Dose Size Really Matter (When it comes to Flies)? [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Dose Size Really Matter (When it comes to Flies)?

11-23-2003, 05:04 PM
I have been chatting with several people over the last couple of weeks about the size of the new winter Steelhead flies.

In these chatting with Atlantic salmon Dresser they reminded me of the Philip’s Dundee Salmon Irons (as well as other hook makers) many of which were up to 7 inches long.

So large flies for Salmon fishing and Steelhead fishing are not new.

Ed Ward’s Intruder was not the birth (IMHO) but a rekindling of a theme from the past.
I must ad well done to Ed for Ingenuity in the intruder I like this fly and the way it is dressed.

I have seen the Syd Glasso’s dressed Flies on 6/0 and 7/0 N-style partridge hooks.

What could these flies represent?

I would say the last thing that the fish fed on before coming into freshwater.
This theme is repented well by the Intruder and Jack Cook’s Steelhead Prawn and many of Paul Miller Creations.

There is one other theme that is represented with large flies and that is of the Nest Robber theory used by the plug pullers. In other words they will remove the offending fly the only way they can.
By using their mouth.

My $.02 worth

What are your view ?????????????????????????????????


Willie Gunn
11-23-2003, 05:39 PM
My take on large flies.
In days gone by before salmon anglers had modern fast sinking lines the only way to get a fly to fish deep was to have a heavier fly. In order to put more metal in the hook you made it bigger. This is why salmon anglers fish big flies in the spring as it was the way it was always done. I am beginning to think that 3” Willie Gunns are too big and think that maybe fishing a 1” waddington might be more successful.

Of course the size of the fly depends on the speed you are fishing it relative to the current, a small creature cannot swim against a strong current so a small fly must look natural. A bigger fly suggesting a bigger creature would be able to swim in a stronger current.

11-23-2003, 06:45 PM
i think size matters with regard to the size of water being fished, current speed, clarity, temperature and how much the fish have been pounded on by fisherman.i also believe you have to match a flys action to the type of water you are fishing but that is another subject to talk about.

11-23-2003, 06:57 PM
appears to matter a great deal in the Great Lakes region with small being better much of the time. I have not had a chance to try the intruder style in the waters I fish, but will soon. I will go with the standard size/patterns, then follow with the Intruder. Of course, if the latter begins to really produce, I might begin there.

11-23-2003, 08:58 PM
In relation to steelhead flies I think size matters. I like fishing flies on the larger side exept in the gin clear flows and even then at times I will go to a large fly." I want a reaction from the fish, " and with the big flies there is no doubt in my mind there going to see it swimming by. I believe the larger flies draw out the more agressive fish and thats what I am looking for. In very clear low water I may go to a more neutral color like olive but Its still a big fly. I guess my early years of fishing gear taught me that its pretty hard to go to big in the winter, just take a look at some of those plugs guys use on the Sauk and Sky or the pink plastic worms that are 7" long that seem to be so deadly. Excessive mending with big flies does spook fish but thats another story.


11-23-2003, 10:32 PM
Something to think about

1. in winter very few fish are aggressive compared to summer fish

2. of thoes aggressive fish a smaller % of them will act aggressively towards a fly compares to summer fish.

3. aggressive fish willing to take a fly and are selective to size or pattern are even yet a smaller % of the small % we are already talking about.

With this in mind I think size matters only to the point that the fly is visible to the fish. There may be an exception where a fish will respond to one fly but not another but thoes I think are very very rare. I think such exceptions are rare in fact extremely rare.

Everyone has their pet theories abuot flies and why fish take them but one thing is true. None of us really have an accurate clue let alone an understanding of why fish take a fly. I have found that effective fishermen are effective regardless of the fly they fish. I believe it's about presentation and determination.

11-24-2003, 04:23 PM
I agree with Malcolm's observations that the truly large irons were used to get the fly down in high and fast water. This can be readily seen in Kelson's book when he talks about using smaller flies in cold, clear water than in higher, more colored water. Since we have madoern sinking lines, I don't think we need to fish flies larger than a #1/0 or 2/0.

