Steelhead behavior - One person's theory

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Steve Buckner, Dec 13, 2005.

  1. Steve Buckner

    Steve Buckner Mother Nature's Son

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    As you point out Curt, the reality is that we may never know, and there is some comfort in that as well. This thread was hopefully more about observations than any real scientific data. What continues to fascinate me about fishing is that it is a puzzle that is never completely solved. The moment one thinks they have the answer to the riddle, they find that they may have come up short, in the mean time, thanks to those who offered their own words/observations on the topic.
     
  2. Panhandle

    Panhandle Active Member

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    Very interesting Steve. I'm especially intrigued in the daily feeding timetable, in that it closely resembles the 'on the bite patterns' I've recognized in Skamania fish in Oregon despite light conditions. In those regards there is a huge difference between these (Skamania) programed/ recycle fish, and good native genetic strains like on the N/ Umpqua- fish that will move across the river to low profile swings.
     
  3. andycarey

    andycarey New Member

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    steelhead behavior 2

    I've seen salmon of various species variously roll, leap, & splash, etc. in the summer and and fall in freshwater. What about steelhead in the winter? Any thoughts on how much surface activity an unhooked steelhead exhibits in winter? Fishing on the Queets yesterday, we saw some repeated porpoising type behavior in several spots in some deep runs off some pocket water in the upper (well above Salmon River); what little we saw of these big fish seemed bright; water temp was 40degrees. Were these likely steelhead? They refused a couple of types of steelhead flies;) bawling: abc
     
  4. Jim Kerr

    Jim Kerr Active Member

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    steelhead behavior 2

    Yea, thats what fresh steelhead do, porpoise, kind of a head tail rise, as they get a little darker the bucks especially will begin to tail slap, and then once they get real dark they will belly flop like salmon. Alot of people asosiate porpoising with traveling fish but that is not always the case. There is a chance that the fish you saw was a bright Coho, we caught some absolute chromers last week and saw some more yesterday, but it sounds like steelhead. As far as not biting, well somtimes they don't, and in low water they can be real finiky, just stay on them and don't over pressure them. You'll get em
     
  5. Jim Wallace

    Jim Wallace Smells like low tide.

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    steelhead behavior 2

    Thanks Uncle Jimmy. I was there with Andy. One spot where we saw them breaking the surface (sort of a splashy porpoising) was a sort of boulder garden, about 4 to 6 or so feet deep with smooth surface and fast-walking speed water. Man the Queets is beautiful with low and clear water....visibility was about 4 feet!

    Hey Andy, I explored a few more spots, found some good-looking water, and had a cutthroat about 11" or 12" grab my swung fly. What?!!! An actual fish? Had it on just long enough to see how big it was.

    If my luck holds, I will be the king of 5-to-10 second trout hookups (the godz are allowing me one every other trip) whenever I am steelhead fishing.

    Jimbo
     
  6. andycarey

    andycarey New Member

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    steelhead behavior 2

    thanks, Uncle Jimmy. Jim, you sure you were still flyfishing? :)
     
  7. miyawaki

    miyawaki Active Member

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    steelhead behavior 2

    For years, I had heard of steelhead rolling when they first come into a pool and that when they do, they are very "bitey." Here is my journal entry for this past November 3.

    Leland,



    Coming Into The Pool.

    Two years ago while fishing the Skagit for steelhead, my friend Nobuo Nodera asked if I had ever seen "fish come into the pool?" "No, but I've read about it happening with Atlantic salmon," I replied. Last year, while fishing with John Farrar, I asked him the same question. John said, "In all the years I have been flyfishing for steelhead, I have only seen fish come into the pool once. It was on the Sky during the last hour of light – all of a sudden the tailout was alive with rolling fish. A small school of steelhead had just swum into my pool from the one down below. For the next two hours, I caught and released five chrome bright steelhead!"

    This morning, Ryan Petzold and I caught the 5:50 Kingston ferry and drove three and a half hours through freezing fog, snow and ice to emerge into a bluebird day on a low clear river.

    At 9:30, Ryan began fishing at the head of the pool and I took a spot below him halfway down to the tailout. Ten minutes later, as I was still getting the kinks out of my line, I hooked up with my first winter steelhead of the season. I was using a #2 pink, orange, yellow popsicle. Ryan came down and took a photo and I released the 5lb. hatchery buck. I told Ryan to take my spot and that I would walk back upstream and fish down behind him. Soon I hooked my second fish. An incredulous Ryan laid down his rod and tromped back up to take a photo of my second steelhead.

