Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Steve Buckner, Dec 13, 2005.
steelhead behavior 2
thanks, Uncle Jimmy. Jim, you sure you were still flyfishing?
steelhead behavior 2
For years, I had heard of steelhead rolling when they first come into a pool and that when they do, they are very "bitey." Here is my journal entry for this past November 3.
Coming Into The Pool.
Two years ago while fishing the Skagit for steelhead, my friend Nobuo Nodera asked if I had ever seen "fish come into the pool?" "No, but I've read about it happening with Atlantic salmon," I replied. Last year, while fishing with John Farrar, I asked him the same question. John said, "In all the years I have been flyfishing for steelhead, I have only seen fish come into the pool once. It was on the Sky during the last hour of light – all of a sudden the tailout was alive with rolling fish. A small school of steelhead had just swum into my pool from the one down below. For the next two hours, I caught and released five chrome bright steelhead!"
This morning, Ryan Petzold and I caught the 5:50 Kingston ferry and drove three and a half hours through freezing fog, snow and ice to emerge into a bluebird day on a low clear river.
At 9:30, Ryan began fishing at the head of the pool and I took a spot below him halfway down to the tailout. Ten minutes later, as I was still getting the kinks out of my line, I hooked up with my first winter steelhead of the season. I was using a #2 pink, orange, yellow popsicle. Ryan came down and took a photo and I released the 5lb. hatchery buck. I told Ryan to take my spot and that I would walk back upstream and fish down behind him. Soon I hooked my second fish. An incredulous Ryan laid down his rod and tromped back up to take a photo of my second steelhead.
Fish were rolling in the river between the two of us. They had just come into the pool. It wasn't long before I heard Ryan yell, "Fish on!" Just as I began to strip in my line in order to go down and take Ryan's photo, I got a big grab and just missed getting a "double."
I saw six fish roll in the next few minutes before Ryan hooked his second fish. After landing the fish we looked at his watch. It read 11:00! In an hour and a half, we hooked five fish and landed four. For myself, I equaled in an hour and a half all I did last winter – two fish landed and one lost.
steelhead behavior 2
I have seen some of this porposing on the sauk before in march. We were letting floats drift through a run below us from the boat. Saw a fish below us porpose twice. It was diffenately moving because before we knew it, the fish Boiled on my dads float. It freaking grabbed the white float and wouldnt let go! Well there was nothing we could do but stare in amazement. Took a little run sideways and let go. Right after that Saw a fish porpose right next to the boat and then about a minute later about 50' above the boat. He was moving.
I have seen steelhead do the same thing right at the Salmon river last january along the far bank on the queets in real soft water. Way out of casting reach and an Impossible swing or drift to get to them, but a saw a half dozen backs moving up river. Im amazed they made it by the 27 nets strung across the lower queets!
During the summer in Alaska I saw many fresh kings do the same thing coming in on the tide into the river. You would see a nice back come out of the water well below you in the run. Then see a different fish closer and another one even closer, then before you know it both rods are barried in the holders. These were diffenatly pods of fish on the move and you could find them as the tide pushed in. Chums do the same freaking thing, so people think theres 600 kings porposing around them when really they are chums.
I have seen rolling steelhead moving into pools many times -hatchery and wild - summers and winters. As mentioned they usually are pretty straight forward to catch. Often just a matter of locating water the is efficiently fished with a fly that those fish will soon be moving through.
Have had good luck in tail outs. But have also done well in the riffles at the head of pools. I remember a spring 20 years ago on the Sauk where the river was very low and clear (sound familar). Just as the sun left the water one could see (from the log jams) those wild Sauk natives moving from the "hide-holes" in the log jams swwimming upstream with the occassional fish rolling. They moved at the same pace as my walking speed with a ocassional stop behind a boulder. For weeks this was nearly daily behavior at several jams. I located on jam immediately downstream of a very fly friendly riffle (on the same side as the jam) that was a 1/2 mile from the road. If one wanted a fish (some times two thought window of opportunity was pretty short) all one needed to do was fish the riffle where it deepen just before dusk - usually had a 1/2 hour so before it was time to leave to avoid walking out in the dark - fishing was so consistent never even bothered or considered taking a flashlight to extend my fishing time. As close to a slam dunk over a time period that I can remember.
As with steelhead traveling salmon that are rolling are also very catchable however neither is very catchable if they are holding fish that periodically just roll for whatever reason. Before spending much time targeting the rolling fish it is important to differentiate between moving and holding fish.
I too have witnessed fish move into a pool and begin their porpoising, and agree that these fish are often aggressive. I've been fortunate to observe this behavior with both steelhead and salmon. There is always something comforting about fishing where at least you've seen one roll. I'd guess that more than 25-50% of the fish I catch are ones that I've seen roll prior to getting hooked.
On the Alagnak river in Alaska, I've had the opportunity to watch the runs of salmon begin their migration, literally in some cases overnight, and observe the behaviors of the fish as they've entered. In most cases, we fished the tidal water on the Alagnak, within a few miles of it's confluence with the Kvichak. Because those fish are so low in the system, their condition is supreme.
Because we were fishing the tidal zone, it's imperative to understand what strength of tides are best for a given species and how high a given tide would push fish upriver. Over the course of the migration of all five species of salmon and the rainbows that fed upon their eggs and flesh, one could see the change in behavior, strength, and color. It's truly been fascinating to watch the beginning and then to watch as the season fades into an ending. We see the same thing here, although the runs are not as strong nor as compressed in terms of time.