I find that many time people I meet on the river are surprised at the size of the flies I am using. In winter I don't fish spey flies larger than a #1 1/2 Alec jackson and most of the time I am using speys tied on Alec's #3 hooks. In summer, I often fish low-water featherwings tied on #8 hooks where only 1/2 the shank is used for the total size of the fly.

I strongly suspect that fish hit a very large fly out of aggrevation; however, I have seen fish run in terror from very large flies that simply ignored smaller ones.

I prefer to fish the smallest fly that I think is reasonable for the water clarity, water temp, and water flow.

11-24-2003, 06:03 PM
Originally posted by flytyer
I have seen fish run in terror from very large flies that simply ignored smaller ones.

That statement says alot, but at the same time says very little, unless it was the same fish that ignored a small on repeatedly and was then "moved" by the big one :hehe: Of course I have never considered having my fly ignored a success.

I fished an entire summer 3 years ago with skunks tied on a size 4 tmc 200R using most of the shank. Caught 'em in June, caught 'em in August, caught 'em in October.

Big flies don't always mean big fish, but I strongly believe in the adage that if you are going change flies, CHANGE FLIES. If I start the day fishing a fly Flytyer would favor, which is normally my prefered size I have to say, and suddenly feel inspired to change flies, you can bet a Prawn/intruder/mega fly is going on.

It's all fun...

11-24-2003, 06:08 PM
flytyer can you give us a brief overview of size vs temperature & clarity? Is one more important than the other in this selection?

11-24-2003, 10:03 PM

Hands down, water clarity is the most important consideration for me regarding fly size. The dirtier the water, the larger and darker the fly I use. In water that has 3 feet or less of visibility, I have found that either black or dark claret are best.

Water temperature is also important for fly size; but I found it works a bit differently than many think. A sudden change in water temp I have found is when it is time to either go much smaller or much larger (at least 2 hook sizes, 3 or even 4 sizes is better). If the water temp goes up by 3 or 4 degrees in a 48 hour period, I will drop fly size regardless of the time of year. Likewise, a decrease in water temp by 3 or 4 degrees, I will increase the size of my fly regardless the time of year.

A fly and tactic that I have found to be most effective in clear, cold water during the mid-December to end of January period is fishing a smallish spey fly tied on Alec jackson #5 hooks. And the colors I have found most effective are red, red & blue (a favorite of mine), orange (Glasso's Orange Heron is a favorite), or black & purple (my Night Dancer Shrimp is a favorite).

I know this goes against what most people do when the water temp is down there with the clear, cold water of December and January; however, I have caught more fish on these small spey flies in those conditions than on large flies.

Likewise in summer/fall after the rivers drop to low summer flows and before the fall rains raise the rivers, I use wet flies not larger than #6, with a decided preference for low-water featherwing wets tied not larger than 1/2 shank including tail on #6,8, and 10 low-water hooks. Waking flies I fish on #6,8, and 10 hooks. And exception to these low-water wets in summer is Ally's Shrimp tied on #8,10, or 12 hooks.

11-25-2003, 12:02 AM
Lets face it, the only guys who say size doesn't matter - are those guys who don't have a big one :smokin:

I tend to base the size of the fly on the end of my line with light and clarity levels. If it is bright and clear I will downsize somewhat, (as I use tubes length is my only measurement) say 2-3". However, with sunk flies as in spring or winter fishing I am less concerned than I am when summer fishing with a floating line.

I will use outright huge flies. Even before I saw first hand how large some of Ed's Intruders actually were I had used my Voodoo Child and Raging Prawns in lengths up to 7" - with success.

The probable reality of this fly size colour debate is most likely that the only thing that really matters is that the guy who is fishing actually believes in the fly he's using. If I don't believe in it I NEVER seem to catch anything. But if it is one I believe in - I KNOW I am about to catch one!

We've all done the 10 casts and switch routine while searching for the "magic" fly - I wasted so much time at that that I decided to throw out all but the 2 or 3 patterns I really believe in. I have them in a range of sizes - but it makes the choice issue real easy.

These debates are fun and often informative, but my sincere advice is to settle on a few patterns you have confidence and fish the hell out of them.

