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#1061622 - 03/05/23 09:35 AM anybody still fish?
eswan Offline
Juvenile at Sea

Registered: 01/19/14
Posts: 169
I am going to start bringing a fly rod with me this summer and hopefully hook a steelhead. I was looking for a little bit of help with the equipment side of things and tactics. A lot of how i catch these fish is sight fishing them. Generally if the fish arent too pressured or spooky you can see them and place a bobber and jig/ bait right in front of there nose. So in this scenario to me a fly rod would be best fished upstream with a nymph type approach. seem right? or if that piece of river is conducive to swing i plan to use a full floating line with a rio versileader to get down? normally only fishing 2-4ft of water sometimes pools with 10+ft. 10 ft 7 weight single hand rod, large arbor reel, full floating line, versileaders, wet flies and nymphs. Are the versileaders the best (or even good?) way to sink your fly or just attatch sink tips instead? Im not new to steelhead and am confident i can get one to eat if i can give it to them the right way. I unfortunately am going at this alone and dont have a mentor. Any and all advise, experiences, whatever is appreciated.

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#1061623 - 03/05/23 09:53 AM Re: anybody still fish? [Re: eswan]
Salmo g. Offline
River Nutrients

Registered: 03/08/99
Posts: 13394
Contrary to what was the conventional wisdom 50 years ago, steelhead do hit flies. I switched from bait fishing to fly fishing for steelhead around 1972. I got off to a rather slow start because, unlike today, there was no internet full of useful "how to" information. But I figured it out and began catching steelhead. Mainly because there were always steelhead around, unlike when I go fishing now. I'll say that it's much easier to learn to catch fish on flies when there are a lot of fish around to give you feedback by taking your fly when you're doing it right, and ignoring your presentation when you're doing it wrong. In recent years it's easy to do everything right and still not catch fish, mainly because we're fishing water that isn't holding any steelhead.

Because so many people were posting on internet forums asking about fly fishing for steelhead, I began writing an essay on it about 10 or 12 years ago with a working title of "How to fish good for steelhead." Then the bottom fell out of steelhead returns, and I thought who in their right mind would want to learn to fish for steelhead these days? So the essay lingers somewhere on my hard drive in a WORD document. I could email it to you if you like. It covers most of the basics, but it can't make steelhead be in the places they normally used to be.

Oh, I still fish. Wed. - Fri. on the OP. 1 steelhead, 1 bull trout for 3 days. I've done better; I've done worse. But I'll probably just keep fishing anyway until I no longer can.


Edited by Salmo g. (03/05/23 09:56 AM)

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#1061624 - 03/05/23 02:06 PM Re: anybody still fish? [Re: eswan]
FleaFlickr02 Offline
River Nutrients

Registered: 10/28/09
Posts: 3310
That's a good summary from Sg. Even if you're doing it right, you don't always (or even often) get rewarded. If I were trying to approach fly fishing for steelhead these days, I think I would start by picking a piece of water that you know holds fish (or at least did when you were getting them on gear) and is no deeper than 6 feet. Sure, you CAN catch steelhead on flies in 10+ feet of water, but you'll generally have much better odds shallower than 6 feet, mostly because it's hard to get flies down deeper than that, but also because deeper water tends to fish "fly" patterns poorly. Leave that deep stuff for the gear fishing days and focus your effort on flat runs and the inside edges of riffles.

As regards presentation, upstream nymphing can work, but most often, you will get bit as the fly gets to fish holding depth, which is tough to accomplish long before the drift is even with your standing position. Indeed, most of your takes, no matter how you're fishing, will happen even with or downstream of your standing position.

Cool thing about summer runs is that they are more easily convinced to come up for stuff at or near the surface than winters. That makes for classic conditions for deep swinging or greased lining flies. You don't necessarily have to be "down," but your presentation needs to look like what(ever) they want to draw strikes.

