Steelhead Fly Fishing For Dummies....

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Jason Decker, Oct 14, 2005.

  1. SpeyRodBeBop

    SpeyRodBeBop Member

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    I think there is an extra, really big challenge learning to fish steelhead on the fly if you have never gear fished them. With gear fishing you learn fairly quickly which parts of the river hold fish and which parts don't. That skill can be carried over to fly fishing. If, however, you are starting out with a fly rod, you are probably being much less effective in determining where the fish lay up because you can fish through holding water and your chances of getting a hit on fly are much less. Most of the really good steelhead fly fishers that I know, started out on gear.
     
  2. nick m

    nick m New Member

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    Don't give up hope. After three skunks, (not counting foul hooked salmon and a whitefish), many lost flies and tangles, and a $224 speeding ticket driving back from one of the aforementrioned fruitless outings, I finally got my first, and second steelhead today. And man it was so sweet. If only that cop had been a fisherman...
     
  3. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Salmo G hit it pretty much spot on - one needs to fish where there are fish. The unfortuante reality is that recent steelhead returns in the Puget Sound streams (including the Snoqualmie) have been at the lowest levels in decades. That makes fishing a lot more difficult.

    Yes steelhead are easy to catch just difficult to find - it can as much as a hunting game as fishing. How to shorten the learning curve in finding steelhead without a mentor? A couple suggestions.

    1) Look at the month catches of the steelhead catch summaries available at WDFW's web site. That will give you some insight in the best times to be on water you are interested in.

    2) Remember that while steelhead are the same species as our resident rainbows they are in the river for different reasons as such behave differently. Basically the steelhead are hear to spawn. To do so they must migrate up the stream to get to the spawning area and then hold safely until spawning time. Therefore rather than fishing water where one expect the trout to be feeding we need to fish either the traveling lanes or the holding spots. One would be advise to decided based on reports and experience whether to focus a particular day on traveling lanes or holding areas.

    Travel lanes- the easiest path up stream which varies with the current and visibility. They like to move along current seams and the clearer the water the deep they travel and the more likley they are to travel only during low light periods.

    Holding areas - bascially two types. Short term holding areas where the fish pause for a few minutes to a day or two while traveling to "catch their breath" - often tailouts above a difficult riffle/cascade or areas that provide short term cover. The longer term holding areas typically are near the spawning reaches and here look for areas that provide consistent and long term cover (security).

    3) In the summer get a good pair of polariod glasses and scan the river for holding fish. Best from the high banks, bridges, or floating the river. It takes some experience to be able to spot fish - looking for the whole fish does not usually work - typically one sees a fish's shadow, a fin, a mouth open prior to seeing the whole fish. Learn to look through the water (focus on or near the bottom) rather than the surface. Go to some of the noted hatchery holes (Fortson on the North Fork Stillaguamish) and practice looking for fish.

    4) Pay attention to where other folks are fishing, especially those that are successful. The unfortunate reality is that on most of our streams you will have company so learn from the them. Pay attention to areas, methods, but don't worry much about fly patterns.

    5) Learn line control - the best tip I can give some one about methods in know what your fly/lines are doing at all times. How does the fly react with various mends etc.

    One last piece of advice - remember that these fish are not here to commit suicide on our hooks but rather to spawn as safely as possible.

    Tight lines
    Curt
     
  4. papafsh

    papafsh Piscatorial predilection

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    Jason, there is such a book with that exact title in Half Price Books, across from the Red Robin on Everett Mall Way. About $9 I think, saw it there last weekend.


    LB
     
  5. flyfis4fun

    flyfis4fun New Member

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    I started steelheading 4 years ago and have been extremely fortunate to catch 40 of them in that time and hook a bunch more which greatly condensed my learning curve. I don't claim to be good at this, just very lucky to have put time in during some historically high steelhead runs. However, there a few things I have found that make a big difference in an anglers success.

    1.) You have to know how to read the water. I will admit, this is an area where I am still learning. I can find the tradtional holding water but it is the unusual spots that I often overlook. My brother is great at finding fish were logic says they wouldn't be holding so he has taught me a lot. In general, find the waist deep water or deeper moving at a walking to fast walking pace and you are on target. Like I said, lots of exceptions but this is where to begin.

    2.) Keep it simple when it comes to your fly patterns. I know that certain rivers have their hot patterns but find a fly that you have confidence in and fish it. Personally, I use a black, bead head bugger. I can honestly say I have never caught a steelhead on anything else. I know it works so why change? Sure there is the hot pattern of the season on my favorite river but I am not going to go away from what has proven itself to me.

