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#921169 - 02/01/15 11:28 AM Help a N00b learn to catch steelhead on the fly
ieatfish Offline
Juvenile at Sea

Registered: 06/01/11
Posts: 114
Loc: Seattle,WA
I'm a long-time follower of the PP boards and personal friend of PP board member "Equinox", but am brand new to the Seattle area and relatively new to fly fishing & spey casting.

I grew up in the midwest, fishing for walleye, "panfish" , pike and muskie. Spending the first four years in the professional world in the fishing industry and living in the southeast US, I've had a lot of experience fishing across the country, and have come to realize that there's nothing I like more than catching steelhead.

I'm hoping that one of you guys/gals on this board would be so kind as to help me learn the basics.

Ideally, I would love to meet up in person with another angler, or a group of anglers in the Seattle area to fish, but I'll appreciate any pointers you folks may have for a total beginner.

Thanks in advance for any advice.

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#921368 - 02/02/15 12:19 PM Re: Help a N00b learn to catch steelhead on the fly [Re: ieatfish]
Salmo g. Offline
River Nutrients

Registered: 03/08/99
Posts: 12916
A name like "ieatfish" is about as totally inconsistent with the notion of fly fishing for steelhead in WA as can possibly be. I've read quite a few times on this very forum that fly fishers don't catch any steelhead. Have you discussed this desire to fly fish for steelhead in WA waters with your therapist? There might be a cure, but I don't know what it is.

If you're experienced in steelhead fishing and have actually caught some, that is a great head start and immediately places you in the top 10% of newb steelhead fly fishers. The reason is that steelhead in WA have never been less abundant than they are these days, so most of the hours and days spent fishing for them is spent fishing water that isn't holding any steelhead at the moment. Therefore the probability of positive reinforcement, even for fishing well, is a longshot. If you already know how to fish for steelhead, it helps you avoid fishing so much water devoid of steelhead.

The next step is to edit water that is suitable to a fly fishing presentation, which is less than can be drift fished or bobber-dogged.

If you're new to both fly fishing and Spey casting, I can only add that learning to cast while you're simultaneously trying to fish is something I would catagorize along with "a horrible way to die." It's a whole lot better if you already know how to cast, since casting half-assed decently is a prerequisite to fishing effectively. Please don't take this personally, but I wouldn't waste a day fishing with someone who wants to fish for steelhead but who cannot even cast worth a hoot. And I'm known as a pretty tolerant guy. So learn to cast. Fly shops can set you up with instruction, as can most of the fly clubs in the region.

Single hand casting is easier to learn than 2-handed rod casting. Spey rods are sexy and all, and they do have some advantages, but I've caught way more steelhead on an old 8 1/2' 8 wt. fiberglass rod than all my Spey rods combined. A basic workhorse outfit is a 9 or 9 1/2' 8 wt rod, any reel that will hold a line and some backing, a WF8F line. Cut the forward 15' off the line and loop the cut ends. If you have no idea what this means, the internet is your friend, as are some fly shops, but they would more likely prefer to sell you one of their combo lines. With this line you need two 15' sink tips, a type III and type VI, plus the original floating tip you cut off. You now have the fly lines that are applicable to 90% of all steelhead holding fly water. Buy a spool of Maxima 10# leader. Use 4' with sink tips; get a regular 9 or 10' tapered leader for floating line work in the summer and fall.

Tie or buy some flies in sizes 6, 4, and 2. They will work in 99% of all steelhead fly fishing situations. Sharpen the hooks.

You need waders with felt or studded felt soles.

This has been the easy part.

Now the hard part. Find water that actually has steelhead in it at the time you are actually there fishing. This is the number 1 reason for not catching steelhead. The second is presentation. It ain't complicated, but unless done right, it's possible to not hook fish even when they are there. This is such a long odds game that you'll want to check out this presentation gimic. I cannot overstress the importance of making at least half-assed decent presentations. There are books on this sh!t that are almost good. IMO the best alternative is to have someone who has caught a few steelhead on flies show this simple thing to you.

Sg

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#922197 - 02/08/15 12:42 PM Re: Help a N00b learn to catch steelhead on the fly [Re: ieatfish]
FleaFlickr02 Offline
River Nutrients

Registered: 10/28/09
Posts: 3004
Sg's advice is gold; even the stuff that seems to be trying to convince you to give up.

When I started my journey into steelhead fly fishing, I spent a lot of hours fishing the wrong water (or the right water on the wrong day). After a year, I was convinced these fish were ghosts that only showed themselves on the luckiest of days.. Everyone seems to go through a similar phase early on, in which they give steelhead far too much credit for intelligence and wariness they really don't possess in larger quantities than a common rainbow trout. Indeed, I've learned that finding a fish or two is the single most important factor in success. All the other factors (casting, presentation, etc.), while certainly important, are a comparatively small part of the challenge.

