Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by cj6530, Feb 19, 2008.
Now were talkin!
I could see them from the bank then I walked up about 50 yards to cross the river then came back and fished them from the gravel bar 30 feet upstream. I gave them 5 casts then let the hole rest for a couple of hours before trying different flies, including egg patterns.
I guess it's possible I'm not getting down to them but I was using the fastest sinking tip in my multitip kit.
Would it make sense to add a split shot to the leader?
Look on the bright side. If catching steelies on a fly was easy, it wouldn't be as gratifying when you finally do get a tug.
Cover as much water as you can. Once you get a particular river section dialed (high-water lies, low-water lies, guide lies [and guides always lie]..), you might spend a little more time on it, but on the low-slope beginning-side of the learning curve, it might be better to cover a lot of water, and try different approaches, and learn what works.
Well Im certainly no expert, but like has already been said, when you can see fish they can see you to. And from my experiences, especially with winter fish, when you see them in holes they are usually pretty tight mouthed. You and I and a dozen others could have probably cast every fly with every type of presentation all day long to those fish and more than likely they would not have bitten. Not saying they arent worth a few tries, hard to pass up when you KNOW there are fish there. But I think its better spending time covering more water and trying to find a biter. But that also brings up another good point as far as being stealthy. I make a point to always enter a run as sly as I can. Never walk to the top of the run close to the edge of the water, any fish laying in close will see you long before you see them and there goes what may have been the one biter you were looking for. Just take on Elmer Fudds rabbit hunting philosophy " Wees steelhead fishin' we have to be bery bery quiet/sneaky..." Kevin
Were you occasionally ticking bottom? If not, then you weren't getting down enough. I'd try weighted flies before split shot, and move that 45 degree cast a bit upstream if it's still not down.
Cover water. Fish your way down a run then move on to the next. Focus on the stuff that allows a good presentation. Not all good holding water is good fly water.
Those fish aren't players.
If they aren't in the mood, it doesn't matter what you throw at them. Kind of like being turned down by your wife despite pleading and bargaining.
Move on and find some players.
Great advice from all the above posts. Just keep on casting, and steping!!!!
Dam Pan, hope she's not reading this.
Did you try greasing up the sled dog team?
In low clear water conditions, and especially if the water is also cold (< 40*F), steelhead become dour. They do hit, but they're not as aggressive as when the water is warmer and has a tinge of color to it. Since you saw those fish, they also saw you. Add up the conditions and you have Pans description: those fish aren't players. Give 'em a few casts and move on. Look for a player.
If you meet some clueless angler who wants to cast over fish, be sure to send him to that pool. He might even hook one if he keeps at it long enough, and he'll thank you forever for sending him there. It's a win:win no matter what.
I don't know what type of technique you're using, but if you're swinging tips the number one thing that has made me more effective is concentrating on slowing my fly down. When I first started fly fishing for steelhead, I would throw on the fastest sinking tip I had, cast it nearly perpendicular to the current, throw a big mend in, and then let it sink until it came tight and started swinging.
What I didn't realize at the time is that fishing this way resulted in my fly being ripped across a good portion of the swing area (because of the belly in the line), and there was no way a steelhead was going to go after it. When I do that now, I can actually feel the "push" on my fly and adjust my swing accordingly, but when I first started I had no idea this was happening.
What I try to do now is quarter the cast downstream quite a bit more, and instead of throwing a herkamendous mend in there, I just throw a light mend in to get everything lined up, with the fly downstream of the tip, which is downstream of the belly of the line, etc. Then I just let it come tight and follow the tip of the line with my rod tip. This results in a much slower swing, even if you aren't getting quite as deep. If you want to go deeper, just throw some T-14 there and fish it the same way. If you're getting a significant belly in the line that's causing your fly to speed up, sometimes you can slow it down by leading the line with your rod tip to keep the line straight. This results in a slower swing through more of the holding water.
Another recommendation I would make is to make sure you're always holding the line with a finger or two. Having contact with the running line allows you to feel small plucks that you won't if you're just fishing off the reel. If you're swinging your fly and you feel a pluck that may or not be a rock, swing it through there again with the same cast. If you don't feel the same rock, chances are that it's a fish. At that point, I'd swing through there a couple more times, letting out a foot or so each time, and if you don't get the fish, shorten up 10-15 feet, change your fly, and run through there again.
Lastly, don't get discouraged. I know there's a lot of skilled anglers on this board that have been humbled by steelhead, particularly in the winter. If they were easy to catch, it wouldn't be any fun!
Dave, tomorrow is my B-Day
I know the feeling of being humbled by steelhead. I fished with a buddy last weekend who has caught some steelhead but not a ton. He out fished me and a couple of guide friends. We can't figure out what happened. He must be getting better is all we can figure. He listened and learned, and he learned well.I think it's about time to quit telling him so much. It was cool to see him get some fish.
That's why I love this sport. One day you are a hero, and the next day a zero. Keeps me coming back though.
Oh, and Brett, don't PMEO
Great advice everyone. Thanks a lot!
-treat steelhead like you would treat any rainbow trout
Clarify please. Perhaps in Alaska, but I don't think this is accurate advice for lower 48 steelhead, especially brats.
Not even close. That's why we call it steelheading instead of rainbow trout fishing. Same species, but they don't respond the same way.
tight lipped steelhead will often hit a size 16 copper john... Steelhead are nothing but big rainbows, while they hit gaudier stuff, trout flies like prince nymphs, wooly buggers, glo bugs, copper johns, and wooly worms often produce fish when "normal steelhead flies" will not. Basically if steelhead aren't responding to traditional methods try something else... Take what I say with a grain of salt because I've only caught about 20 steelhead in my life, having fished for them ~20 hours.
Often also the reverse is true big rainbows happen to like steelhead flies. One time I was guiding this guy in the skwetna drainage and I was trying to get him the grand slam for that time of year, he already got the dolly, and the king so we go to this spot I know there are a few bows and try every trout fly he has and every trout fly I have including streamers mice, nymphs, scupins. Then I see a low water green butt skunk in his box 4 casts result in four fish. Then he got a grayling 5 minutes before the float plane left.
It's true that steelhead are big rainbows. And some times they act just like rainbow trout. And all the rest of the time they don't. It's the trying to hook them all that other time that can be a bit frustrating.
Steelhead aren't that hard to catch under water conditions that are neither high nor low, too warm or too cold, or too clear or too murky. Under conditions other than those just excluded, an undisturbed steelhead will almost always hit the first properly presented bait or lure or fly it sees. That can be a distinct advantage over fishing for feeding rainbow trout. The problem is that in most parts of the steelhead range, over 99% of the potential steelhead holding water is empty of steelhead. So in order to catch one, first it's necessary to find one. Then if any of the excepted conditions in the first sentence of this paragraph apply, the steelhead may be dour and more difficult to make strike, or they may never see your offering due to turbidity, etc.
When you get 200 days in steelheading in places other than AK, I'd like to see if you still think they're like fishing for big rainbow trout.