steelhead on drys

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Ky the fly guy, Jan 14, 2004.

  1. I have never fished for steelhead on drys so I need some help. Im not all that sure how to present the fly to the steelhead is it just like fishing for trout, but my guess is that its not. Also is there a stand out pattern to use? Thanks in advance.
  2. When I fish dry flies for trout which I prefer more than any other method, I usually strive for a drag free drift so that the trout is unable to distinguish my phony from the real thing. Generally but not always, I fish my dries upstream.

    I don't fish my dries for steelhead in this manner, although I am sure it has been done. I prefer to fish the dry across and then down or down and across and then down. When I say down, it is here that I want to follow the seam of the river, where the quick is passing the slow.
    I want to stay in the seam as long as I can to allow the fish a chance at my fly. Now I don't use a drag free drift for steellhead. I tie in a riffling hitch and force the fly to make a big wake as it travels; thus, the flies used are often referred to as "waking flies."
    In my view, there is nothing more fun in the angling world than seeing a big bruiser come up in back of the fly and nail it with authority.
    "HOLY SHUCKS!," I always shout (here is a good example of where the King's English is just not up to the occasion and I might have to use a dirty word or two).
    As for flies, it is very hard to beat a muddler minnow and most of my fish are taken on them. Of course, a simple explanation for that fact is that the muddler is about all I use although I carry a full box of nothing but dry flies for steelhead. Wally Walkers, Bombers, Steelhead Bees, and others are all good. But my go to is the M. Minnow.
    I hope this helps you. You should also know that it is tough to move winter fish up to the top and so I would save the dries until the summer runs are here.
    Bob, the Dry Fly Snob.x(
  3. A steelhead on a dry is my big goal for 2004.
    Bob makes a good point....winter run fish on a dry....could be done, but good luck. Wait til the summer run fish are around. Water temps really dictate weather this is feasible or not. To cold and the fish are lethargic and won't chase anything......generally I've heard anything under 40 is too cold. Also, too warm and the summer runs will anchor to the bottom of deep pools with cooler water. When conditions are right, I will only fish dries this fall. Most steelhead taken on dries are attracted to the surface with skated dries such as muddlers or bombers as Bob described with a down and across aproach. However, last fall, Worldanglr and I witnessed several summers rising to large this situation a drag free match the hatch presentation would probably be the best presentation. These fish were rising very sporadically and we couldnt get the timing right.I had one boil last fall, which made my heart stop, and thus obligated me to make a steelhead on a dry my goal for 04.
    I'd love to hear some advice from those that have taken multiple steelhead on dries............


    PS....I hear the Grande Ronde is the place to do it.
  4. Bob and I fish for steelhead the same way using dry flies. I just have better luck with black or purple seal skaters.
  5. My limited success says thus: Wake your fly with some disturbance on a semi-tight line. Early morn or late evening (but not always- if you have fresh water). Tailouts with rocks, below deeper pools, seem like good water to try. Bombers are a great, high floating fly for this. I like orange or natural, but I'm convinced it is the surface wake that is the key. Let the fish take the fly- don't set until he pulls. The real science happens when they chase and miss (often). I like to rest the fish 10 mins and try the same drift, starting 20' above and step/swing down to the take area. Some like to switch fly to wet or other. I figure he liked it the first time, 10 minutes later he will like it again. The only magic is fishing the dry a lot, in the right conditions, just like any steelheading. Find fish in the right conditions, they will take eagerly. I always believed dry fly steelhead to be almost unobtainable, until I was just practicing and hooked/landed my first, and rose several others, in the same water I had just hammered with a sink tip. When they are on the waking dry, it's the easiest steelheading you will ever find. And damn if it isn't about the most exciting fishing, too! Once you get one, forever you'll watch that dry with zen focus. The first time I rose one, I couldn't dang believe it. I walked upriver, told my buddy to come down and watch me hook this fish. He of course declined. I walked back, same fly, same drift, and got him.

    I have a hunch, if you find undisturbed fish, you'll have a chance on the dry winter or summer, just maybe. Right water, good temps, etc.
  6. the ronde is very good with skaters and dries but the window is but 7 days. i have fished there the last 4 years but did not hit the dry time as deer season and other stuff got in the way{honey do's}. this year was much less than previous years in terms of the dry time.
  7. Contact Jack Cook at River Run Anglers. He's taken steelheads on dry flies 8 months out of the year, and he's aiming for 12. If anybody can help, he can.
  8. Curious who told you there was a 7 day window? In my experience fishing the Snake and Rhonde since the early 80's (admittedly more the former than the latter), the window is closer to 3 to 3.5 months. This might be a bit shorter on the GR as it runs cooler than the Snake but you still have Sept and October in a normal year.
  9. During an Avid Angler spey class on the Sky about 3 weeks ago, I know a guy who rose a fish to a piece of red wool tied to his leader. And that was in December!!!

    I also have a buddy that when he was a Westside steelhead neophyte from Idaho, went to the NF Stilly with his wife and while fishing October caddis patterns for trout, she hooked an landed a 8 pound steelie on a dead drifted fly!

    I too would love to hook a steelie on the dry. I hear that any time the water is 45F or over, is a good time to skate a fly.

