Steelhead:Nymphing or Swinging

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by McQ, Feb 7, 2008.

  1. HauntedByWaters

    HauntedByWaters Active Member



    Somebody make a fake flyer for a dance and say it is from the WFF BOYZ.

    Now that would get something crazy going!
  2. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member


    Like I said, I realized it in hindsight. At the I only had a fly rod with me. I fished with a guide who supplied the split shot and nymphs. I don't think I even have the right spinning equipment for it. And for all I know the regulations might be restricted to fly only. And besides, we switched from nymphing to dries after noon, and it was a blast.

    One reason I will nymph for steelhead with my fly rod is to fish slots and pockets that aren't suited to the wet fly swing and not have to pack a spinning rod along. Carrying two rods is a hassle.

  3. greyghost

    greyghost Member

    So, if nymphing with a spinning rod is easier and allows someone to cover more water, hook more fish, and have a greater impact on the resource; why would anyone care if someone was making it tougher on themselves by using a fly rod. Is this a genuine plea to help everyone catch more fish? I mean I can cast a spoon farther and get a better controlled swing on a gear rod and likely catch more fish, but I enjoy swinging flies and casting a fly rod much better. I let the water dictate my techniques...... not some dude on the internet.

  4. Patrick L

    Patrick L New Member

    I just can't resist jumping in.

    First, I'm just starting to swing for steelhead, and I've never fished from a boat for steelhead. So I have a little bit different perspective. When I nymph for steelhead, I use very small weights, small enough that I'm still using the line to cast the fly. Since the weight is small, that requires a lot of mending to get a drag free drift. There are two reasons I use a fly rod for this instead of a spinning reel. First, it is way more fun to catch a steelhead using the fly rod. Just the challenge of getting a large fish on the reel without letting it race downstream is a blast, requiring the use of your hand on the line as your drag for that first explosive run. Second, I've only used gear a couple of times, but with my flyrod I feel I can cover an area faster and more thorough. If I'm working an area, I cast directly upstream (12 o'clock), then 11, 10, and 9 o'clock, using spey casting for the 9 o'clock. When the line reaches the end of the drag free drift, I let is swing, then cast it upstream. After 9 o'clock, I take 5 to 10 steps upstream (depending on how far I can cast that day with the wind) and do it again. My line is rarely out of the water, increasing my odds of catching a fish.

    Basically, it boils down to 'the reason I use a flyrod is because it's fun'.
  5. djzaro

    djzaro New Member

    I let the water dictate my techniques...... not some dude on the internet.


    I didn't think anyone was telling you how to fish, only asking the opinion of lobing a huge hunk of lead from a flyrod. I don't think it would qualify as nymphing either, probly closer to jigging. A really really heavy jigg. Who the hell knows.
  6. mike doughty

    mike doughty Honorary Member

    i admire you les, but for me, with my extremely low amount of steelhead experience, i am going to persue them how i can legally with a fly rod. maybe someday when i have the experience and have caught my share i will just be a swinger, cause i would prefer to swing.
  7. snbrundage

    snbrundage Member


    Yours is a good point. My means and methods of fishing have changed over the years, and I can see more changes on the way. The interresting thing about this thread, to me, is just how much aesthetics determines how I fish.

    My first steelhead was caught with a spinning rod. Probably on eggs I cured myself. Thirty years ago I caught a steelhead on a swung skykomish sunrise and I haven't cast a spinning rod since. A good fisherman took me out on our home river, showed me which rocks to stand on, and how to coil the line in my stripping hand, and how to build sink tips. So I learned the water, and I learned how to cast. Today I will swing a sink tip only after about a season of no fish. I prefer to fish steelhead with dry flies, dead drift, then skated. In fact, I fish chironomids unweighted on floating line.

    Couple of years ago I spent a lot of time at Golded Gardens. Made a lot of friends there, and one had a couple of beautiful nine foot bait casting rods. He would borrow my fly rod and I borrow his level wind. That level wind cast like a dream. He didn't do so well with the fly rod but he persisted. I got frankly bored with that beautiful casting rod. Often I would sit on the beach and watch him fly fish. The point being that If I couldn't fly fish I didn't want to fish at all. That choice was made for aesthetic reasons and it had little to do with catching fish, or low regard for that beautiful casting gear.