    3.) Have patience! You can't go blazing through the holes and expect to do well. Make 3-5 casts with the same amount of line and then take one step down the hole and do it again. This was so hard for me to learn because I had the patience of a 5 year old but time and time again I have taken fish on the 3rd, 4th, 5th cast that I would have missed had I cast only twice and then moved. Make sure you only take one step when you move. This assures that you are covering the hole as efficiently as you can. The drawback to this method is it is time consuming but if you are fishing water that has produced fish in the past then it is worth putting your time in.

    Don't give up. It can be a maddening process getting that first fish. Also be preprared to lose a lot of them before you get one in. Steelhead make you pay for mistakes and you will find that you have to relearn some fighting techniques before you will be successful.

    Good Luck!
     
  6. Bradly640

    Bradly640 Member

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    Don't worry man. I was Steelhead fishing this weekend and all I got was a bad dunk and a smashed up knee, but that's fishing I guess.
     
  7. Flyfishsteel

    Flyfishsteel New Member

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    ...even better, fish glassy tail outs with #4/6 dry flies and don't mend, let the current make a belly and it will create a huge wake with your fly and WAMMMMO! Steelhead on a dry!

    This time of year increases your chances 3 to 1 !
     
  8. Big Tuna

    Big Tuna Member

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    I would echo what most everyone else is saying. It is time on the water. The weird thing about steelheading is that once you catch one, it seems like the hex is broken and you get into them with a little more regularity. Basic swinging and nymphing isn't real complicated, but time on the water will teach you to find holding water and fish structure. I think a lot of people find a system and a few patterns and that's their recipe. I use the same fly about 90% of the time. Stick with it and your time will come.
     
  9. otter

    otter Banned or Parked

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    Find the best book you can on the art of Zen archery, and apply principles contained therein. Or the Seven or Ten Oxherding Pictures. Aligning the river, the moment, and perfect focus is a discipline that continues for a lifetime (mechanical knowledge is an illusion, go for the intuitive).

    You will find that at the instant that your previous goal of catching fish no longer applies............. you will have a fish on.

    And if you meet the Buddha on the river, kill him, because he is an imposter.
     
  10. chadk

    chadk Be the guide...

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    :confused:

    Uh, ok, whaterver. but thanks for bringing up this post.... Jason - when are you going to buy me that burger and beer???:beer2: (refering to the deal you mentioned in the first post on this thread...)
     
  11. Porter

    Porter Active Member

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    :beathead:

    Agent Montana....have you ever marinated an otter before ? :)
     
  12. Ryan Nathe

    Ryan Nathe Member

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    My suggestion would be to not get discouraged. Firstly you are looking for your first steelhead on a fly and a winter-run steelhead at that. If you do not catch a winter-run this winter always keep in mind that the summer runs are fairly aggressive to the fly. If you ever want to fly-fish for summer-runs I would suggest the Deschutes in Oregon from July-November near the mouth. I too used to be a pretty decent trout angler but I have since become addicted to steelhead. I think I only went fishing for trout maybe three times last summer. I recently made a calendar outlining run timings on some rivers I have fished and have realized I can fish for the from June-April. Looks like May will be a trout month! I would also suggest Trey Combs book like others have. It is a very nice book and will get you enthused between long droughts of no fish.
     
  13. nick m

    nick m New Member

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    In terms of books I would have to recommend my very favorite on the subject, "Magical Flyfishing for Majestic Steelhead" by the one and only Clay Sharp. In terms of water, come to the East Side!
     
  14. Mike Danahy

    Mike Danahy @#)$%# river otters!

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    I spent almost 200 hours steelhead fishing before I caught my first fish on the swing. A majority of that time was spent on the hoh, with a buddy of mine who guides down in Northern California, really knows his stuff. It's all about time on the water. We really got to know the river. I would definitely get frustrated... but then all I had to do was look up and around, realize where I was, and that frustration would just disappear. One of the things that makes steelhead fishing worth it for me is being able to stand in a river, without catching anything, and really appreciating where I am. Of course, it makes it a lot easier to appreciate where you are when you know from personal experience that what your doing there actually produces fish on occasion. But, yeah reading and research can help a lot, but nothing can replace time on the river, both for better fishing, and for a better mind, body, and spirit.
     
  15. Mike Danahy

    Mike Danahy @#)$%# river otters!

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    mmmmm..... cheesy