    Fish were rolling in the river between the two of us. They had just come into the pool. It wasn't long before I heard Ryan yell, "Fish on!" Just as I began to strip in my line in order to go down and take Ryan's photo, I got a big grab and just missed getting a "double."

    I saw six fish roll in the next few minutes before Ryan hooked his second fish. After landing the fish we looked at his watch. It read 11:00! In an hour and a half, we hooked five fish and landed four. For myself, I equaled in an hour and a half all I did last winter – two fish landed and one lost.
     
  8. Ringlee

    Ringlee Doesn't care how you fish Moderator

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    steelhead behavior 2

    I have seen some of this porposing on the sauk before in march. We were letting floats drift through a run below us from the boat. Saw a fish below us porpose twice. It was diffenately moving because before we knew it, the fish Boiled on my dads float. It freaking grabbed the white float and wouldnt let go! Well there was nothing we could do but stare in amazement. Took a little run sideways and let go. Right after that Saw a fish porpose right next to the boat and then about a minute later about 50' above the boat. He was moving.
    I have seen steelhead do the same thing right at the Salmon river last january along the far bank on the queets in real soft water. Way out of casting reach and an Impossible swing or drift to get to them, but a saw a half dozen backs moving up river. Im amazed they made it by the 27 nets strung across the lower queets!
    During the summer in Alaska I saw many fresh kings do the same thing coming in on the tide into the river. You would see a nice back come out of the water well below you in the run. Then see a different fish closer and another one even closer, then before you know it both rods are barried in the holders. These were diffenatly pods of fish on the move and you could find them as the tide pushed in. Chums do the same freaking thing, so people think theres 600 kings porposing around them when really they are chums.
     
  9. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    I have seen rolling steelhead moving into pools many times -hatchery and wild - summers and winters. As mentioned they usually are pretty straight forward to catch. Often just a matter of locating water the is efficiently fished with a fly that those fish will soon be moving through.

    Have had good luck in tail outs. But have also done well in the riffles at the head of pools. I remember a spring 20 years ago on the Sauk where the river was very low and clear (sound familar). Just as the sun left the water one could see (from the log jams) those wild Sauk natives moving from the "hide-holes" in the log jams swwimming upstream with the occassional fish rolling. They moved at the same pace as my walking speed with a ocassional stop behind a boulder. For weeks this was nearly daily behavior at several jams. I located on jam immediately downstream of a very fly friendly riffle (on the same side as the jam) that was a 1/2 mile from the road. If one wanted a fish (some times two thought window of opportunity was pretty short) all one needed to do was fish the riffle where it deepen just before dusk - usually had a 1/2 hour so before it was time to leave to avoid walking out in the dark - fishing was so consistent never even bothered or considered taking a flashlight to extend my fishing time. As close to a slam dunk over a time period that I can remember.

    As with steelhead traveling salmon that are rolling are also very catchable however neither is very catchable if they are holding fish that periodically just roll for whatever reason. Before spending much time targeting the rolling fish it is important to differentiate between moving and holding fish.

    Tight lines
    Curt
     
  10. Steve Buckner

    Steve Buckner Mother Nature's Son

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    I too have witnessed fish move into a pool and begin their porpoising, and agree that these fish are often aggressive. I've been fortunate to observe this behavior with both steelhead and salmon. There is always something comforting about fishing where at least you've seen one roll. I'd guess that more than 25-50% of the fish I catch are ones that I've seen roll prior to getting hooked.

    On the Alagnak river in Alaska, I've had the opportunity to watch the runs of salmon begin their migration, literally in some cases overnight, and observe the behaviors of the fish as they've entered. In most cases, we fished the tidal water on the Alagnak, within a few miles of it's confluence with the Kvichak. Because those fish are so low in the system, their condition is supreme.

    Because we were fishing the tidal zone, it's imperative to understand what strength of tides are best for a given species and how high a given tide would push fish upriver. Over the course of the migration of all five species of salmon and the rainbows that fed upon their eggs and flesh, one could see the change in behavior, strength, and color. It's truly been fascinating to watch the beginning and then to watch as the season fades into an ending. We see the same thing here, although the runs are not as strong nor as compressed in terms of time.

