Steelhead Beginner

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by filson, Jul 3, 2008.

  1. filson

    filson Steve Wilson

    Hey guys,

    I just purchased my first steelhead setup. A TFO 8 wt with a Scientific Anglers Reel. It has been a lifelong desire to take up the art of Steelhead fishing, and I am finally in the game. What I am asking for is for some tips to get me started. Obviously I'm not expecting secret spots (although some would be nice), but rather I'm looking to be pointed in the right direction. I am an avid fly fisherman, so I know how to fish well. What rivers seem to produce during the summer?(I live in Issaquah) Patterns? Techniques? I realize that most learning has to be done by trial and error, but I was hoping to use some of the amazing knowlege from you guys here on the board to give me a head start.

    Tight Lines
  2. Itchy Dog

    Itchy Dog Some call me Kirk Werner

    I'd recommend stopping by All About The Fly in Monroe. Pick up a few steelhead patterns and chat it up with the crew. Maybe even hire Brian Paige to guide you for a day on the Sky and shorten the learning curve dramatically.
  3. knothead

    knothead Banned or Parked

    If you live in Issaquah the Snoqualmie is just a hop, skip and a jump. The 8# is a little big for summer run, IMO, but will work well just the same. Lots of good access around Fall City.
  4. miyawaki

    miyawaki Active Member

    20 years ago, 3M/Scientific Anglers produced three landmark videos on steelhead with Lani Waller. They are still to this date, the most thorough "how to" videos on fly fishing for steelhead. They cover floating line to sink tips, dry fly to wet fly, one fly to two flies and, most importantly, what steelhead water looks like and how to fish it.

    The three videos have been re-mastered into DVD and now include two-handed and nymphing techniques. The DVD is titled, "Steelhead Legacy." We have it at Orvis but most flyshops should also have it.

  5. FLGator

    FLGator Member

    Pick up a copy of Dec Hogan's book A Passion for Steelhead, it's a great read with lots of insight.

    Also, find a mentor.

    Enjoy the journey.
  6. o mykiss

    o mykiss Active Member

    Depends on what you mean by "produce". None of the rivers around here are particularly flush with steelhead during the summer, but they can be found in the Snoqualmie, Skykomish, Stilliguamish, etc. In terms of current conditions (i.e., practically flood stage), I would consider it a waste of time right now, though some folks were catching fish a week or two ago. I can't speak for the Skykomish or Stilliguamish, as I haven't fished them yet this summer, but the Snoqualmie right now is way too high to fish effectively. I like the Snoqualmie at 4,500 cfs and preferably much lower (2,500 - 3,000 seems ideal, at least to me). It's been around 7,500 - 8,000 lately, which means not only is it ripping but is up in the brambles on the bank. Good luck even finding a place to cast in those conditions, and wear a life vest.;)

    There's mucho information on this site about the type of water to fish and how to fish it if you do a search, or if you're willing to spend a modest amount of money, you can learn the basics by picking up and reading something like Dec Hogan's "A Passion for Steelhead". (There's lots of good how to books that you could find by doing a search). Or hire a guide for a day to get up the learning curve.

    Then you have to decide whether you're going to try to catch fish on the swing or nymphing. Up to each angler how they want to do it, and only you can figure out what method you prefer. Until the flows drop significantly, swinging a floating line is pretty much a waste of time, so you might want to invest in a multi-tip line that gives you some options for getting the fly down. Use short leaders (3-4') of level mono (e.g., Maxima Ultragreen) if you're fishing tips; longer if you're fishing a floating line. Personally, I wouldn't even bother with a floating line (unless you're nymphing, of course) at this stage of the journey. On this side of the mountains, catching steelhead on a floating line is reserved for people who know what they're doing or the person who just happens to get lucky. Whether you are swinging or nymphing, the key is to cover lots of water. Don't stand in one spot (unless you miraculously actually see a steelhead and are sight fishing to it). It's not like trout fishing where you sometimes find a bunch of fish in a compact area and can spend several minutes to hours fishing productively in that one area. Don't waste your time on the frog water; save that for searun cutthroats later in the year.

    Go into any fly shop and pick up a few different steelhead flies they might recommend. The type you use will depend again on whether you're fishing on the swing or nymphing. For swinging, you can use just about any standard steelhead fly (hairwings; featherwings; egg-sucking leeches; marabous; articulated bunny leeches, etc.) For nymphing, you can use stoneflies and even larger, heavily weighted versions of popular trout flies like Copper Johns, Prince Nymphs, etc., as well as egg patterns, fished under an indicator (or without - it's up to you). Some folks like fishing double nymph rigs. No need to overthink the flies, really, because steelhead fishing isn't "match the hatch" fishing.

    Good luck.
  7. speyfisher

    speyfisher Active Member

    When I first got into this, I didn't know how to tell the difference between holding water and passing through water. One of the things that began to sift through the cobwebs, pay attention to what's happening. The river will talk to you. And give up subtle clues.
  8. Old Man

    Old Man Just an Old Man

    Ideal water is about 3 feet deep and moving at walking speed. Anything faster than that is a waste of time as your fly is only in the zone for a few nano seconds before it is back at the top.Slower water is fine just as long as there is holdoing areas for the fish. A loose sandy bottom sucks.

  9. HauntedByWaters

    HauntedByWaters Active Member

    I would learn the about the swing first and start there. Just cast out, mend it (complicated depending on the water), let it swing (more complicated than it seems but comes with time), take a few steps, cast and swing again.

    Cover water and remember you don't catch shit without your fly in the water, swinging over fishy pools.

    I would start attempting to tie some cool spey flies (my favorite part) and swinging them. Though fly color and style doesn't matter enormously, it is important to have a few flies you can tie well and look fishy that will pump you up when you are feeling hopelessly fishless. Going to the box while steelheading is more a mental pick-you-up than anything else.

    I would just have a good time and not expect to catch much.

    Oh and when the fly starts swinging, DO NOT DO A DAMN THING! SERIOUSLY.

    Don't twitch, don't strip, don't mend, don't disturb the fly period.

    You can mend after the cast, and strip after the fly is done swinging and straight down stream of you, but when the fly starts to swing, leave it be.

    If you can manage to cover lots of water and not jerk your fly around when it is swinging, you may catch a summer steelhead a lot sooner than me. It tooks me years to get the patience and confidence to leave the fly be once it starts fishing in the water.

    The other thing and maybe most important part is learning how to read water and find where the fish are since steelhead aren't like salmon in their choice of lies. I will leave that for other posters.
  10. Porter

    Porter Active Member

    Public Library :thumb: some fly shops rent videos for a few bucks too.

    Think walking pace current.
  11. Buck

    Buck "Ride'n Dirty."

    Go get your self a guide...a good one. One guy here Jeremy Flyod, he's a steelhead guide. I'm sure he can tell you, in your home waters, where the fish are and what to fish with and how. Maybe a few hundred bucks and your way ahead of the game. Otherwise, it could be a few years before you actually get a fish.
  12. Coach Duff

    Coach Duff Banned or Parked

    If you really want to speed up your learning process, I'd call Mike Kinney. All of the above advice is outstanding. The Lani Waller videos are a must have and don't forget that there are summer runs in a bunch of other rivers with far less pressure. It's an amazing journey you've embarked on. I'm still in the middle of my own journey. I wish it would never end. Tight lines Duff
  13. filson

    filson Steve Wilson

    Thanks Guys. I can't wait to land my first Steelie. I'll be sure to post pics when it happens.(hopefully sooner rather than later)