Type of flies for steelhead in September?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by bwtucker83, Sep 10, 2005.

  1. What type of flies would you use for steelhead in the month of september on the eastside? Weighted, small or big, bright or dull?

    Went out today to fish the clearwater, a man fly fishing waded acrooss the river to the island across from me. As he was letting out his line he hooked a fish. He hadn't even casted yet! Sometimes steelhead fishing can be so unfair. But I cheered for him and he showed the beautiful fish in return.
  2. For the most part low profile taditionals work best- skunks, general practitionors, puple perils. string leaches as well-sizes 2-6. I'm a big fan of orange and red in the fall, but black and purple do the trick. You can be very productive on skaters as well in the right water. Remember, it's all about presentation and knowing where fish hold and move. I believe the fly has very little to do with it besides the confidence earned from hooking fish. Was that fish the guy caught an A or B-run?, how low on the river were you? you can PM if you wish.
  3. I'm a pretty unsuccessful steelhead fly fisherman, but in keeping with the purple theme, a friend of mine, who is a great steelheader, has always had his best luck with a purple egg-sucking leech pattern.
  4. I'd use mostly small and dark or silver bodied featherwing or spider type wets in sizes #6-#10 on a floating line with a long leader (12' or longer) that has an 8# tippet, or dries designed to skate in #6-#10.

    My favorites are: Bob Arnold's SPADE with either black or peacock herl body; a simple wingless black spider that has a short fl. green braided mylar tag; LADY CAROLINE tied low-water; PURPLE PERIL; SILVER BLUE tied low-water; Frank Amato's NIGHT DANCER (especially if tied in Irish Shrimp Style); MARCH BROWN atlantic salmon fly tied low-water; NIGHT HAWK tied low-water; BLACK BEAR (without and butt and with green, red, blue butts); MCLEOD'S UGLY. The dries I use are WALLER WAKER; BOMBER; Harry Lemire's GREASE LINER; WAG'S WAKER.
  5. Add to the above the Muddler Minnow, and especially in low water, the rolled muddler.
  6. Thanks for the replys! I know that fishing with the floating line is a traditional way to catch the steelhead early in the season but I cna't seem to help the idea that heavy sink tip, on the bottom, heavy flies will catch more fish. Is this idea wrong? Do you think floating lines and long leaders are more succesful?
  7. BW,

    You don't need sink tips 'early in the season' if you are fishing the Columbia Basin tribs east of Bonneville during the fall migration. Period. These fish are are 'programmed' to rise. There are guys that just don't have the confidence to rid themselves of sunk line presentations. They certainly catch fish. Under MOST circumstances you aren't hurting yourself by fishing deeper. But reality is these fish will continue on up in the water column and take your fly from the surface nearly as often as they would the sunken one. We are talking about tens of thousands of steelhead that return to these rivers. There seems to be a 'switch off' when the water cools. But even then you can usually entice 'em to come up.

    Anything works in the fly department. I prefer smaller and sparser stuff. Don't really care what the water temps are. Even when it gets real cold.

  8. If you really want to up your sucess rate, switch over to nymphs, I have done really well dead drifiting big copper johns and also string leaches. Dead drift is the key, like you would for trout, even with the leaches. Low water is a great time to nymph. Some people say its breaking tradition and they dont like to do it, but it a more active way of fishing than swinging and it is also more productive, if you can find fish.

  9. Andy,

    A couple of questions about your post...I'm just trying to guage your experience level in both methods. You made some pretty strong comments.

    "I have done really well dead drifiting big copper johns and also string leaches"

    What is 'really well'? 20 fish? 10 fish? 50 fish? OUTSIDE of the little pisstrickle creeks. Real rivers that receive a good portion of their summer steelhead between mid August and mid November.

    How many steelhead have you caught on the swing? Any at all? In real rivers, again, not the little creeks. In the fall. Of those steelhead caught on the swing, how many were taken right near/in/on the surface?