    One of my flyfishing friends showed up at Meadow Point with a new stripping basket. Everybody knew it was new. He took a little kiddiing from some of our gear friends and he was a little shy about it. The guys who kidded him were gentlemen and they knew that to let up on him would be a terrible insult. And I, not being so sensitive, strolled on down the beach. He had used the same tupper wear basket for years and it had been repaired several times. He is a member of a fraternity of fisherman that, I believe, valued the cheapest possible stripping baskets. I would say that the baskets made a much larger contribution to the fraternity, the important thing, than they did to catching fish. I have never used a stripping basket. I believe it would hinder my distance. Remember, I learned to coil the line on the river. If the coils sometimes get in the beach salad, I don't care a damn. If someone else uses a basket, or a level wind, or lead, or a spoon fly, or a flat fish on a fly rod I similarily don't care. I like to fish the way I do because I think it is pretty.

    Now I realize, after reading Zen's article about nymphing a couple of years ago, that I have caught steelhead with those techniques, though I was ostensibly swinging. So, my intention is to steelhead with my floating shooting head, a long leader, and some sort of bead head nymph. I don't want to hear any shit about mending either.

    Why do we moralise our own aesthetics? "Go your way, your faith has healed you."

  8. Big Tuna

    Big Tuna Member

    I skipped to the end of this one just to suggest using the search function. Not only does it work when looking for useful information, it can also be used to relive this tired debate and countless others.
  9. Charles Sullivan

    Charles Sullivan dreaming through the come down

    I didn't move 3000 miles to nymph.

    Go Sox,
  10. Jeremy Floyd

    Jeremy Floyd fly fishing my way through life

    Oh yeah,

    We need more threads like this to increase division among each other and give us one more petty and childish thing to keep us from joining together and making a united stand to make positive change in our state.

    I crack up at the guys who can't handle people who don't fish their way. They have the grade school mentality that makes them feel unaccepted if everyone isn't doing things their way so they hate the other guy instead of accepting him.

    (golf clap)
  11. djzaro

    djzaro New Member


    Oh yeah,

    We need more threads like this to increase division among each other and give us one more petty and childish thing to keep us from joining together and making a united stand to make positive change in our state.

    I crack up at the guys who can't handle people who don't fish their way. They have the grade school mentality that makes them feel unaccepted if everyone isn't doing things their way so they hate the other guy instead of accepting him.

    (golf clap)
    Jeremy Floyd

    Yep your right, I now will never stand side by side with another fisherman using more than am ounce of weight. Oh yea and your right about us hating anyone with a different method. OH CRAP ... I just realized that means I hate myself and all my fishing partners. Well I guess now that this thread exist we should just all give up working together... chill out.
  12. Marty

    Marty New Member

    This must be a common argument. This is a post I made on another site.

    I totally disagree with the comment “fly fishing can be what ever you want it to be” and actually feel this is where some of the disconnect comes from. Just because you are using a fly rod doesn’t mean you are “fly fishing” same for a fly. Look at the definition

    In fly fishing, fish are caught by using artificial flies that are cast with a fly rod and a fly line. It is the weight of the fly line that send the fly to the target.

    Its all about the rod, line, and lure. I have no problem with using an indicator but if the weight of the indicator is carrying the fly to the fish its not fly fishing. Same goes for lead. If you can cast the system with standard fly casting you are fly fishing, if you are slinging lead you are not. Fly fishing is fly fishing, there are some basic rules. It’s like play baseball with a soft ball, are you playing baseball, no, you are playing softball.

    “Unlike other casting methods, fly fishing can be thought of as a method of casting line rather than lure. Non-flyfishing methods rely on a lure's weight to pull line from the reel during the forward motion of a cast. By design, a fly is too light be cast, and thus simply follows the unfurling of a properly casted fly line”,

    I feel that most of the adaptations and nontraditional techniques have been developed to bypass the required learning process. Learning how to cast a fly takes some time and a commitment. I know that’s hard for this new generation of “got to have instant gratification”. Learning how to fly fish is a life long process, not something that is gained overnight.