As I mentioned previously, the one fish that seems to exhibit a different behavior than any other chinook I've seen are the chinook salmon of the Harrison River in B.C.. Although I've seen chinook roll on other rivers, they tend to jump out of the river like chum on the Harrison, truly a sight to behold.
Leland, where did you and ryan fish? and when?
Yes, but why do they all- hatchery or wild- take a two inch hank of red yarn so readily?
Steelhead are stupid, just few in number. I am sure u already knew that
On rolling fish, i have seen both groups as smalma has discribed. The first type if rolling fish was on the ronde earlier this year. There was literaly hundreds of steelhead stacked in a deep pool low down on the system, within 2 miles of the mouth. We watched lower down in the pool as fish would roll one after the other, surely steelhead, but all refusing our casts. We moved into faster water, and we started hooking up, almost every cast.
Another case, I was fishing a riffle on the same river this fall, catching a fish about every 45 minutes along with my buddies, so the fish were clearly in. However, during the span of 30 minutes, we watched a pod of rolling fish move up from a pool lower down, and if we could get a good cast infront of one of them, there would be a hookup involved almost every time. We didn't count how many were landed, but I think we would have made sharp steelie proud. Often times our bugs would just hit the water, and it was game on.
I have not had the same luck with rolling salmon, in any form.
I reread this thread last night before retiring, and as I drifted off, I imagined myself observing a steelhead making it around the end of a wier-like log that stretches across the bottom of the tailout of a confluence hole I know of on a nearby "creek" and then rolling before disappearing into the depths of the pool(It is named as "Zipperlip" River, but it is actually just a big creek). I was looking forward to being there at the crack-o-dawn, as it is the only reasonably close place I know of right now that would be fishable for steelhead, and I wanted to be the first, and hopefully only fisher there.
Ahhh, what a sugarplum vision, eh?
Well, I got there, and there were still a few Coho guarding their redds. I have seen steelhead and coho share this pool before. I have observed a big coho buck chasing a steelhead out of its territory there before.
An alder had very recently (within the last 3 weeks) been blown partially down and was leaning low over the tailout...my backcast area, as the banks are tree-lined, and it must be fished by roll casting or fishing upstream from a position in the middle of the creek below the tailout...damn!
I rigged up a 10' leader off my floating tip, tied on a size 6 black/puple jig fly with a glowbug hanging on an 18" dropper, with a bead pegged about 3" above the glowbug(maximum rig...oughta get 'em), attached my corkie indicator, stripped out some line and began roll casting.
Just like I had imagined, a large steelhead that I think had just snuck into the pool, rolled beneath the alder in the tailout. Ho!!!
My next roll cast put my rig about 20' upstream (pool is about 60' long) of where the fish rolled, and I held my breath as I mended line to get a clean drift.
Like in a dream, that corkie got jerked under water and I set the hook into a heavy fish. Immediately, a large steelhead burst skyward at an upstream angle and snapped my 10# test dropper as my heart skipped a beat.... Hoootah! What a bully! I think that is #3...maybe only #2, of the adult steelhead that I have hooked on a fly and lost. Have yet to land one (except for jacks).
I rested the hole and fished downstream awhile, losing three complete rigs to the snag infested creek.
It started to rain. I made my way back up to the confluence hole and worked it over good. Again the corkie went down...this time a fairly bright searun cutt about 13" raced all over the pool, putting a bend in the top section of my 8wt.
Took the glowbug dropper, but was hooked in the lower lip, and I easily slid the hook out.
Worked it for a few dozen more casts, saw a couple of coho bucks chasing around, then the rain really started coming down hard and I began the hike out.
Today was a very good day!:beer2:
Got to love it when our plans/dreams bear fruit - I expect that it will not be long before there a more steelhead in your fishing.
Curt, I believe what you said about the "willingness to bite" of moving fish that are rolling vs. "non-biting" holding fish that are rolling may be true most of the time.
However, in the tide-affected portions of some of the smaller rivers I fish here on the south coast, the moving coho and chums, although they may be rolling at times, sometimes don't seem to slow down for nothing, or be interested in biting until the tide drops and causes them to hold in upper tidewater pools, or until they get upstream of tidewater. They seem to be on a mission to get to some holding water or something.
I have experienced exceptions, like the couple of times two years ago on one particular stream when I was headed upstream in my canoe with the last push of the tide and I saw Coho roll just upstream of me. They grabbed my spinners with gusto.
But this year, most of the time they seemed to be in a big hurry and wearing blinders. I finally got lucky with the coho, though, and didn't have to powerwash the stench of skunk off my gear. And those biters were rolling, moving fish, chromers just coming in from the estuary a couple of hours after the low tide change.
I think I'm moving all my theories out to the curb (garbage pickup next Tuesday)
My two cents,
I think there is some validity to the rolling steelhead being movers and biters. At the end of September last year I was fishing my favorite hole for about an hour and a half until I saw five steelhead roll in about 20 minutes. I saw the guy across the river catch 4 steelhead in 1.5 hours. I could see the fish rolling on his bank too. I was pretty jealous until I tied into the biggest steelhead I have caught to date a 32" native. I would suspect the fishing would have kept up but it was sundown and that means no more fishing in Oregon.