Fly Fishing for Steelhead

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 Fly Fishing for Steelhead - 101
by Steve Buckner of The Northwest Fly Fisherman

Fly Fishing for Steelhead
A look at the variables

Although we may never understand all the variables that attract a steelhead to some given section of water, and ultimately what results in an efficient hook-up, the listed paragraphs will hopefully offer you some ideas to ponder before heading the door with fly rod in hand. Steelhead could be particularly a challenge to catch, certainly not simply since they won’t pursue a properly presented fly, but because you’re looking for a needle inside a haystack. 99. 99999 percent from the water is empty, and you’re attempting to find that certain fish that will require your offering. The reality is many fly fisherman go years without success. Like most things however, when you think about the variables and process the knowledge more carefully you are able to enhance your probabilities of success.

In case you ask any successful northwest steelhead angler do you know the most significant aspects to becoming successful steelhead fly fisherman they’ll probably answer by stating something like “fish the ideal water” and / or “confidence”. These most basic of variables do go hand in hand, for without one, there isn’t another. You presumably won’t catch Steelhead in case you aren’t in the ideal water, and when you don’t catch Steelhead you won’t gain confidence.
The fish of one thousand casts.

Before we even begin to speak about water that Steelhead could be found in, tactics and fly selection, It‘s helpful to understand something in regards to the life of the Steelhead. Although this paragraph isn’t meant to become an exhaustive discussion for this species, we’ll have a quick look into exactly what a Steelhead is. The Steelhead is really a sea-run Rainbow trout. Its Latin name is Oncorhynchus Mykiss. As time passes, Rainbow trout evolved to visit the ocean where they could feed more efficiently. After spending approximately 3 years in fresh water as juveniles, they migrate towards the ocean as 6-7 inch smolts and feed upon the abundance therein. Steelhead may spend 2-3 years inside the ocean and may possibly grow to staggering size before returning on their natal stream as sexually mature adults to spawn inside the spring. Upon time for fresh water, Steelhead commence to lose their silvery appearance and regain the colour characteristics of Rainbow trout. It‘s throughout the upstream migration in preparation for spawning that many of us fish for Steelhead. Once we understand what Steelhead are, as well as what their purpose for re-entering fresh water is, we’ll examine water they tend to become found in.
Steelhead Holding Water

While Steelhead must pass through every section of the given water system in route on their spawning beds, they choose certain sections of the river to rest, and / or experience. This water is mentioned as holding water. Holding water is usually described as water that‘s 3-6 feet deep and flows about as fast while you would generally walk. Although this is true, there will be subtle variances that also make one section of water more appealing to some Steelhead than another. Many of the variables that constitute good holding water are : flow, depth, river bottom makeup, and structure. By evaluating this basic group of variables you’ll better determine where to invest your time and effort fishing.

What creates great holding water is really a function of geologic structure and it is surrounding vegetation. For a river system, the gradient, or slope, from the canyon or surrounding landscape by which the river flows determines the speed from the water. So, obviously, in certain sections the river flows exceedingly fast, during other sections inside the same river system the flow can be nearly stagnant. High flows would exhaust the migrating Steelhead so that they are likely to push through fast water as soon as possible. In extremely slow water, Steelhead might not obtain the oxygen they require and / as well as temperature inside the slack water can be above a comfortable level. Another crucial element that needs to be considered once and for all holding water is really a run which has a deep section in which the Steelhead can transfer to and hide if this feels threatened. In several cases this deep section can be 15 or so feet deep.

 By throwing away the fast and also the slow water, we then arrive at those sections from the river where depth and flow is such the Steelhead can get the oxygen it requires, the protection it desires, and without such a lot force it would exhaust the fish. It‘s within these sections that you need to concentrate your efforts fly fishing for Steelhead. So now that weve an over-all concept of the good holding water as well as what to look out for, lets move onto other elements of excellent holding water.

The makeup from the river bottom must be considered. The structure once and for all holding water is typically made up of large stones or gravel. Sandy runs almost never contain steelhead for long like the sand tends to irritate the gills. Look out for runs which have stones as large when your fist, maybe larger. Along with the makeup from the bottom, runs that contain large boulders are especially appealing to steelhead as they simply offer protection coming from the currents.

Holding water can vary widely long and width. On coastal streams, holding water may merely be 30-40 yards long and 30-50 yards in width, and perhaps can be even shorter. In contrast, on large river systems, they can be many yards long, and may possibly be over 100 yards in width. An essential point to remember is Good holding water can be separated by many yards otherwise miles of river that‘s either too fast or slow to carry fish. Because of the, having some means of traveling fairly quickly to another section of excellent holding water may mean the difference between success and failure. Remember that fishing for Steelhead is seldom if ever a numbers game, one or two fish inside a day is taken into account a excellent day !

