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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've noticed more and more fly fishers using strike indicators while fishing for steelhead. Back in June I saw several guys at Fortson Hole on the Stilly using Spey rods, HUGE bobbers (the six-inch long, half-inch diameter type) and HEAVY (lots of lead) "flies". Because they cast upstream and dead-drifted the length of the hole, it was impossible to fish anywhere near them with conventional (sink-tip line) tactics.

Here's a quote from
http://salmonanglers.com/articles/sinkingline2.html

"In the canyon of Oregon's North Umpqua River, a small group of anglers from California imported a method of fishing for steelhead that created a storm of debate and a morass of regulatory confusion. Fishing a heavily weighted nymph with a strike indicator, these anglers dead-drifted their flies through large pods of wild North Umpqua steelhead. Refusing to rotate through the pool, the indicator fishermen repeatedly ran their flies through the steelhead until they hooked dozens of fish. On the 31 miles of fly water from Rock Creek to Soda Springs Dam, a section of the North Umpqua that has been 'fly only' since 1952, local anglers felt that the new technique posed a serious threat to the spawning capacity of wild
steelhead."

I've got several questions about this:

1. Is it really fly-fishing?
2. Should I do it?
3. What's the best way to do it?

Help!

Joe
 

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Heck of a can o worms you opened. :EEK

1. Maybe. Not really. What's the definition? ;)
2. If you can't beat em join em. You are fishing Fortson after all...
3. Best way? Looks like you have seen the "system." Like bobber fishing for Bluegills, but with a steelhead "fly." Or even better, a lead jig. BC gear guys love this system.

You won't earn any points from the fly purists floating a bobber, especially with a weighted fly. You could be more subtle with a floating line and weighted fly. When fish are stacked in the hole, most any long leader/weight combo (sinking line, sink tip, split shot) will snag a fish occasionally. I think most will agree that terminal hatchery fisheries have their own rules... Judging by the quote you attached it seems you know the answer anyways.
 

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Let WDFW decide. It sounds like scamming to me.

And I have heard that guys do this on the rivers of the Great Lakes for their big rainbow trout. Maybe they don't know that sort of fishing is not allowed here.

Rob
---------
Genetic pollution damages wild
stocks, bonk those Hatchery Zombies!
 

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I find this issue interesting.

I've indicator fished as long as I have fly fished. Albeit it has mostly been spring creek fishing for browns using 12-18 size nymphs.

This being my first winter here in WA my plan is to try doing some indicator fishing for steelhead. Not quite the heavy duty setup described. I did well this summer swinging flies. I want to get back to my roots and fish some smaller water where in my opionion swinging isn't the best option.

Fly fishing like all methods of fishing is about adapting to the situation. I applaude people who break away from the pack and make their own trail.

As far as this method being ethical. That depends on the situation. I don't care what method of fishing someone is using as long as they are considerate to the people around them. Obviously these people where not. That is the heart of the problem.
 

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Toooo many people at Fortson's when I went there last summer. Kinda reminded me of Blue Creek at the Cowlitz but with elbow to elbow flyguys. Its a matter of time before some flyguy whips out a 38 just because you tangled his line. Too many dudes per sq ft.
IMO, fishing with a HUGE bobber and HUGE weighted fly sorta takes away some of the adrenalin rush and feel of the fish. This technique is no different than a gear chucker using and bobber and jig for Steelhead, which is pretty deadly in a gear chuckers perspective.
NOTHING compares to a Steelhead BLASTING a fly on the swing or on top.


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

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Sheesh, they make it sound like it's shooting fish in a barrel. Fly fishing "purists"? my a$$. Taking a steelhead on an indicator/heavy fly combo is perfectly legit if you ask me. Ever fish for trout with an indicator/nymph? Ever question whether THAT was legit? Cripes no.

Perhaps the "purists" ought to use silk lines and bamboo as well.

I recently watched a dude land 11 (not kidding, I counted) steelhead using this technique, and let me tell you. The river was packed with anglers, and they were ALL doing the same thing, and NONE compared with the number of hookups and fish landed. There is a tremendous amount of skill involved in this technique.

In response to your questions Joe:
1. Hell yes.
2. Hell yes.
3. Same as you do for trout. Long leader, set indicator and weight to put the fly at the depth you want. Strike on any movement on the indicator or when your Spidey-sense tingles.

