I love the Skagit and I love steelhead but putting them together in the same sentence is just about an oxymoron anymore.
For the most part any fly that would work on steelhead anywhere would likely work on steelhead in the Skagit. The much harder part would be to find a steelhead in the Skagit and put a fly in front of it. The pattern would be the least of your concern.
BDD - There are times when I use a certian color, profile and the fly I think will work in that situation. As we all know there are many factors that come into Steelheading and the fly is an important one - I think that with the amount of winter fish we have and the chance to fish over in a Season - an angler should be very aware of what profile, color, how much flash and size of bug you are fishing - time is too short and fish are far and few between - an angler that is not thinking and just tossing any bug that will work anywhere may be missing a fish or two. That's just my 2-cents
And too your point in 2009 the Mighty Skagit saw just over 2000 fish come back to the system - since that time we have seen positive numbers of returing fish and my hope is this year will top 6000 - if next year is over 6500 we can make a good case that CnR is not hurting return numbers - as you know a high percentage of the fish returning this season came from the run of 2009.
Chris while I don't disagree with you, I'd rather use the correct fly line in the right water at the right time and blindly chose any one of the flies in your picture (all very nice by the way) than have the "right" fly if any one of the other parameters are not in sync.
The fact that the only fishery the Skagit currently has is the hatchery winter fish and maybe a few summer fish in some of the tributaries. Wild fish are off-limits until long-term recovery is established. And while I won't hold my breath, there are very few folks who would like to see that as much as I would.
If you can present a fly to a hatchery winter fish, I'd categorize timing, location, water conditions, and fly line as more important than the style and color of the fly.
But then, the original question was related to fly pattern, not everything else.
I would say it was blind ass luck and had little do with what fly or line you had on. Timing, sure you aren't getting one in July. Location little, unless you out front of the hatchery itself. Water conditions, well you aren't going to get one in a flood. Looking at the river from a traditional steelhead swing water point of view there are likely less brats than wild steelhead to catch. WDFW's steelhead hatchery on the Skagit is pathetic at best.
Again Kerry I agree on that - in "winter" there are many more wild fish in the river than hatchery fish - I think the hatchery run is less than 900 steelhead a season. If you hook a fish in Mid to late January - i would say you have a 20% chance of getting a hatchery - the guys I fish with and keep track of fish hooked/landed only got two brats the rest were wild.