Along with traditional holding water, other places that could occasionally hold fish for brief periods of your time are mentioned as resting water. Resting water is found directly above or towards the side of the section of extremely fast water, or perhaps a chute. This fast water is typically the results of a big change in elevation over a brief distance. Like the fish show up with the fast water, or chute, they would like a while to rest prior to making a good way further upstream and can find small pockets of slower, softer water to rest and may possibly have a properly presented fly.

Now you have some concept of things to look out for, head within your local river and spend some time observing water trying to find for situations as described above. On many small coastal rivers you‘ll be able to gain a height advantage and hike along a given river system while peering straight into the water. By utilizing polarized glasses, you are able to now start concentrating on spotting Steelhead. It might take you 10 or quarter-hour of observing a run before finding fish and / or determining that it must be empty. Often times, if you re able to spot one Steelhead you‘ll spot additional Steelhead inside the same run. Depending upon light conditions and water clarity, some days are better than others for spotting fish. Look out for “shadows” which are about 2 feet long fish often look smaller within water. After locating these “shadows”, look to the wavy motion of the fish because it holds its position. You may even notice a “flash” like the silvery sides reflect light coming from the sun. Investing time and resources observing fish with their comfortable natural environment provides you with a more informed idea of where fish will likely function as the next time you choose to fish. Once you’ve been in a position to routinely predict where fish will certainly be holding you’ll have better judgment of places to fish with an unknown river.

Do not forget that Steelhead are almost constantly moving. You‘ll find several Steelhead in a particular location today only to locate that same location without fish tomorrow. Locate and jot down the locations to have spotted fish. Also jot down places to observe fish caught. This collection of locations will certainly be later used included in your game plan, which we’ll discuss shortly.

An essential point to remember is run timing also will play a crucial role with your success. Sometimes there just isn’t anybody home. You’ll got to perform some research before heading the door to work out if the river system you’re curious about fishing has fish and once the run is. Some river systems get Summer Steelhead, while other get Winter Steelhead. Some rivers obtain a combination of both, but one run can be stronger. Don’t waste your time and effort fishing during periods when fish are absent.

Ok, so now its time for them to customize your own personal game plan. You’ve done some research, you will know which rivers get Steelhead, and once the run typically begins and ends. You’ve spent some time researching a river and also have learned where Steelhead typically hold. You’ve checked the flows and also have determined that they‘re conducive once and for all water conditions. It‘s now time for them to grab your fly rod, and head out fishing. Pick perhaps one of the runs in your list, fish it thoroughly, after which move on your next run with your list. By fishing hard, and presenting your fly in those places that presumably to carry fish, eventually, your efforts will pay off.

steelhead flies and mapsSteelheading 105

Thus far during this post, I have about where Steelhead are found and why they‘re drawn to various stretches of the given river system. Moving on after that, I’ll describe another group of variables that needs to be considered to provide you with a far better chance of hooking a Steelhead. By knowing where Steelhead could be found after which taking into account this next group of variables you’ll begin to bring more fish to hand.

Steelhead aren‘t a challenge to catch simply since they are necessarily fussy exactly what lure is positioned in front the strategies. In case you ever possess the opportunity to seem within the tackle box of the gear angler, you’re likely to get yourself a rather strange assortment of spin-n-glows, lures, plugs, spinners, and corkies. This assortment of man-made objects have all proven themselves effective like a means of enticing a Steelhead to strike. Along with the aforementioned gear, gear fisherman can also use cured salmon or steelhead eggs and / or sand shrimp. On further examination, one lure can be shiny, one can be dull, one can be bright and another dark. The difference in size in one lure to a different can be astonishing. Bait has natural oils and provides off a scent that could attract a Steelhead. But why would a Steelhead strike an orange fluorescent Hot-Shot? It stands to reason then that the Steelhead may choose to strike almost any object that is positioned tantalizingly in front from the Steelhead’s nose. A similar philosophy holds true because it relates to fly selection. There will be hundreds, otherwise thousands, of effective flies that may be designed to entice a strike.

While determining fly selection, also do not forget that unlike trout, Steelhead have generally stopped feeding once they’ve entered fresh water so matching the hatch is out. The reality is we actually don’t understand what triggers a fish to bring our offering so generally, pick a fly after which always fish by it. Unfortunately this approach won’t offer the trout enthusiast much comfort, since the trout enthusiast is targeted on matching the hatch. Remember that there isn‘t any “magic” fly. The sad the fact is that the Steelhead is simply as prone to have a hook wrapped with yarn as it‘s to bring an elegantly tied spey fly. Subsequent few paragraphs will provide some suggestions and guidelines but after you’ve chosen a fly, you ought to always fish by it and avoid constantly changing flies because it wastes precious daylight. One exception could be if you’ve experienced a fish strike after which refuse, it often pays to switch up flies.