11-25-2003, 12:50 AM
As has been previously said- the most important point is getting your fly in the zone most likely to illicit a grab.

The rest of the pet theories work because that is what the angler believes will work and they fish with confidence. Many times I have been caught up with the adrenaline of a good fish thinking "Aha, I am on to something" only to have it exploded shortly there after. Changing colors, sizes, etc. to conditions just will not significantly change your odds. If you stick to what you believe, and make consistant changes to what makes sense, then you will have results that are consistent to those changes. If you get in a mood and do it all backwards, chances are you will get the same results as your normal routine.

Put your mind to work and think about every move you make. Don't just autopilot because what worked an hour/day/week ago might not be best for the current set of variables. If you always do the same set of moves you might, or might not, be taking the best approach. The only way to find out is to experiment and constantly push your personal envelope. If it was always about catching fish, bait is a hell of a lot more effective.

I look back at one of 'those' days winter steelheading. The fish were in this run thick as thieves and on the grab. Between the four of us we caught the hell out of them using different flies and tips of various sink rates/lengths. The one thought that constantly comes back to me? Why did I not try a waked dry over them? Or why did I not go after them with a traditional 'greased line' presentation? These fish were holding in less than three feet of water that was perfect with a touch of green. Probably would not have worked, but the world will never know. If I am ever lucky enough to encounter such a situation again, my first two passes will not be to get the fly too deep.

I have three words: presentation, presentation, presentation.


Willie Gunn
11-25-2003, 05:44 AM
I was reading "The finer points of Fly Fishing for Salmon by Neil Graesser" last night and came across an intresting picture which illustrates my point about making heavy flies. This is a 9/o Garry dog.

Willie Gunn
11-25-2003, 05:50 AM
I then tried to duplicate the photograph using a modern waddington . I hope you appreciate I am no Striblue I tie to fish with not to admire, so keep your eyes on the size and not the dressing. Also note trebles are still the weapon of choice in Scotland, barbless.

11-25-2003, 02:45 PM


Absolutely regarding using a few patterns that you have faith in that are carried in several sizes. The two big reason I do not use the really huge flies is 1) I don't like casting them; and 2) I have seen them scare fish.

Then there is the question of thoe using the really huge flies as compensation for not having a really big one:devil:

11-25-2003, 03:09 PM

Au contraire mon amie, methinks he who complaineth the most has the issue. :smokin:

The difficulty of casting large patterns can be alleviated with a little practice :devil: - just joking :D .

I do agree that really large patterns can be a pain to cast, that is one the the brilliant things about Ed's choice of materials for the Intruder, they provide the appearance of bulk - without the water-absorbing tendencies of marabou and rabbit. That said, I tend to use the Intruders for close in work and with a powerful front taper line to turn them over. When I'm trying to cover distant lies with long belly lines I tend to go to my more stream-lined GP type flies - though still quite long.

As for big onesfrightening fish - I've seen small ones be ignored (by babes and fish!). As well, if I had to take someone's example as to what a good choice for a fly pattern might be - I will gladly follow Ed's lead.

11-25-2003, 06:02 PM
In my experience the size of the fly that one is using is at least as important as color. In general, the rule to go by is the clearer the water, the smaller the fly. But size is also a subject of relativity. For instance, for Deschutes river steelhead I would consider a fly that is 1 1/2" long to be very large. However, such a fly on the Skagit would fall into the category of average, maybe even a bit towards small. All sizes of flies have times. places, and conditions where they will outperform others. If one's goal is to catch as many steelhead as possible then they should be carrying many different sizes of flies to best cover a variety of situations.
But,I learned a long time ago that for me flyfishing steelhead was not about catching as many as I could. If that were the case then I would have just kept on fishing with gear. A large part of the thrill that I derive from steelheading comes from the take of the fly, and believe me, there are some incredibly savage takes on large flies that cannot be equaled by any other method of fishing with a rod and reel, unless one is backtrolling plugs for steelhead while holding the rod in hand the entire time. Much as some folks rate the raising of a steelhead to the surface fly as the highest form of flyfishing, I consider the elicitation of an unmistakeably predatorial, violent, crushing take on a wet fly as the ultimate form of steelheading.