To answer your question, I still fish for steelhead, but only a little. If I had more water open closer to home, I would fish a lot more. Catching matters a lot less to me than just being out there. I would give up a lot just for an opportunity to get skunked on one of my old, favorite haunts. Good luck out there.

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#1061625 - 03/05/23 03:57 PM Re: anybody still fish? [Re: eswan]
eswan Offline
Juvenile at Sea

Registered: 01/19/14
Posts: 169
Thanks for the help and happy to see you guys still get out. Salmo, I will absolutely take you up on that. You'll have my email in your pm. My thought is that I'll carry an extra rod and gear and whip it out when I know there's fish around. Thanks for the info ff. Summers are my favorite to target and I'd be stoked to get one on a fly! I'll he sure to drop a picture here when it happens.

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#1061627 - 03/05/23 07:58 PM Re: anybody still fish? [Re: eswan]
Streamer Offline
No Stars for You!

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 2261
Loc: T-Town
I haven’t fished for winter runs at all this winter season. A first for me in over 25+ years of steelhead fishing. No opportunities close to home, not many steelhead left, and a lot of fukkkin dudes crammed onto a small handful of rivers.

No thanks.


Streamer
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#1061632 - 03/06/23 07:17 AM Re: anybody still fish? [Re: Streamer]
eswan Offline
Juvenile at Sea

Registered: 01/19/14
Posts: 169
I hear ya. I have been out a total of once this year. The beginning of January for hatchery brats with the kids. We left with the same sentiment. Few fish, lots of fisherman. But! Luckily the summer is not so. Or maybe I just don't care as much because I'm floating a river in the summer haha. Few people and few fish in the summer but at least it's pretty, we're out there doing something, and the fish do exist! I brought my 5wt to Tolmie about a month ago. That was pretty fun. Just didnt quite have the distance to reach the rolling cuties. Probably going to take up doing that too. Closest open steelheading is the coast approx 2 hours. Or head down to the cowlitz. Both not great options in my book.

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#1061633 - 03/06/23 08:37 AM Re: anybody still fish? [Re: eswan]
stonefish Offline
King of the Beach

Registered: 12/11/02
Posts: 5166
Loc: Carkeek Park
Originally Posted By: eswan
I hear ya. I have been out a total of once this year. The beginning of January for hatchery brats with the kids. We left with the same sentiment. Few fish, lots of fisherman. But! Luckily the summer is not so. Or maybe I just don't care as much because I'm floating a river in the summer haha. Few people and few fish in the summer but at least it's pretty, we're out there doing something, and the fish do exist! I brought my 5wt to Tolmie about a month ago. That was pretty fun. Just didnt quite have the distance to reach the rolling cuties. Probably going to take up doing that too. Closest open steelheading is the coast approx 2 hours. Or head down to the cowlitz. Both not great options in my book.


What line are you using on your 5 wt?
Lots of lines out there that are basically integrated shooting heads that help you achieve better distance with minimal false casts.
SF
_________________________
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Founding Member - 2023 Pink Plague Opposition Party
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#1061634 - 03/06/23 08:47 AM Re: anybody still fish? [Re: eswan]
Salmo g. Offline
River Nutrients

Registered: 03/08/99
Posts: 13394
Eswan,

The absolute best way to catch a steelhead on a fly is to leave the spinning and casting rods at home. The would-be switch hitters I see on the rivers never hook one on their fly rod because they never give it a real chance.

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#1061635 - 03/06/23 08:51 AM Re: anybody still fish? [Re: eswan]
SpoonFed Offline
Three Time Spawner

Registered: 01/29/19
Posts: 1501
With the closest steelheading to home closed. Me and the wife picked up the new hobby of Rockhounding. Looking for petrified woods,jaspers and agates. Been out only 2 times this winter but rewarded with a couple fish. I imagine with all of the closest waters to much of us now closed, crowding in more people on the banks of the rivers that are open, many of us picked up new hobbies or started to target other species of fish. As long as im doing something outside, that's what matters the most. Eswan, if you're ever looking for somebody to toss some bugs at tolmie with, im about 15min away and down there quite a bit.

