Winter Steelhead Behavior

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Joe Smolt, Dec 6, 2010.

  1. Joe Smolt

    Joe Smolt Member

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    My fishing buddy had the mojo going this weekend with multiple steelhead grabs and hookups. Many were at the end of the swing close to shore and less than two feet of water. I know knowledgeable steelheaders like to comment many fly fishermen wade beyond where the fish are, but we are talking pretty shallow water close to shore. The question is whether the steelhead were truly lying there or were they moving to the fly and hitting at the end of the swing. Generally, the argument goes that a winter fish tend not to move to the fly, but geeze :beathead: What are folks thoughts?

    Joe
     
  2. Evan Burck

    Evan Burck Fudge Dragon

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    If you were fishing where I'm guessing you were fishing, that's typical behaviour for out there. Every single fish I've swung up on that river was on the hang down (again, making an assumption on the location). I'm thinking they're actually holding further out, but are following the fly up, and taking it when it stops.
     
  3. Matthew Gulbranson

    Matthew Gulbranson Resident Swinger

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    I had the same thing happen to me yesterday. My only grab was on the dangle and after a strip in about 2-3 ft of water. My thought at the time was that it followed the fly in. I know that is against 'popular' belief, but like you said, it was some shallow ass water!

    Any other thoughts?
     
  4. Chris Bellows

    Chris Bellows Your Preferred WFF Poster

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    i think it's pretty difficult to make any specific generalizations about steelhead. if you think you have it figured out, they'll show you how wrong you are. you also have to take into account water clarity and flow level when thinking about how shallow they'll be holding.

    last weekend i was out fishing and hooked one on the hang down and another with the swing just starting where the fish certainly had to move to the fly.

    as to fish holding in shallow water, i saw a guy fishing gear hook a fish out of water i never would have thought to fish. super shallow and fast but he landed a nice fish out of. i don't think i could have even swung through it. that fish certainly didn't follow his drift gear into that piece of water.

    to me, the wading game always feels like a bit of a compromise. wade to deep and you might pass up some shallow resting fish. wade real shallow and it's hard to fish the deeper spots without consistently hanging up as the fly moves into the shallow water you're wading.
     
  5. Joe Smolt

    Joe Smolt Member

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    Exactly my problem. Fish deep in the sweetspot, you're going to hang up close in.

    Joe
     
  6. Tracy Lauricella

    Tracy Lauricella Active Member

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    And it seems that sometimes just the slower water is enough to stop your swing if you're using a sink tip. I run into that a lot- I'll cast into the fast stuff to hopefully get the angle just right to have a nice slow swing through the depths and where the fast & slow water meet, but then just after crossing into the slower water closer to me, the swing ends and the line slowly sinks to a stop, with no easy way to continue the swing. I'll occasionally treat the retrieve like lake fishing streamers at that point- strip, strip, pause... strip, strip, pause. Haven't caught any steelhead that way yet, but did pick up a cutthroat once.
     
  7. powderglut

    powderglut My Kind Of Wave

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    Don't ever give up at the end of the swing! seen too many takes and bumps at the bottom and the strip.
    I'm guessing the fish followed it in. But finding them close in at first light doesn't surprise me
     
  8. TD

    TD Active Member

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    I try to wade out to where I feel the fish will follow the fly to below me or to the closest in possible lie. That way the fly hangs below me in water that I feel a fish will follow the fly to or may be already holding in. I start fishing the water right in front of me with small roll casts and work out more and more line until I reach a casting length that I can handle and still control the speed and depth of the fly. I've had fish take anywhere from as soon as the fly hits the water to after the fly has hung below me for close to a minute while I sway the rod tip back and forth and pull in some line and let it back out again. It seems I get the most strikes in the bucket of the run where I really expect a fish to lie and during the hang time. Other takes are much fewer.
     
  9. Steelie Mike

    Steelie Mike Active Member

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    There is a lot of variable involved in this and every once in a while you just plain hit it right. Water temp, fresh fish, pressure, holding areas, water clarity and depth and lighting to name a few. Fish in the winter do indeed move to a swung fly. How much and how aggressive who really knows, but it does happen and that is why you are out there. At the same time being able to read water, especially reading pockets in big water pays off, including the water right next to shore.
     
  10. Jergens

    Jergens AKA Joe Willauer

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    iagree with Mike. I've had several times that steelhead ate in water I never would have expected, <12" deep. So much of it has to do with water conditions though.
     
  11. Evan Burck

    Evan Burck Fudge Dragon

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    I picked up a hatchery fish in 12" of water on a 20 degree day on an S river last year. Blew my mind.
     
  12. stewart dee

    stewart dee Guest

    Makes me think these fish are close in looking for warm water, UV rays and the occasional sculpin. I hooked up on the dangle in less than a foot of water and seen the water boil. I think these fish are holding there and not so much following in from deep water? Its so hard to tell whats happening? Who really knows? It could be easy for them to smell natal water in less turbulent flows? Maybe it feels safe to hold in close with a deep water outlet, fish don't know there isn't seals, sharks and whales in the river. My Dad would tell me as a young kid "they are where they are".