  10. Not like fishing for trout. In fact, I would say more the opposite. Drag is your friend for steelhead. They seem to prefer a fly that is moving slower than the current although there are times they are the opposite.

    By dry I am assuming you mean on the very top as opposed to simply fishing with a floating or dry line. Fly selection is determined then by what will stay on top and create a disturbance. Wakers and skaters work although not my favorite. If I do fish them I prefer Tyler Kushnir's Boob Tube(fly) as it is unsinkable and very visable.

    I prefer to fish in the film with a sparse spey in purple, black or burnt orange or to fish a steelhead muddler often with a riffle hitch.
  11. On the west side rivers I would say 52-55 degrees is the cut-off. On the east side, down to 45 will still produce rises. Also, I have never been lucky enough to get them to take at cold temps. but Skeena fish reportedly will rise when water temps are in the 30s.
  12. well i was dry fly fishing for trout in the summer in the green river gorge using my 5 weight rod with light tippet on there...planning to catch a 10-12 inch whopper...when i hooked a 18 lb steelhead which i fought for close to an hour...and i swam down river after it (luckily i was wearing shorts)..anyways..when it was all done..i landed it and it was a beautiful fish....anyways yeah in the summer i dont think you need to present it any differently...ive seen them taking flies off the surface in many deep holes through out that river..ive notices that they are usually close to the edge of fast moving water though.....i dont have a clue about the winter..or other rivers...???
  13. Once you get them on dries you won't want to catch them any other way. I'm not the worlds greatest dry fly fisher but I've got a few with dries. I like small dries like Black humpies,Stimulators,Red ants,Caddis.

  14. It is all matter of personal choice. Waking flies are nice and all and I have caught my share on waking pattern that have been invented by Washington's best FFers. But I choose to use a spinner pattern I developed for CTtrout, just tied a little bigger. I use a completely presentation with them. I actually cast up stream while I am behind my target and let it float about four feet from them and give it a little shake and the fly slips just into the surface and WHAM!!!!!! I love it and I have never seen any one else fish like this for steelhead, only trout. you would have to see it. . . . I am going to be posting that pattern soon on my homepage, I am just waiting on my new camera. <>

    here is the pattern w/o a pic

    hook: whatever dry 6-10
    thread: whatever
    body: pheasant center tail fibers wrapped 2/3rd up the shank

    thorax: black foam (sanded w/ 80grit)
    hackle: Furnace

    Tie the body then tie one end of the strip of foam in then hackle. wrap the hackle couple time behind the foam and then back up to the head. pull the foam over the hackle to the head and tie off. easy I am sure you all see it in you crafty little heads. . . . I use this fly for everything. The body and thorax and head always stay the same just add different variation to makes it great. like this <>
    and this
    <> are variation of the above dry just tie as nymphs, with same body. . . sorry I rambling
  15. Can you fish a muddler or deer hair fly with a riffle hitch? To me it seems like the knot would destroy the head.
  16. double your half-hitch behind the head and you will be good to go

  17. Hey, does it count if you get your fly-line stuck
    on a boulder and the fly drags on the surface behind
    it, and a fish clobbers it? The largest Steelie I
    have caught to date smacked the fly on top - end of a swing and the fly was now bouncing on top of the water -
    what a thrill. (the little pink fly) I'm going to have
    to give some muddlers a try next spring/summer - a lot
    of great info above.
  18. As you may gather from the responses generated, steelhead will take dries either dead drifted or with drag, and I have had them rise to the dead drift, drop back and smack it when it begins to drag. I have also had them miss a waking fly to take it the very next cast before it began to create a wake. So be prepared to use both techniques.

    The biggest difference between dry fly fishing for large trout and steelhead is that most large trout are occupying feeding lies. Steelhead are often found in holding lies that are not necessarily optimum trout feeding lies. So being able to read the water is critical. Often the water that you find the steelhead in will dictate whether or not a dead drift or waking fly approach is most appropriate. The advantage with steelhead is that they are rarely as picky about the behavior of the fly as most large trout are.

    As to patterns, there have been some excellent suggestions. In my experience generally larger (#4-#8) and darker work most consistently. The real issue is flotation. The deer hair patterns such as the bomber were initially tied oversized for flotation and angler visibility. With the advent of foam, smaller, long-floating dry flies are readily tied. And as the fly gets smaller visibility to the angler now becomes more important--hence the divided wings of white, orange, yellow, pink or whatever your favorite highly visible color is. Yeah, a black irresistible works well, but I've like to be able to see it, too.
  19. One last thought that no one else has mentioned, dead drifted or waked, do not strike a steelhead like you would a trout. You may not be able to restrain yourself the first time or two that a steelhead rises to your offering but try to remember to drop your rod tip down and shoreward as the fish takes the fly, letting the fish hook itself as it were. Striking usually results in one of two things, either you pull the fly out of the fish's mouth or you end up applying maximum tension (suddenly) to your leader at about the same time that the fish is making a very spur of the moment decison to return to the ocean post haste, and he (or she) can accelerate away with your fly a lot faster that you can throw slack. Four to eight pound (or even heavier) tippet has been known to part under such circumstances, leaving the angler and the fish both out of sorts albeit for different reasons!


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