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#1061640 - 03/06/23 10:29 AM Re: anybody still fish? [Re: eswan]
20 Gage Offline
Returning Adult

Registered: 02/15/21
Posts: 309
Kinda sad really.

After all these years with folks wanting us to fly fish for Steelhead, give up the the bait, catch & release, spey and swing -

Only to have no fish, almost all rivers closed, or closing in the state that anointed the Steelhead as It’s “State Fish” , and folks actually wanting to give fly flogg’n a try -

To be told you likely will see no fish in the creek, or note that there will be No fish in the grass-filled creel .

That said, it’s still pretty kool Someone like SF, or Salmo g. would take time to help anyone here with giving fly angling for huge Rainbow a try.

I bet that essay is a sweet read...

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#1061641 - 03/06/23 10:49 AM Re: anybody still fish? [Re: 20 Gage]
stonefish Offline
King of the Beach

Registered: 12/11/02
Posts: 5166
Loc: Carkeek Park
Originally Posted By: 20 Gage
Kinda sad really.

After all these years with folks wanting us to fly fish for Steelhead, give up the the bait, catch & release, spey and swing -

Only to have no fish, almost all rivers closed, or closing in the state that anointed the Steelhead as It’s “State Fish” , and folks actually wanting to give fly flogg’n a try -

To be told you likely will see no fish in the creek, or note that there will be No fish in the grass-filled creel .

That said, it’s still pretty kool Someone like SF, or Salmo g. would take time to help anyone here with giving fly angling for huge Rainbow a try.

I bet that essay is a sweet read...



I caught my last steelhead in 2014 and haven’t fished for them since.
So Sg will be the go to guy on the steelhead fly fishing front.

I’ve moved on to other fisheries. Though not nearly as exciting as hooking a nice steelhead, fishing a beach with nobody else around has its rewards.
SF
_________________________
Go Dawgs!
Founding Member - 2023 Pink Plague Opposition Party
#coholivesmatter

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#1061642 - 03/06/23 11:47 AM Re: anybody still fish? [Re: stonefish]
eswan Offline
Juvenile at Sea

Registered: 01/19/14
Posts: 169
The only line i currently own for it is wff. I cast another guys rod out there with rio outbound short and was amazed. When I handed it back to him I said it's the only line I want to use haha. He was an older gentleman that belongs to the local fly club. Nice guy and gave me some good tips. I got interested in fly fishing a year or so ago after my son was born to be close to home. Easier to go angling 10 min away than an hour minimum. I'm liking it so far and have found some success. Just hoping to tie into a steelhead before either they're unavailable to us or what's left is a [Bleeeeep!] experience. Might as well check it off, right?

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#1061643 - 03/06/23 11:49 AM Re: anybody still fish? [Re: SpoonFed]
eswan Offline
Juvenile at Sea

Registered: 01/19/14
Posts: 169
Originally Posted By: SpoonFed
With the closest steelheading to home closed. Me and the wife picked up the new hobby of Rockhounding. Looking for petrified woods,jaspers and agates. Been out only 2 times this winter but rewarded with a couple fish. I imagine with all of the closest waters to much of us now closed, crowding in more people on the banks of the rivers that are open, many of us picked up new hobbies or started to target other species of fish. As long as im doing something outside, that's what matters the most. Eswan, if you're ever looking for somebody to toss some bugs at tolmie with, im about 15min away and down there quite a bit.



I might take you up on that! I lm close by as well. Is it a seasonal fishery or pretty consistent year round?

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#1061644 - 03/06/23 11:50 AM Re: anybody still fish? [Re: Salmo g.]
eswan Offline
Juvenile at Sea

Registered: 01/19/14
Posts: 169
Originally Posted By: Salmo g.
Eswan,

The absolute best way to catch a steelhead on a fly is to leave the spinning and casting rods at home. The would-be switch hitters I see on the rivers never hook one on their fly rod because they never give it a real chance.