-ptn
 

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Just an Old Man
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What do I know---I'm just an old man

I've seen them do that up a Fortson but they wern't using weighted flied they were using jigs. I don't really think this is fly fishing as it was intended to be. It sounds like gear fishing fly only waters and they are getting away with it. I just read the rules and it doesn't say anything about bobbers/indicaters.It just lists hook sizes and nothing bigger that 1/2"gap and barbless.

Jim
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for all the input. I'm not concerned about fishing at Fortson any more.

If the there's a nice, wide run with a fast current against the far bank, gradually easing up towards my side of the river, I can fish it really well with a floating line or sink tip. Cast across, mend, let the fly swing across.

But what do I do if the fish are holding on the far side of the fast current? Or if there's just a pocket of slack water behind a boulder with a fast current on either side? Or if I can't approach the fish from above?

In the summer, when the fish are active, a floating line might work, but now that the water has cooled down, the fish are on the bottom and much less active.

Cast upstream with a floating line and long leader and watch the tip of the fly line?

Joe
 

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I'm no purist. But to me, there's a difference between indicator fishing trout in small waters and bobber fishing stacked steelhead or salmon. Sure its legal (albeit with some weighted fly restrictions that go into effect occasionally for some reason?). If a fish takes, right on. If the bobber dip is a fin or tail hook time after time, is it even fishing (who cares about the "fly" aspect)? I'm speaking more of fishing the stacked holes than the technique. I've been sight fishing suspended egg flies with indicator behind redds to avoid chum recently (*dolly fishing) so the technique has its place on west side waters... I don't know that I'd call it fly fishing in the true sense. Not that any effective westside technique is really "fly fishing" for the dry purist. Who cares? Don't snag, have fun.
 

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Since most of my steelhead fishing background comes from the Great Lakes Tribs, I am very familiar with this technique. Now, most of the guys who do it replace the fly line on their reels with mono. We call it "float fishing" Sometimes they use maribou jigs, sometimes they use egg sacks...on a "fly" rod. I personally won't do it. I have fished along side these guys and watched them land dozens of steelhead in a day, which to me, seems like overkill. I was also on a discussion board back east where guys would write bragging posts about how they were "outfishing" all the conventional flyfishers on the water. Believe me, I got into some serious debates trying to eplain to them that, outfishing someone else wasn't really the point. Most of us got into flyfishing to introduce a challenge. We all know that trout love nightcrawlers, we fish with feathers instead.
Anyway, I still say to each his own and if you are really set on increasing your number of hookups, this method can be tremendously effective. The biggest problem I have with it is that these guys with a long rod and mono can get a super long drift, and as you originally stated, they seem to have a problem with rotating. It makes it really difficult for anyone else on the water to get a good shot at the more popular stretches of water. Also, I have caught steelhead swinging and stripping streamers and spey flies at all times of the year. (And by the way, PNW winters are "balmy" compared to the Northeast) If the fish are inactive and holding in water as you mentioned, ,I have had a lot of luck with a standard upstream dead drift with stonefly nymphs and glo bugs. Add a small split shot if you really need to.
There are lots of ways to improve your technique, just please, don't trade in your fly line. Pete
 

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Just an Old Man
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What do I know---I'm just an old man

Your statement"add a small split shot if you really need to". is illegal in fly only waters. Can't use weight attached to line or leader. Just a little friendly advice.

Jim
 

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I don't care about using bobbers since it doesn't really do anyting except piss off the purists....

"Refusing to rotate through the pool, the indicator fishermen repeatedly ran their flies through the steelhead until they hooked dozens of fish."

Now this quote here, makes me steam a little.

I think the solution is to just head on up towards the headwaters and keep looking for the wild fish...ALONE. This fixes any problem of line tanglement, lack of rotation or ever seeing bait fishermen littering their cans of prawns on the shore. I may catch less but I sure enjoy fishing a lot more.
 

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Just an Old Man
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What do I know---I'm just an old man

I agree with you,But to finding your own place in the head waters. Most of the head waters close on the end of the month. So what you have to do is find a place on the river that is not well used. I tend to stay away from crowds as I like to fish alone sometimes. But having a buddy around at least gives you some one to talk to. I get tired talking to the trees,birds,sky,rocks. I think that I'm losing my mind. :EEK

Jim
 

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yOU ARE LOOSING YOUR MIND.

Not all rivers close at the end of the month. Just the westside ones.

You forget that within 6 hours from home there are over 40 steelhead rivers. Now out of 40, there are only a few that have mob like characteristics.
 