    I also feel it is important to have some understanding of the history of fly fishing. Fly fishing is not a hobby it’s a way of life. I guess if you goal is to just catch fish, then you can say “fly fishing can be what ever you want it to be”, but if you want to understand the true essence of fly fishing you have to pay your dues.

    With that said, fly fishing is an individual sport and yes only you can determine what you want out of it. If you want to sling lead and say you are fly fishing who’s to stop you. Everyone that picks up a rod goes through a progression. Someday you will look back and say, wow I have sure learned a lot. That 5 weight stick you used to slinging lead will be retired and replaced with a small light line for fishing dries. The integrity of fly fishing is still there no matter what the individual prospective may be.

    Though this post was geared to trout fishing you can say the same when it comes to fly fishing steelhead fishing, I swing flies for steelhead, nymphing is for sissies.
  13. chadk

    chadk Be the guide...

    Marty - along those lines, someday you'll look back at this post and think "wow, I sure learned a lot".

    You are making an assumption that the guys in question slinging lead or using shot or nymphing with bead heads etc haven't been fly fishing for 40yrs and just don't have any hang-ups when it comes to technique...
  14. Be Jofus G

    Be Jofus G Banned or Parked

    :rofl: Dorks. :rofl:

    Get outside and fish now! Step away from the keyboard, yins guys sound like a knitting club. :beer2:
  15. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member


    It seems like your assumption includes being free and easy with the definition of fly fishing. The definition Marty listed has been around longer than anyone posting here. Casting the weight of the line as opposed to the weight of the bait or lure has long been the essence of fly fishing. It doesn't matter how long someone has been doing it. If they're casting the weight of the bait or lure instead of the weight of the line, they may think themselves innovative or anything they wish, but what they're doing was long known as "strip casting" well before the invention of the bait casting or spinning reel.


    Salmo g.
  16. Steve Buckner

    Steve Buckner Mother Nature's Son

    Nicely stated Salmo G/Marty!

    To take it this topic to somewhat of an extreme, up in Alaska we have these sports that show up from New York City, specifically Manhattan. They can't cast worth a shit...but they go after kings every year with fly rods and catch quite a few...but there's a little more to the story.

    For them, casting ability, patience, and skill are sooooo over rated! These three guys can't cast a 5 wt. dry line 20 feet, let alone a 200-400 grain head 80+ with a 10 weight. So instead, they backtroll k-14's on the end of their fly rods...and you can bet when they get back to their friends in Manhattan, they tell great stories about their prowess with a fly rod and how many kings they caught "fly fishing"...

    But what's the big difference between backtrolling a K-14 and a fly anyway, they're using fly rods aren't they?...:rofl:
  17. o mykiss

    o mykiss Active Member

    I don't even know why I weigh in on this topic as I'm so bone-weary tired of it, but this argument holds zero water with me. I'm virtually certain that the way you "swing" for steelhead would not have been considered flyfishing by some high falutin' jackass somewhere 75 - 100 years ago. The fact of the matter is that the definition is elastic. Do you think the fellows who stalked English chalk streams for 8" trout using greased lines and dry flies in the early 20th century could have ever imagined that people would be "fly fishing" for king salmon, taimen, tarpon, giant trevally, etc. Would they have considered the shooting head system used by steelhead anglers as long ago as 40 years (and in current use by some) flyfishing? As tackle changes, as people who use the tackle improvise, it gets used in new and different ways.

    By the way, I rarely nymph for steelhead as I personally find the technique less than satisfying. In other words, I basically have no dog in the fight to prove nymphing is fly fishing, at least when it comes to steelhead. But I don't presume that just because a technique doesn't float my boat it isn't "flyfishing".

    Now, I do nymph quite a bit for trout. And based on your definition, with an indicator and a heavily weighted nymph on the end of my line, I can be flyfishing and "not" flyfishing in the same damned drift, because sometimes I used the weight of the line to deliver the indicator and nymph and sometimes I use the weight of the nymph to deliver the line and indicator. All depends on the drift, angle, distance, etc. So I guess I can be a "good guy" and a "bad guy" from one cast to another. Imagine that!
  18. Marty

    Marty New Member

    Chadk, first, I hope to live 40 more years, second I did not come up with the definition, Fly fishing was defined long before even I was born. As stated I do not have a problem with any legal technique of fishing and as said it’s what ever floats “your” boat that matters.