I completely understand as I've been through this with using different techniques. Hasn't everyone? Haha. I'm quite determined on making it happen.

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#1061645 - 03/06/23 01:27 PM Re: anybody still fish? [Re: eswan]
SpoonFed Offline
Three Time Spawner

Registered: 01/29/19
Posts: 1501
March-June can be good. Sept-Oct is the best time for so. Puget sound.

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#1061649 - 03/07/23 06:28 AM Re: anybody still fish? [Re: eswan]
stonefish Offline
King of the Beach

Registered: 12/11/02
Posts: 5166
Loc: Carkeek Park
I agree regarding the fall being the best. The fish have all spring and summer to fatten up and are in prime shape prior to heading into spawning season.
If I only had one month to fish cutts in the salt, it would be November.
Crap weather, less people and great fishing.
Spring is fun when they are on the chum fry, but you also run into some snaky post spawn fish. I encountered some of those this past weekend.
No chum fry seen yet, but that should start happening very soon.
SF
_________________________
Go Dawgs!
Founding Member - 2023 Pink Plague Opposition Party
#coholivesmatter

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#1061650 - 03/07/23 01:30 PM Re: anybody still fish? [Re: eswan]
DrifterWA Offline
River Nutrients

Registered: 04/25/00
Posts: 4977
Loc: East of Aberdeen, West of Mont...
03/7/2023

As many know, I've lived in Grays Harbor since 1968, was a school teacher, thus had summers off.

1st steelhead I ever caught, was on a fly, this has been posted a few times in PP, was caught in the area where the Tolt River flows into the Snoqualmie River while fishing searun cutthroat, 1965.

When I moved to Aberdeen, I had to drive "South" to find summer steelhead, my success was not very good.

In the late 70's, summer steelhead was introduced to a local river. Teacher, summer off, should have made for me. Well, yes I caught a few every summer BUT NOT LIKE WHEN I SWITCHED TO bobber/float and jigs. Took awhile, to change from bait to jigs, and how to fish them, what colors, what depth, where to fish, what time of day to fish. I can't tell you the amount of times, I'd go late, 5-6 a m, and there were others bait fishing, I'd just watch....if a person left that was my opening. 1st couple of casts, I'd fish deep, jig hitting bottom...then adjust bobber down so jig was off the bottom 1.5- 3 foot. I'd cast short, then cast further, until I covered water in front on me, then repeat process but allow float to go down river further. I got so, it was easy limits, or hand off rod to others or especially kids.

Now to get to jigs vs. flies..... Teacher from Tacoma, would bring trailer down, and did so for about 5 years, fly fished ONLY. Morning after morning he'd drink coffee and watch "us" catch fish bobber and jigs. Then he'd try his flies, then he started tieing his flies to look, color wise, like the jigs guys were using. I NEVER DID SEE HIM CATCH A SUMMER STEELHEAD, when I was there. Got so, I'd ask other if they saw him catch one, no one ever said "yes". He knew how to cast, had all the different casts down, what it was???? I don't know BUT he never went to bobber and jigs..... special person..

Sorry so long, but like my 40+ years of fishing that river, it just takes time!!!!


Edited by DrifterWA (03/07/23 07:25 PM)
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"Worse day sport fishing, still better than the best day working"

"I thought growing older, would take longer"

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#1061652 - 03/09/23 09:17 AM Re: anybody still fish? [Re: eswan]
Salmo g. Offline
River Nutrients

Registered: 03/08/99
Posts: 13394
Drifter,

Your post above is an interesting story and reveals important truths about sport fishing for steelhead and gear choices. I'm gonna' guess that first steelhead you caught on a fly at the mouth of the Tolt wasn't first fished with bait and jigs before you began fishing that day. Flies simply aren't as effective as bait, just as bait isn't as effective as gillnets, if you see what I mean. There is a hierarchy of effectiveness among gear and bait/lure choices.