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Fly fishing with strike indicators can be a very technical way of fishing. In my opinion it is just an advancement in fly fishing. Many of the new steelhead patterns today differ from the patterns designed many years ago and can be proven to be more effective. To answer you questions:

1. Of course it is fly fishing, if it wasn't then why do people spend thousands of dollars every year fishing in alaska for giant rainbows using mostly stike indicators with beads or glo-bugs. Casting a
9-12 foot leader with a strike indicator is far more difficult than casting a sink tip line or a shooting head. Getting a perfect dead drift by constantly mending your line can be viewed as more difficult that getting a good swing.

2. If you do decide to do it you will probably find that it is not as exciting as a steelhead slamming the fly on a swing. You don't usally feel the hit when using a stike indicator...but when you see the indicator go under and set the hook and the next thing you usally see is a giant fish leaping into the air up stream from the indicator.

3. The best way to do it will most likely take place on a smaller river, unless you know exactly where the steelhead are holding in bigger water... Once you know the depth of the river where the fish are holding, I would make the distance from you fly to the indicator about 2-4 feet longer than the depth... a straight leader will work, however a hinged leader workes even better. You can find a diagram of this leader in the book "Advanced Fly Fishing for Steelhead" written by Deke Meyer.

Good luck...don't be held back by traditional methods when you can outfish them.

p.s. look at www.alaskasportsmanslodge.com/staff_gallery/pages/staff9.htm

to see one of many huge rainbows taken this way.
 

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I agree, a lot of people get tangled up in the whole "purist" ways of the sport. A knowledgeable angler will adapt the technique that best fits the situation he encounters on a stream.

It's the same thing as nymphing for trout in MT, but nymphin for steelhead. As mentioned above using long leaders and a decent sized corkie indicator and an egg pattern is extremely affective for large trout in AK and can be for steelhead in WA. The only problem is using this set up in the proper situation.

On large rivers like the sky where steelhead could be sitting in a run the size of a football field I would swing flies. Nymphing this water is ridiculous. But when you find yourself fishing some of WA smaller tributaries where the stream gradient increases and more pocket water is encountered switch up. Winter time is perfect for high sticking pocket water. There's no place for them to hide. I love to nymph for trout and I love equally as well to nymph for steelhead.

My brother and friends drift fish and jig fish along side of me while I'll nymph, and I usually will out fish them 3-1.

When you learn how to effectively nymph for steelhead a whole new world will open up for you. The real reason why I personally like to nymph is that the sections of river that I feel are most effective when nymphed are usually high in the tributaries where hiking is required and other fishermen are non existent. I personally caught over 100 steelhead last winter/spring using this tactic. A lot of fly anglers will frown, they call it mindless nymphing but who cares. I'm just as at home swinging a spey rod on the queets as nymphing on the tolt. Adapt your fishing technique to different stream conditions and watch your success go through the roof, don't be to proud. :THUMBSUP
 

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Sorry about that Jim. I wasn't catering my post towards fly only water, just to Steelhead fishing in general. Obviously, consult your regs wherever you choose to fish. Since I am new to the area, I have to carry that thing in my back pocket wherever I go. I consider it my bible right now. In NY, we had much more general regulations: ie. statewide salmon season is open from date-to-date... only a handful of special regs in the whole state booklet. When I got my WA booklet, I wasn't even sure if you were allowed to fish in this state...jk. However, I think it is great that the Dept. of fish and wildlife pays such close attention to each individual stream and its respected runs of fish...now if they could only do something about enforcement........
 

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Just an Old Man
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What do I know---I'm just an old man

No problem. It just seems that you need to be a lawyer to figure all the ins,ands, and buts of these regs. You would think that if they could simplify the rules,but I don't think they want to so that way you don't know if your coming or going.

Jim
 

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Nymphing for steelhead using an indicator is cool. As others have mentioned in this thread, the technique is completely (and uniquely] appropriate for certain waters - Not to mention quite technical. BTW, Nymphing is common, not only in the Great Lakes, but also in Northern California.

However, I know that some fly fishers employ 'nymphying' to get around the fly-only restrictions. Here's what Ed Ward, a world famous steelhead guide on the Skagit, has to say about indicator fishing for Steelhead. To paraphrase, he says that...

...If you use a "float" to suspend your {weighted fly,bait,lure} you're using a bobber and that's GEAR FISHING :TSKTSK. If you use a "float" strictly as a strike indicator that's kosher :THUMBSUP.

I like Ed's definition. To that end, if I see you fishing on fly-only water using a "bobber", I'll go out of my way to report you.

Cheers,

Michael
 
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