Have fun out there. If (when?) You get frustrated, hire a good guide. This won't giarantee you any caught steelhead, but it will teach you a lot about the water you should be seeking and what techniques help you get your fly where it needs to be and fishing effectively. If you have a great day, you'll have learned where fish hold in that particular river... at least during that time of year and at those flows. Change the timing and conditions, even slightly, and the places you were hooking numbers that day won't hold anything. That the variables are so many and so inconsistent, coupled with fewer fish present than ever before, is what makes all steelhead fishing in the modern era challenging. As Sg told us, swinging flies limits the holding water you can fish more than most other methods, and that's probably the thing that makes fly fishing for them especially challenging.

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#926176 - 03/29/15 02:51 PM Re: Help a N00b learn to catch steelhead on the fly [Re: Salmo g.]
Swing r Die Offline
Smolt

Registered: 09/24/14
Posts: 77
SG,

That was a marvelous piece of advise. The first paragraph had me dying.... Esp the bit about the therapist.


I enjoy your posts.

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#926332 - 03/31/15 08:03 AM Re: Help a N00b learn to catch steelhead on the fly [Re: ieatfish]
Preston Singletary Offline
Returning Adult

Registered: 03/29/99
Posts: 387
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Careful reading of Salmo's post should certainly pay dividends. Take note particularly of the comment that "steelhead in Washington have never been less abundant than they are these days". In a recent thread on another site, someone was complaining about having fished the previous nine weekends without catching a steelhead, and asking "What am I doing wrong?" Obviously, what he was doing wrong was not having fished for steelhead twenty or thirty years ago. Not only are there fewer steelhead than at any time in my personal experience but there are many, many more anglers chasing the scraps.

I hate to be a wet blanket, and would not discourage anyone sufficiently dedicated to the pursuit, but If I were just coming to fly fishing for steelhead, I'd have to take a long and skeptical look at it.
_________________________
PS

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#932480 - 06/18/15 07:18 PM Re: Help a N00b learn to catch steelhead on the fly [Re: ieatfish]
ieatfish Offline
Juvenile at Sea

Registered: 06/01/11
Posts: 114
Loc: Seattle,WA

Got one!

Thanks for the advice, everyone. I've got the bug real bad now. I'm going back out the next two weekends to try for a repeat.


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#932482 - 06/18/15 07:41 PM Re: Help a N00b learn to catch steelhead on the fly [Re: ieatfish]
dwatkins Offline
River Nutrients

Registered: 08/15/14
Posts: 2701
Way to go! that is one beautiful fish.

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#932500 - 06/19/15 07:41 AM Re: Help a N00b learn to catch steelhead on the fly [Re: ieatfish]
FleaFlickr02 Offline
River Nutrients

Registered: 10/28/09
Posts: 3004
Really nice! What a way to start!

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#932615 - 06/21/15 10:10 AM Re: Help a N00b learn to catch steelhead on the fly [Re: ieatfish]
Salmo g. Offline
River Nutrients

Registered: 03/08/99
Posts: 12916
But did you eat it?

Rhetorical question in that the fish pictured possesses an adipose fin and therefore cannot be removed from the water.

Nice.

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#932630 - 06/21/15 04:51 PM Re: Help a N00b learn to catch steelhead on the fly [Re: ieatfish]
dwatkins Offline
River Nutrients

Registered: 08/15/14
Posts: 2701
fish is still partly in the water. Salmo is salty af about a nice fish caught.

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#932633 - 06/21/15 09:19 PM Re: Help a N00b learn to catch steelhead on the fly [Re: ieatfish]
SRoffe Offline
Spawner

Registered: 03/02/08
Posts: 800
Nice thumbs
_________________________
Sam





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#932647 - 06/22/15 09:58 AM Re: Help a N00b learn to catch steelhead on the fly [Re: ieatfish]
Salmo g. Offline
River Nutrients

Registered: 03/08/99
Posts: 12916
Dwatkins,

Salmo is razzing our Noob just a bit because his handle is "Ieatfish."

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#932652 - 06/22/15 11:20 AM Re: Help a N00b learn to catch steelhead on the fly [Re: ieatfish]
dwatkins Offline
River Nutrients

Registered: 08/15/14
Posts: 2701
my bad salmo, carry on.

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#938248 - 09/07/15 09:06 PM Re: Help a N00b learn to catch steelhead on the fly [Re: dwatkins]
ieatfish Offline
Juvenile at Sea

Registered: 06/01/11
Posts: 114
Loc: Seattle,WA
Found some good looking water this weekend (finally), and got this little guy. First one one the swing.


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