Oooops! Almost forgot. Why do steelhead take big flies. No one knows for sure, but my best guess, in the context of fresh steelhead (in the river less than 2-3 weeks), is as a representation of oceanic food items such as shrimp and squid. Judging by some of the takes that I have had on large flies, they are definitely NOT trying to just move the fly out of the way, they are trying to annihilate it. This, I think, falls in line with what a fish would have to do to a fast moving creature such as a shrimp or squid in order to be able to eat it - crush and cripple first, then ingest. Another notable fact - generally the larger the race of fish, the larger fly that they will take. This seems to relate, perhaps coincidentally, to the fact that as a predator gets larger, the larger the size of prey that it will consume. Look at the relationship of fly sizes compared to the particular races of steelhead for which they are used, in general. Deschutes = small fish, small flies. Snake = small fish, small flies. Skagit = big fish, big flies. Kispiox = big fish, big flies. Keep in mind here that I am speaking of these things in a GENERAL CONTEXT.
Are big flies more difficult to cast? You betcha. Are they worth the trouble? Naaaah!

11-25-2003, 10:26 PM
On numerous occassions I have had steelhead in the Washougal ignore small wetflies but chase down and inhale a 5/0 gp in very low clear conditions in the fall. Most of the time a fly that isn't interesting to a fish will just be ignored. Rare is the occasion will a fish spook because the fly is so big Very rare. It would be my opinion that if someone say a fish spook because of a fly the old rule of. "If you can see a fish the fish can see you", applied. Though the fish may not have spooked from seeing you it put him on edge then when the large fly came through he felt threatened enough to move. OR the fly hit the water hard near the fish and it spooked. In any case if the fish previously ignored a smaller offering then spooking the fish with a big fly is no big deal.

lets face it.. fish are not that smart. I think Kush nailed it with his first post. but thats just my opinion.

Topher Browne
11-25-2003, 11:04 PM
If the length of Riveraddict's post is any gauge, the Skagit is still blown.....

Here's a little bit of devil's advocate for all concerned:

If one presumes that the fly, when fished on a swing, imitates a living creature, then fly size should NOT matter as long as the size of fly that one selects is fished at a speed that is appropriate for a living organism of similar size. This statement presupposes that a salmon or steelhead can see your fly in the first place.

How does one account for different steelhead or salmon caught from the same run on the same day with a wide variety of fly sizes? Some anglers prefer large flies; others prefer smaller flies. Yet they both catch fish in the same run, same day.

The answer must be: each successful angler is fishing the size of fly that he/she selects at a speed that is appropriate for a living organism of similar size taking into account any fluctuations in current speed and water temperature. In other words, presentation.

So I conclude: fish whatever size fly you like, but fish it at the "right" speed given the force of the current and the temperature of the water.

Perhaps, the question really should be, "What is the right speed?"

11-25-2003, 11:44 PM

I think you are right - the fact that this thread still has any life is a sure sign that there is not much fishing to be had. I haven't fished since the 3rd week of October, when the Thompson stuff started. Now I have been very busy with the politics of fishing but I am Jones-ing so badly that I am REALLY looking forward to the casting clave at Carnation this Saturday.

This is a very sad state of affairs indeed... :whoa:

Willie Gunn
11-26-2003, 03:29 AM
Topher Browne
Are you a Francis T Grant fan your answer could have come direct from Salmon Fishing The Dynamics Approach.

A thinking man's author

Topher Browne
11-26-2003, 11:43 AM

I am a fan of Philip Green; I think he had the game pretty well figured out.



11-26-2003, 02:21 PM

Yes, the Skagit has been blown since mid-October and it is giving those of us who call it our home river a serious case of cabin fever. Also, I think you are right on: it is the motion and color based on water clarity that counts, not the size of the lure.

11-26-2003, 07:06 PM
OC and I were over on the Snake a couple weeks ago. Ed said above and I would normally agree, small fly river. OC, as has been documented elsewhere here, put on a clinic using his usual assortment of size 4 and 6 patterns. After not being able to buy a fish for a few hours, for the hell of it I tied on one of the blind eyed 1 1/2 AJ speys I have been playing around with of late. Voila` I started hitting fish. Every fish I hit that weekend came to these relatively bigger patterns.