Although there aren‘t any hard and fast rules, Steelhead fly selection is typically based around water conditions so let’s possess a look into what it is that we generally experience inside the Pacific Northwest. Many northwestern rivers flow from glacial fields and almost always possess some level of silt present and never or rarely run completely clear. The colour from the water flowing from glacial fields has got the look of the liquid elementary school chalkboard. It‘s greenish / grayish in appearance. Generally, all rivers will run brown at high water, then to greenish like the water level begins to drop, after which may run clear following a few days to every week of little if any rainfall. Water clarity will play a role in determining fly color and size.

For greenish water and water with limited visibility, you would like your fly to be up and coming so large flies in size 1 / 0 or 2 / 0 are a very good choice. Steelhead aren‘t likely going to be spooked by large offerings under such conditions. As for color from the fly, bright maribou flies and / or dark flies are usually a very good first choice simply since they could be distinguished from other debris floating through river. All of us have their very own favorite fly patterns, but those that offer movement and action will entice more strikes. This movement and / or action has become the single most significant factor liable for triggering a strike.

Once the water is low and clear, especially during summer and fall, large flies may alright spook Steelhead. Smaller, more drab patterns will often out produce large bright flies. Steelhead are routinely caught using flies tied on size 6 hooks. Many Steelhead fisherman carry a Summer fly selection and also a Winter fly selection, the difference being mainly the scale the flies.

Rain is a crucial variable inside the Steelhead equation. Like the rain falls, the rivers commence to rise which triggers Steelhead to migrate high to their native streams. The rising water and also the flush of minerals instill a way of urgency in Steelhead to migrate upriver. They‘ll move upriver quite quickly and they’ve been documented to travel over 20 miles inside a 24-hour period. While rising rivers signal upstream migration, dropping rivers are likely to found out ideal fishing conditions. After moving further up their natal rivers, Steelhead become more aggressive. You would like to time your trips to focus on Steelhead following the rains have raised the river and once the water is beginning to drop. Throughout the winter months, this may provide you with a very short window to focus on Steelhead, particularly if you simply have weekend days off. Especially throughout the rainy winter months, when you factor inside the rains, your days off, and good water conditions you could have just a few days per month with ideal conditions.

To assist you find the flows for the favorite river, you can examine the flows of most river systems if you take advantage of data available upon the Internet. The United States Geological Survey, USGS, is that the agency liable for posting real time data associated with the affects that weather plays on our river systems take a look at http : / / waterdata. usgs. gov / nwis. By utilizing this site, you are able to observe hydrographs on many river systems. The hydrographs detail water flows as time passes and you may use them to be able to your advantage to locate optimum fishing conditions. As previously mentioned, optimum conditions are the ones in which the river is falling, or dropping into shape after significant rainfall. Along with government sites, there are many Fly Fishing forums where one can ask questions concerning your favorite watershed before heading the door. It pays to carry out some research before you decide to leave home.

Light plays another important function in being successful although its affects are a lot more pronounced throughout the hot summer months. Some runs are situated such the sun shines directly straight into the Steelhead’s eyes at various times from the day. Fish don‘t have the benefit of eyelids and direct sunlight could be blinding. You ought to cause it to be a priority to fish those runs which are shaded, or fish them once the light is either off from the water and / or coming from behind the fish so the fish actually has an opportunity of seeing your fly. Vegetation down the river can offer shade and maybe you have the ability to entice a fish to some fly by fishing inside the shaded areas during mid-day.
A couple of final considerations. . .

Due to the long hours needed to hook into Steelhead, every effort should be made to minimize time it will take to cast and maximize time your fly spends within water. It doesn’t make a difference how good the fishing is, in case your fly isn’t wet it won’t catch fish. If you’re employing a single-handed rod, don’t make greater than two or three false casts before letting your fly settle upon the water.

Tie good knots and understand how to tie them fast. I’ve observed anglers taking 10 to quarter-hour while attempting to tie on the fly. Identical to casting, understand how to minimize down-time.

Care your hooks sharp. You don’t get a lot of possibilities to hook into your Steelhead therefore you want to ensure that when it will happen you set the odds with your favor. With the course from the day your flies are available connection with many objects that dull the hook. Check the hook often and produce sure that it must be kept sticky sharp.

Pick a run and fish it through thoroughly though it‘s also crucial to remember Isn‘t to invest too long fishing any one location.

The primary rule is Don’t quit, they are not known as Fish of the Thousand Casts for nothing ! 

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