    As I mentioned previously, the one fish that seems to exhibit a different behavior than any other chinook I've seen are the chinook salmon of the Harrison River in B.C.. Although I've seen chinook roll on other rivers, they tend to jump out of the river like chum on the Harrison, truly a sight to behold.
     
  11. Jason Decker

    Jason Decker Active Member

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    Leland, where did you and ryan fish? and when?
     
  12. Bob Triggs

    Bob Triggs Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!

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    Yes, but why do they all- hatchery or wild- take a two inch hank of red yarn so readily? :confused:
     
  13. Zen Piscator

    Zen Piscator Supporting wild steelhead, gravel to gravel.

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    Bob,
    Steelhead are stupid, just few in number. I am sure u already knew that

    On rolling fish, i have seen both groups as smalma has discribed. The first type if rolling fish was on the ronde earlier this year. There was literaly hundreds of steelhead stacked in a deep pool low down on the system, within 2 miles of the mouth. We watched lower down in the pool as fish would roll one after the other, surely steelhead, but all refusing our casts. We moved into faster water, and we started hooking up, almost every cast.

    Another case, I was fishing a riffle on the same river this fall, catching a fish about every 45 minutes along with my buddies, so the fish were clearly in. However, during the span of 30 minutes, we watched a pod of rolling fish move up from a pool lower down, and if we could get a good cast infront of one of them, there would be a hookup involved almost every time. We didn't count how many were landed, but I think we would have made sharp steelie proud. Often times our bugs would just hit the water, and it was game on.

    I have not had the same luck with rolling salmon, in any form.

    Peace,
    Andy
     
  14. Jim Wallace

    Jim Wallace Smells like low tide.

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    I reread this thread last night before retiring, and as I drifted off, I imagined myself observing a steelhead making it around the end of a wier-like log that stretches across the bottom of the tailout of a confluence hole I know of on a nearby "creek" and then rolling before disappearing into the depths of the pool(It is named as "Zipperlip" River, but it is actually just a big creek). I was looking forward to being there at the crack-o-dawn, as it is the only reasonably close place I know of right now that would be fishable for steelhead, and I wanted to be the first, and hopefully only fisher there.
    Ahhh, what a sugarplum vision, eh?

    Well, I got there, and there were still a few Coho guarding their redds. I have seen steelhead and coho share this pool before. I have observed a big coho buck chasing a steelhead out of its territory there before.
    An alder had very recently (within the last 3 weeks) been blown partially down and was leaning low over the tailout...my backcast area, as the banks are tree-lined, and it must be fished by roll casting or fishing upstream from a position in the middle of the creek below the tailout...damn!
    I rigged up a 10' leader off my floating tip, tied on a size 6 black/puple jig fly with a glowbug hanging on an 18" dropper, with a bead pegged about 3" above the glowbug(maximum rig...oughta get 'em), attached my corkie indicator, stripped out some line and began roll casting.
    Just like I had imagined, a large steelhead that I think had just snuck into the pool, rolled beneath the alder in the tailout. Ho!!!
    My next roll cast put my rig about 20' upstream (pool is about 60' long) of where the fish rolled, and I held my breath as I mended line to get a clean drift.
    Like in a dream, that corkie got jerked under water and I set the hook into a heavy fish. Immediately, a large steelhead burst skyward at an upstream angle and snapped my 10# test dropper as my heart skipped a beat.... Hoootah! What a bully! I think that is #3...maybe only #2, of the adult steelhead that I have hooked on a fly and lost. Have yet to land one (except for jacks).
    I rested the hole and fished downstream awhile, losing three complete rigs to the snag infested creek.
    It started to rain. I made my way back up to the confluence hole and worked it over good. Again the corkie went down...this time a fairly bright searun cutt about 13" raced all over the pool, putting a bend in the top section of my 8wt.
    Took the glowbug dropper, but was hooked in the lower lip, and I easily slid the hook out.
    Worked it for a few dozen more casts, saw a couple of coho bucks chasing around, then the rain really started coming down hard and I began the hike out.
    Today was a very good day!:beer2:

    Jimbo
     
  15. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Excellent!

    Got to love it when our plans/dreams bear fruit - I expect that it will not be long before there a more steelhead in your fishing.

    Tight lines
    Curt