    In relation to the two methods, best guess % wise, how much time have you spent nymphing compared to swinging. In real rivers during the fall migration period.

    I have learned at times nymphing certainly is a highly effective method. I have also learned at times 'traditional' swinging is a highly effective method. Effective enough that I personally have no need to nymph. If I want to 'up my success rate' I had better put in the time to: Better read the water and figure out what time of day/water level/and fly speed the fish want my swung offering. If you think swinging is just 'chuck and chance' then I understand why you haven't found much success with the method.

  10. I like to second the notion that swinging is- cast, step, cast. To do it well and effectively you must learn how control (stay in touch) with your fly through the swing. This means more complicated mending and exacting line control which demands a better understanding of what your fly is doing below the surface, not just simply watching a dead drifting indicator. This has taken me years to prefect and I'm costantly learning how to increase my "touch".This is not an attack on you Zen, just a myth I would like to dispell. I will not argue that nymping is more productive over all, but for the most part, aside from pocket water, you're targeting a holding fish and the take is alot less dramatic- I swing for the take and the technique, which is much more challenging for me than any other. MY 2cents
  11. Like William, I never use a dead-drifted nymph for steelhead. I use a swung wet or skated dry. And like William, I have hardly ever fished for anything but steelhead the last 14 years.
  12. FT, whats your point?
  13. I have picked up maybe 15 steelies throughout my years on the swing, maybe three times that amount nymphing. Swinging is a good method to search for fish, but if you can find steelhead holding in a close area, I think dead drifting nymphs has a much better sucess rate. Im not hear to argue or defend myself, just an opinion that has worked really well for me.


  14. I think steelheading in little creeks is tougher than fishing in "real rivers." Steelhead tend to be spooky in skinny water. (By the way what does "real rivers" mean. Are there fake rivers out there, like mirages?)

    Second, I indicator fish mostly because I have more fun doing it than swinging a fly. To me swinging can sometimes be boring. At the same time I have to cover water more thouroghly and with more thought that just swinging a fly through in a nice smooth arc that does cover water well.

    With the nature of dead drifting I can't cover in a nice wide arc but have to work and cast more to cover all the areas I want to cover. But to me its more fun.
  15. Inland,
    I think fishing small waters can be easy as well as hard. Once you learn the importance of stealth and put the idea into pratice, you results take a huge jump. Also, fishing downstream in a small river isn't pratical, the fish are faces upstream, and if they can see someone coming from upstream, they tend to move into spots that have alot of cover and turn off the "bite" or whatever you call it when steelhead eat a fly eventhough they are not eating. I should say they become less agressive and more careful. If you fish upstream while approaching steelhead in small water, you have a much lesser chance of spooking them, plus you are already set up for the most effecent hookset and fighting position, downstream of the fish. On big rivers, I have had sucess nymphing both down and upstream, and swinging downstream. I don't swing flies too often when I'm working upstream because the whole covering new water with each swing doesn't work as well as it does while fishing downstream. The nice thing about small water is that you often fish over most of the fish in the river, giving you a nice chance of a hookup if you have been mindful of stealth and know how to keep good line control. Also, fighting a huge fish in small water is a big rush for me. I landed about 2/3rds of the steelies I hooked in small water last year. Often they would leave the small pool, turn a corner upstream or downstream, and break me off or simply come off. Its hard to keep tight on a fish when you can't see where it is because there is a 45 degree turn in the river that the fish has gone past. It was serious fun trying to run down these fish and control them as they ran hellbent for any sort of cover. Another thing I like to do is try to stay away for the crowds as much as possible. This is not easy with steelheading, but it can be done. If I can stay away from waters like the Snake, Grande Rhonde, Deschutes, John Day, Drano Lake, Clearwater, Klickitat, Imnaha, and Methow, I can find some relative solitude. One particular spot, i spend a long while trying to find, and have shared it with no one (sorry charlie, this year i will show ya). I have never seen anyone else fishing there, which is rare im my book as far as steelheading in the lower 48 goes. If crowds, tradition, swung flies, and beautiful big steelhead were my game, I would be with you fishing all the big named rivers. I would rather settle for slightly smaller fish, much smaller water, and some solitude. The cows make for nice fishin' buddies.

