Stillwater Steelhead, can indicator fishing actually work

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Drifter, Aug 30, 2013.

  1. SilverFly Ancient Steelhead Sensei

    Posts: 372
    Camas, WA
    Ratings: +49 / 0
    Looks like you have it dialed Mark. I'm not surprised though. I remember you doing extremely well at Herman creek many years ago. Great job putting the indicator puzzle pieces together. Now I need to figure out the indi thing myself.

    I was up there one afternoon this weekend fishing a different area, and only caught one native. It was a worthwhile trip though because I got a rare opportunity to see what is actually going on below the surface - and why the indicator approach makes sense. That afternoon it was dead calm - something which the Columbia Gorge is not exactly known for. At one point I was casting to fish completely off anchor and not having to re-position between casts! The water level was also up about 2 feet and, for some reason, the relatively murky surface layer of Columbia river water was only a foot or two deep. The cold (about 55 degree) tributary water below is crystal clear.

    This unusual combination made it possible to not only see the schools, but individual fish in depths ranging from 8 - 20'. The downside was that it made for very tough fishing because the fish were very skittish. I knew that even the clear intermediate lines can spook fish, but the water was so clear that afternoon I could see most of the line as it sank and if it went too deep, it would scatter fish, or "slice" a school into halves. Also got to clearly see how the subsurface tributary current effects an intermediate line as it sinks. I could lay out a cast, watch the line sink straight down for about 1-2 feet, then suddenly start moving sideways at roughly the same speed it was sinking at. Even got to see the one grab I got as I started to retrieve and the fly line began to "swing" in the current. Watched the fish rise out of the school about 3 feet, turn, and grab the fly in full view. But that was it for the day in spite of seeing hundreds of fish within casting range. I will be fishing shallower, and with longer, lighter leaders after seeing this.

    Not trying to hijack Mark's thread, just supporting the reasoning for his technique. The intermediate lines work, but have some serious limitations which I didn't fully understand before this weekend. By suspending the fly under an indicator it should be (and obviously is) a much stealthier means of presentation.

    Wish I could have gotten some better pics of the "aquarium" I was fishing in, but these will have to do. In the last pic, you can see the fly line actually arcing as it swings in the subsurface outflow (moving right to left).

    Again, these were VERY unusual conditions which I don't anticipate seeing anytime soon or possibly ever. Usually you can't keep your hat on in the wind, or see much more than dark patches in the water and you're fortunate if you can see that. Even then it's hard to be sure what is a weed bed and what is a school of fish.

    Small school (about 15-20 steelhead) holding in 8 feet of water
    [IMG]

    The dark green stripe is about 30-40 steelhead holding in the subsurface tributary outflow in about ten feet of water. Got my only grab of the day here - in plain view.
    [IMG]

    Larger school holding in 12' of water. Fly line can be seen "swinging" in subsurface trib outflow. I should have been positioned further upstream to present the fly better, but this is "stillwater" fishing... right?
    [IMG]
    Richard Torres likes this.
  2. Drifter Active Member

    Posts: 1,616
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  3. Drifter Active Member

    Posts: 1,616
    Ratings: +631 / 2
  4. Evan Virnoche Guest

    Posts: 0
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    At least there was no chironomids used.
  5. Irafly Active Member

    Posts: 3,570
    Everett, Washington, USA.
    Ratings: +1,018 / 1
    How the heck do you know that? Next time out, I think I might just try some mids for stillwater steel.
  6. zen leecher aka bill w born to work, forced to fish

    Posts: 3,126
    Moses Lake, WA
    Ratings: +957 / 1
    Ira likes large indicators.... is there a correlation here?
  7. Drifter Active Member

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  8. itsbenlong Member

    Posts: 38
    West Sacramento, CA
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    That guy in the other boat looks frustrated and wondering what the hell you guys are using to catch all those fish! :mad:
    Mark Kraniger likes this.
  9. Richard Torres Active Member

    Posts: 1,350
    Mill Creek
    Ratings: +76 / 0
    Excellent description with the "intermediate line" dilemma (i'm sure Mark doesn't mind too much) and how you worked around it to success SilverFly.
  10. Steelie Mike Active Member

    Posts: 1,600
    Camas, WA
    Ratings: +24 / 0
    I almost hate to say this, but try a Hex nymph during the summer. It has been years since I have fished any of those locations, but if you fish late in the evening during the summer, you will know why.
  11. SilverFly Ancient Steelhead Sensei

    Posts: 372
    Camas, WA
    Ratings: +49 / 0
    Thanks Richard. Until yesterday, the last few trips were very frustrating and reminiscent of days past when I couldn't seem to get dialed when others were hooking up (especially Mark) and I know I was using a pattern that works. I was doing a number of things wrong (generally fishing too deep) and didn't fully understand what was happening with the line, leader and fly in relation to the fish.

    I've made some line/leader changes based on input from an offline discussion with Mark. Some of that is on the DL but his description of the line issue gave me the idea of cutting back some of the front taper on my intermediate lines. Also went with a longer leaders with a much lighter tippet.

    The changes seemed to work. Maybe too well because my son and I broke off at least 4 fish yesterday using the lighter leader. Although I blame one on a bad uni-knot I tied with the Rio 8.5lb fluoro tippet. Think that stuff is a bit too light for these fish. Managed to get 3 to the net in spite of the clown show we put on trying to anchor and lash our pontoons together in very gusty conditions. Also just had a few come off using barbless hooks, or the gap getting opened up from hanging up on sticks/weeds. Not easy conditions to check your fly in that wind. Need to get some 3x strong nymph hooks and a slightly stronger tippet material. All-in-all we hooked around 12 fish but that's counting the "head-shake-and-off" takes.

    Mark is right about "movement" being key with fly patterns for these fisheries. All our takes came on a new pattern I tried out. Well maybe not "new," but a variant of a fly I like in a style more commonly used for tidewater cutthroat.

    Mike, Yes I do remember seeing some damn big mayflies in evenings past. Hmm...

    My son did manage to get a decent tail shot of the one brat we landed.

    [IMG]
  12. Drifter Active Member

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  13. Irafly Active Member

    Posts: 3,570
    Everett, Washington, USA.
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    Mark, those will play well for trout in Stillwater, and steel in moving water.
  14. PT Physhicist

    Posts: 3,531
    Edmonds, WA
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