The teacher from Tacoma you mention should never have bothered to follow bobbers and jigs through the pool IMO. Drinking coffee and watching was a far more productive use of his time. If he wanted to catch a steelhead, he should have found another spot holding steelhead and fished his flies there. I'll also add that particular river is among the least suited to fly fishing, again IMO. The best way to hook steelhead there is to fish a fly under a bobber - like a jig. IMO, of course.

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#1061653 - 03/09/23 09:48 AM Re: anybody still fish? [Re: eswan]
DrifterWA Offline
River Nutrients

Registered: 04/25/00
Posts: 4977
Loc: East of Aberdeen, West of Mont...
03/09/2023

Salmo g......You are correct about that 1st steelhead, as I remember it was the middle of the day, no one else around, bright cloudless day, 1st cast. I remember looking up toward the road, there must have been 8-10 cars parked watching the show.

After I got the fish on the bank, a guy came down and asked very nicely if he could see the fly, and maybe make a sketch of the fly......to this day, I can tell you it was a size 14, Montana Nymph, some yellow and mostly black body. I used those on lakes in Custer State Park, in South Dakota. On those lakes I used a clear plastic float, for weight, 3-4' of leader, just cast from shore, caught and released lots of stocked fish.

I've never seen a Montana Nymph, at any fly shop in Washington State, of course I had a garage sale. long time after that story.....got rid of all my fly fishing gear...grrrrrrrrr Dumb me!!!!!!
_________________________
"Worse day sport fishing, still better than the best day working"

"I thought growing older, would take longer"

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#1061655 - 03/10/23 08:35 AM Re: anybody still fish? [Re: eswan]
RUNnGUN Offline
Repeat Spawner

Registered: 12/06/07
Posts: 1356
Lot of truth here. I dabbled in fly gear for steelhead in the 80's, but mostly fly fished for trout. Also fly fished AK salmon with lots of success, was my confidence boost. Struggled enough locally for takes, that the spinning rod was always in the trunk. One summer I decided to leave the spin rod home. Deep water express had come out and threw the lead core tips away. I would cut it up in varied lengths and interchange tips on a WF floating line with the new braided loops that I made. It casted like crap but got down baby. I was on the Green R. King County, opposite side at Icy Crk. ...used to rope down into the gorge, just around the corner from the main hole. I remember I had a muddler minnow on. I knew nothing about the proper swing, but by accident got the correct drift, and fish on. Great fight 8# summer chrome. Sooo Cool! Lots of fish around then! I continued to dabble, equipment got better, lines became high tech, tungston tips, shooting heads, 2 handed spey rods I couldn't afford at the time, so didn't keep up with the new technology.
Fast forward Sept. 2010. Got an invite to fish the fabled Dean R. BC, Lower Dean R. Lodge for Steelhead. Trip of a lifetime! Played with the new modern gear. So much easier than it used to be. Had multple hook ups daily. Kateri Clay was one of the guides back then. I asked if we could float over the top of the hole I had just fished, with 2 fish landed. She did, and we spooked at least 15-20 steelhead there. I could only get 2 to take? But I was now hooked on the 2 hander, so I bought the same set up when I got home. Sage Z-Axis 7136-4. 13'6" #7, Rio lines and shooting heads, sink tips etc..$$$$$.
With the new confidence again, hit Forks that March. Struggled to find the correct water to fish but did find a beauty 15# in front of Woodwards place on the Bogy. Was really hooked now that I could get fish locally. Fished a couple more springs on the coast and never hooked up. Guess what? the spinning rod came back out! Learned that the stars have to align perfectly, even in perfect conditions, to swing catch steelhead. Still dabble in the fly stuff for Steelhead once and a while, but never giving up the spinning rod, because I like to fight/play fish, especially these days. Good Luck!


Edited by RUNnGUN (03/10/23 08:44 AM)
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