  16. :beer1:
    I'll throw my 2 cents in for BW since he started this thread. Over the last three or so years, I have fished a "REAL" big river on the East side for steelhead on the fly. I have landed steelies every year, and the last two years I have come up empty on only two out of more than 20 trips. Sometimes it is only one, others are two and three fish days. The point is, presentation and location are much more important than the fly itself.

    With the warmer water, I prefer to use a sparse fly on a floating line. Golden spey is a good choice for September. As the water cools down, I switch to a sink tip and a weighted fly such as an Egg Sucking or Bunny Leech. Generally, dark days benefit by dark flies, but don't hesitate to switch if you are getting nowhere in ideal water. Remember that steelies will be searching for food, so try to mimic the current food source. As fall settles in, the bugs go on one last parade before winter so you should see fish rising to them. After the bugs thin out, and salmon eggs are in the water, egg and leech patterns are a good bet.

  17. Trout,

    'Fake' Rivers. Ha ha. Spate creeks aren't really the same thing as say the Snake or Deschutes...now are they?

    "I think steelheading in little creeks is tougher than fishing in "real rivers.""

    Hence why nymphing is exponentially more productive on these smaller creeks.

    "At the same time I have to cover water more thouroghly and with more thought that just swinging a fly through in a nice smooth arc that does cover water well."

    With that statement it's no wonder why you find swinging flies boring. You believe the presentation to be chuck and chance. No thought required. No skill required. No worries. Now why is it there are certain anglers out there that seem to catch way more fish than most? (swinging) Fishing the EXACT same runs as everybody else? Any ideas why they are more effective? Or is it just dumb luck?

  18. I don't know. If its water and there is fish in it I think its still fishing.

    And big rivers too. A fair amount of fly swingers will admit that nymphing can be just as effective if not more that traditional presentations. I just like to catch fish. Now I have only been targeting steelhead for a total of twenty five or so days or so but I have had three hookups (none landed), two dead drifting, one actively stripping a streamer (summer run), all in large rivers (witnessed by others).

    Actually dead drifting in my opinion takes just as much thinking and foresight as swinging. I have to think about eddies, swirls, faster and slower currents between me and the indicator and an assortment of other drift factors. Something that armed with a 300 grain sink tip will not be effected nearly as much. I do agree that some people can keep in better touch with their flies in a swing then others. But saying that it takes no thought is probably what prevents those fishing indicator style from be successful.

    To me that is what it makes it fun. If I don't get a hookup I still have fun getting a nice long thirty to fourty foot drift. Lots of fun. After all dead drifting an indicator is an extension of dry fly fishing in method.

    Second, part of fishing is luck. No one knows where all the fish are all the time. As to your question about swinging being more effective, that is subjective but I do think nymphing can be deadly as it preys on the fishes instinct of an easy tantalizing meal such as an egg.

    Maybe one day I will want to swing and get a two handed rod, but for now I am just having fun with an indicator. Afterall, fishing is supposed to be fun. :)
  19. Andy,

    Glad you responded more thoroughly.

    'If crowds, tradition, swung flies, and beautiful big steelhead were my game, I would be with you fishing all the big named rivers.'

    Crowds? I agree crowds can be pretty thick at times on several of the rivers you listed. Not all the time however. But I do wonder if you have even fished these rivers to know how crowded they really are? Or which ones are REALLY crowded, where they are crowded, and usually when they are crowded. If it's not your game, no problem. There is nothing forcing you to go and fish the 'famous' rivers. It's up to you to decide what is your game.


    Don't you think you might want a bit more boot leather laid down before giving the advice you did? I'm not giving you a hard time over the angling skills you do have. Maybe over the ones that you 'might not' have spent enough time with...

    Tight lines,

  20. Trout,

    If you are having fun fishing then that is TRULY all that matters.


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