There is nothing like a wild fish!
    Except for that fifteen pound chrome filly I hooked in the Milwaukee and.... well, thats another story.

    I envy you guys.

    Check out my blog, more fun and interesting stuff there.
    classicangler.blogspot.com

    Regards,
    Erik
     
  17. Permaskunk

    Permaskunk New Member

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    Sorry Ryan, but the difference between a Rainbow and a Steelhead is not THE OCEAN. It's "Smoltification". The process by which their bodies prepare for the salt. Whether or not they need it. Scientific study shows that this same Smoltification occurs in wild GL Steelhead. Sorry about that. :beathead:
     
  18. Ryan Nathe

    Ryan Nathe Member

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    Permaskunk, you can make up definitions if you want, but Steelhead are anadromous, which means they live part of their lives in saltwater. What you have are adfluvial trout not anadromous steelhead.

    If you are interested I read a recent article that stated that one of the draw-backs of the dams in the columbia river is that it slows down outstream migration so that some of the smolts revert and become residents. So does that make them "freshwater" steelhead or resident trout?
     
  19. ak_powder_monkey

    ak_powder_monkey Proud to Be Alaskan

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    I think its nuts to call great lakes adfluvial rainbows steelhead simply because catching a 26" steelhead is weaksauce whereas a 26" rainbow is badass. Maybe midwestern anglers suck balls at dickwaving....


    And the answer is if the fish doesn't go into the salt its not a steelhead its a resident.
     
  20. Permaskunk

    Permaskunk New Member

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    :confused:

    Oops. I guess I hurt AK's ego. Sorry about that.

    Opinions on this well hashed subject obviously differ. Do a little scientific reading and you'll find that the genetics, and life cycle of Steelhead in the East is similar to Steelhead in the West. With the obvious difference being the salt.

    That being said, does the salt make a steelhead different? Likely. Does the salt make the steelhead a better fighter? Questionable.
    Does the saltwater feeding opportunities make them bigger? Definitely.
     

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