    I am sure the first purist in history would have had no problem with casting a tarpon fly with precision to a chained up group of silver kings or a 70 foot cast to a tailing bone. Yes innovation has changed the tools we use but who came up with all the improvements? Fly fishers searching to improve the cast. Is not learning how to cast the first lesson in fly fishing?

    I swing flies for steelhead but at the head of the run I will start with a leader cast. With only a foot of line out the tip. It is the weight of the fly that completes the cast for the first few presentation. I guess that makes me a good guy and a bad guy all in the same run. I also use a bow and arrow cast when fishing very small streams. I only say this because there are times when you have to improvise when using a fly rod and reel. There is a difference between improvising and the so called new innovative forms of fishing with a fly rod. I just don’t see slinging a slinky, trolling T14 or using a bobber with a fly rod as being innovative.

    Now do I use split shot and an indicator when nymphing, yes I do, do I troll my bugger in my toon when changing location, yes I do. I never said nymphing was not fly fishing and I am not trying to defend an old school way of thinking. What I am saying is I don’t think any of us has the ability to change the definition of fly fishing. To swing or not to swing, who cares as long as the line carries the fly to the fish.

    To say one form of presentation is more pure than another is just an ego trip. For me swing flies for steelhead is as pure as it gets but that does not make me better in any way. My drift boat is covered in 6 feet of snow, the nymphing is for sissies comment was just an 80 foot cast on the net.
  19. alpinetrout

    alpinetrout Banned or Parked

    Hell yeah!

    It's funny how some guys will talk a lot of shit about nymphing, then brag about what they caught "on the fly" trolling out the back of a panga with a fly rod on their Mexican vacation. Guess which one the IGFA recognizes as "fly fishing"?
  20. HauntedByWaters

    HauntedByWaters Active Member


    Stop being such little weaners. Until Marty got to this thread, it wasn't even about what you should or shouldn't use.

    It wasn't until you guys showed up and started pretending that there was some condescending tone hear against nymphers that things got out of hand.

    How about you read the posts before you make assumptions that this is another beat up the nymphers thread.

    My point was that I have been fly fishing for a long time and have caught more steelhead on the swing that any other method, I have also done a fair degree of spin fishing for salmon and steelhead and have used floats fairly often. This makes me want to point out that when you are lobbing a ton of lead and an indicator, why not at least consider a spinning setup. You can fish A FREAKING REDICULOUS AMOUNT OF OF WATER BETTER.

    Anyway, this thread was not about what you should or shouldn't use, at least until the last few posts.

    I give no shits about what YOU fish with, I only want to let you know that when you are fishing a big float and a lot of lead on the end of your fly rod, you might as well grab a spinning rod and go fish a lot more effectively.

    And Chadk, nothing personal but if you think that this isn't the case than you haven't done much float fishing, and you don't know what you are talking about. Imagine a drag free drift as long as you want! And it casts easy unlike the chuck and duck I see guys using around here on fly gear.

    With a fly rod the truly drag free drift in most waters isn't much long than the length of the mend you can throw with whatever length your fly rod is which is not much compared to casting and leaving the bale open and watching your float fish perfectly as long as you want.

    Again, I am not out to get at what YOU fish with, I just want to inform some of the chuck and duck lobbers out there that you might consider giving a spinning rod a try for a day if you know you will be nymphing the entire time with lead and float.

    I use my "strike indicators" on my fly rod when I want to swing and nymph a little on the side to cover more water that looks fishy. I only use the spinning setup when the water is condusive to nymphing the whole day. I say this because I want to point out that I am not unlike you in that I will nymph with a fly rod AND catch fish, and I have no problem with it at all.

    However, I suspect I am unlike a lot of you guys because I use all methods of fishing when I feel like it. Like I say I started spinning and bait fishing so I have no issues with the gear. I think some of you guys have always been fly fishermen, at least since you got infected with the true blue fishing fever.

    Anyway, all you nymphers need to stop acting like everyone is out to get you. You guys are the ones getting all worked up around here.