Stillwater Steelhead, can indicator fishing actually work

David Dalan

69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E
After many hours and many patterns I finally cracked the code of stillwater steelheading with indicators above bonni that I have been trying to figure out this last couple weeks. A few days with only 4 missed takes I finally developed the pattern they couldn't resist.

Would one fish landed proof it - no, not for me - even the second didn't proof I was onto anything! when a few hundred fish are rolling and jumping all around you a couple fish means nothing! after the 7th fish to the net by 10 in the morning I was convinced - that I had "CRACKED THE CODE" This is the first year I tried indi fishing for these upriver fish, most the time I'm throwing intermediates for them for the last 15 years or so and do very well doing that technique.

Yes this is a brag post! And Proof that indicator fishing in stillwaters for steelhead will work. All in all 9 fish hooked and 8 landed. by the way, if any of you guys are fishing the Clearwater in October and land a 18 to 20 pound B run with my bloody Mary fly with rubber legs on a #12 hook in it's jaw (almost netted a couple times on 8 pound fluoro but my dog in the drifter was all the help I had ) - CAN I HAVE IT BACK!

Yes up-river (Columbia) fisherman the steel are on their way! They just need to stop and say hello to us down river fisherman for awhile and bath in the cool clean stillwaters below The Dalles. This is where I get to shake hands with them and send them on their way. well I did keep one hatchery brat that tasted real good.

All the info I really want to share right now. There's already enough info to get the job done if you have followed some of my lake trout post's. I usually never post steelhead info on the forum by choice.

PROOF, and bragging rights = Sorry about the pics, just me and the dog, so it's hard to control the steel for a quick shot and release - can you say chromers?

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You are a dirty, dirty, man. Nice work!


Active Member
Nice job. I've wondered about indicators from time to time. Usually after hours of trying to figure what depth they are suspended at. Definitely an efficient way to keep the fly in the zone - almost permanently. Seems like I get bit at about the same point of the retrieve which make me wonder how long the fly is fishing on each cast. Are you doing any kind of retrieve, or just letting the fly suspend with wave action/drift?

Haven't hooked a B-run yet but have only been up there twice this year. There should also be some silvers showing up soon, they can be frustrating to hook, but have gotten them at times on a small red pattern I use. Guessing the Bloody Mary fly is also red - good color choice, it's about all I use.


Active Member
Silverfly, if your not using a stop-watch for sinking lines you may want to start and be much more exact in depth - wind drift with chop, and I think all the stars were aliened!

The silvers and Chinook, I just pull the cord on the 8 horse Honda and gear troll and whack the hell out of them. Although I do have a fly for salmon in my head to test, I turned my 12 weight old g-loomis premier fly rod I used to fish the Trask river fall Chinook with in the late 80's AND 90's into a salmon, gear, bobber and qwick fish rod. best damn salmon plug rod ever made. A purist I'm not!

I figure there's 115,000 Chinook and 100,000 Steelhead right now between the dalles and bonni and someone has to fish for them! Like every year, I raise my hand! Plugs, bait, bobber and bait, bobber and fly, bottom fishing, sinking lines, trolling, I don't care how I fish them, have done all these for around 20 years between the dams.

I had three fly rods and two gear rods with me the other day, clear intermediate and a system two uniform sink both on single hand 8 wts. and my 696 RPL with dry line and indi, one salmon gear trolling rod and one light gear bobber rod for coon shrimp I had in the cooler. I'm was there to catch fish, and add another technique to my quiver for these fisheries------- and catch fish I did~
I'm no purist either but never had much luck soaking shrimp. I do use a timer also. Didn't for years and counting down got tedious to say the least. I've caught silver's and a few chinook on the same fly I use for steelhead. Tried using bigger flies when the chinook were in thick but they never seemed interested. The little flies work on chinook - even the big boys. Early morning is the ticket for chinook. Silvers just have to be in the mood. If you figure that out please let me know.

BTW which side of the river are you fishing? We've probably crossed paths sometime in the last two decades.


Active Member
I'm in A 14 ft.light blue lavro drifter now if you see me don't be shy! I used to fish out of my silver alum. willy guide model 16 fter. always had my daughter and her friend with me since she was in diapers til she turned about 16 and sports and boys took over! shes 20 now, going to school and working so no time for Dad and fishing right now! I used to be pretty well known at HERMAN BACKWATER, but haven't fished there for around 5 years, it's just a fricken zoo now. I fish a few others now.


That fly might work but I really wouldn't know, I've never used that one!

We've crossed paths for sure (sent you a PM.) Quit fishing Herman about 10 years ago. I can handle fishing with company but it was ridiculous even then.

BTW, that looks like a good pattern for those fisheries but I prefer something a bit sparser and with some movement:


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