Steelhead on Dry Flies...

Hello fellow Steelie Slayers! The rare ones who actually caught a Steelie on a dry, what are the top 5 patterns to use and on what Rivers? I'm on a roll on tying Steelhead flies right now and need more options,etc. PS, this is the longest I've been Steeless in months, 10 mos running now, I'm really getting desperate. Bout' to get with DDickson... Thankyou for all your help!

Peter ><>

"Follow Me and I will make you fishers of Men" Matthew 4:19

Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
I've caught a few on dries, but not alot. I'll warn you, it gets addicting. I normally use muddlers and mouse patterns. I've heard the steelhead caddis dry works, but never had luck with it. I've used the Waller Walker recently. Had a steelie chase it, but not actually attack it. I'd just try a steelhead muddler. Then try the mouse. The mouse works good, I got the idea on using one over a decade ago when I saw a mouse fall in and a steelhead eat it. Was a few years later before I finally got one to rise to one. Been about 50/50 between the muddlers and mice. The mouse patterns doesn't have to be too fancy. I just tie in a rabbit strip tail in natural, then a deer hair stacked body (in a more natural color). No ears or whiskers. I just shape the body a bit. I try to hit near the bank and skate it across on a well greased dry line. Has worked for me. But like I said, it's not an everyday thing that you catch one on a dry.
The Haig-Brown Steelhead Bee is the protypical steelhead dry, and still as good as any.
I suspect that steelhead rise to dries (and rarely) because the fly's motion attracts their aggressive attention, not because it matches any hatch. Color and insect-like form are irrelevant. As you probably know, any dry can be made to wake with a riffling hitch. But I'd tie some simple deerhair flies along the lines of the Dahlberg Diver, which is a bass popper with upwardly mobile aspirations. Try this: Use deerhair to tie a bigger (No. 6 or 8) Tom Thumb-type dry. Cut the tips of the wings off; saturate the remaining semicircular stubble with glue; while it's drying, press the stubble into a flat disc. With a twitch, this fly will splash more surface water than Esther Williams.
I call it pure luck .. but I caught a Steelie on the Washougal using a Bomber on a size 6 hook. I was in the evening and the water temp was pretty high. I was just in the right spot at the right time. I threw in the fly and it floated for about 3 feet and bam ! I didn't even get to play with the fly ! I have tried using the same pattern on the Kalama but no luck. For some reason the little smolts love it though. there too small to hook but they jump all over it. The bomber is one ugly fly to look at but is quite animated in the water. good luck. Catching a Steelie on a dry is pretty exciting to say the least and can be addictive. You catch one once and on a hot sunny day it will be the first fly you probably want to go to every time.:thumb
Buy "Dry Line Steelhead" by Bill McMillan. My best fly has been a muddler on a 9672 hook size 4 or 6 with an oversized head. Also did OK on an October Caddis, and always loved the way the Riffle Dancer looked dancing in the riffles.


Active Member
Can't claim to be an expert, but I have taken a few on the E. Fork Lewis and Washougal using muddlers and October caddis. August is not the best month for skating flies, but you should still be able to get one on top real early or late in riffly water.

Good Luck.
make it easy if you can call this easy and fish with as few flies as possible concentrating on different swings mends etc. get a copy of grease line fishing by jock scott and also mcmillians book sent you a pm

Rob Blomquist

Formerly Tight Loops
I have a buddy who moved here from Idaho, and took his wife fishing on the Stilly thinking it was a trout stream.

He suggested to her to use a stonefly dry, which she did. On a dead drift caught her first steelhead on a dry fly! Both were amazed. They didn't know that steelies hit dry flies!

The moral of the story is, skated flies work, and dead drifted flies work. Don't take your technique too serious. Just fish.

Some tips here (maybe, maybe not):
Fish dry flies for summer runs in the fall before the water becomes too cold for much fish activity.
Always skate the fly with a riffling hitch and throw down and across. Mend quickly, in the air if you can. Stay to seams.
Keep saying to yourself, "I will not strike, I will not strike." The fish must grab the fly and turn so there is something to get a hook into. If you hit them like you would a trout, you'll just pull the fly right out.
Some takes are very subtle: there's just a mouth (or was that a ripple?) and then a small tick maybe. Watch out for those. That tick could weigh twenty pounds.
If you miss a strike, keep casting to the same spot with the same drift. Annoy the fish. If, after awhile nothing gives, take a rest for about ten minutes or so. Try again.
All of the above fly advice is good. I don't think steelies are selective because they don't eat in fresh water even though things are found in their stomachs from time to time. My favorite dry is a number four Muddler Minnow.
But mice, rats, cats and dogs are also good.
Bob, the Addicted to Dry Flies Snob and Elitist.:professor

Hey good buddy, Steelheader 69,
I'm trying to get my hands on some of those Waller Walkers. Do you, or does anyone, know where or a website? Remember I live in a semi-remote area so don't tell me about anything in Seattle. I only go over there once or twice a year... bob


Active Member
While were on the subject of dries. Has anyone heard of salmon taking surface flies outside of Alaska or Canada in freshwater? With the large projected Coho run this fall, I would like to try something other than stripping popsicles or dead drifting shrimp & egg patterns.
In my book, it depends on what kind of water you're fishing. I prefer a bomber in glassy tailouts fished without a riffle-hitch. In this case you want a waking fly that really pushes water. A mouse is a good choice too as already mentioned. In broken water, I like a riffle-hitched muddler. This fly can really get the fish up when skipped (er skated) across the heads of runs and broken mid-run slots. The muddler doesn't sit low enough in smooth water for my taste.


Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member

If you want them, I'll tie them for you free of charge. I tie them, but won't charge you. If you want them, let me know. Email me your address. I also did a fly tying tutorial on them if you go where I showed you to go and you could do them yourself. :p But offer still stands. If you want some, I'll tie you up some.

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