Does size matter? Probably but I think a lot less than we think. But hey, I feel the same about color so what do I know.

11-26-2003, 07:20 PM
One of the flies mentioned above.

11-26-2003, 07:54 PM
I think you're on the right track with the "speed" comment
Two incident's that I can recall that relate to size ( and one 2nd to speed also, happened to me on the Madeleine River in Gaspe ).The Madeleine is as gin-clear as the Grande riviere,Bonaventure or Petite Cascapedia
As it happens both were in LOW water conditions.In the 1st a 7lber charged from 70+ ft. downstream below the #10 fly to hit it !!!!!
In the 2nd incidence ,we had found a pool with about 50 odd salmon just laying in a still "swimming pool" Tried everything to interest them and finally got a 30lb class fish interested (or so I thought) in a # 12 Green Cosseboom tyed on a 4 lb leader !! I had cast near this fish and it rocketted towards the fly barely missing it !!!It was onlywhen this fish returned to its spot and I cast again to it did I realise that the tiny fly had actually spooked the fish and it was turning away,not towards ,the fly !! My fishing partner eventually tried a # 2 streamer and stripped it at high speed through the pool . A Salmon of about10 lbs nailed the fly on the first pass through !! So I guess there's only one concrete theory on Salmon ( and Steelhead ) fishing.

11-27-2003, 12:31 PM
As this discussions there are not any absolutes when it comes to steelhead and what they will or will not take. That said it has been my experiecnce that effectiveness of large flies verus smaller flies is success with larger flies is in part dependent on the river and fish conditions being fished in and for.

As a rule (there are lots of exceptions) in off-color water large has been better than small. It has become my belief that vibrations produced by the larger/bulky offerings can be a triggering factor, especially in high and dirty water.

In low clear conditions small has been the most consistent for me.

New fish, un-pressured and/or traveling fish seem to respond as well or better to large flies as smaller flies.

On stale fish, especially on those heavily fished, a change-up often is what will produce a take. In this case a large or even guady offer may be exactly what the doctor orders.

For sub-surface fishing a larger offering has become the first choice for me in most situations. For me large means something at least 3 to 4 inches in length. While casting larger flies can be an issue I have found that with careful thought and choices in fly design and use of materials some surprisingly large flies can be fished fairly comfortably. I'm an exclusive single handed rod guy that fishes mainly the Skagit/Sauk and fish with 7 weights or less rods. Obivously for me large flies must be un-weight and constructed with materials that don't absorb or hold water. That means I use my lines and careful presentation to achieve the desired depths and rely on mostly synthetic or carefully select natural materials for my tying.

One of the interesting aspects of the attempting to take steelhead on a fly, especially winters is there are room for a wide variety of approaches and completely opposite approaches (bright/dark, large/small, etc) can be equally successful. The only method/approach that consistently doesn't produce fish is to stay home!

Tight lines

11-30-2003, 01:14 PM
Without a doubt, I agree that presentation is the most important aspect in flyfishing for steelhead, and fly speed is one component of presentation, and that larger flies can be swung effectively for steelhead at a faster speed than small flies. However, assuming that the correct presentation is being used for whatever size of fly is being used, my experience has shown me that fly size does matter. Yes, there are circumstances where it does not seem to make a difference, but when one steps back and looks at the overall big picture for a given condition, then a definite trend can usually be established. For example, the average fly size that I would use for fresh-run winter steelhead in February and March under the most commonly encountered water conditions is larger than the average size fly that I would use for summer steelhead in the same river in September during the conditions that usually occur at that time of year. The average size fly that I use for Kispiox steelhead in October is not the same size as would be used for Deschutes, Clearwater, or Snake river steelhead during the same time frame. The fly sizes that I select for clear water conditions are most often not the same sizes that I would use for murky waters. In steelheading, I think that one can definitely establish that certain sizes of flies work better for specific seasonal conditions and specific races of fish when considered in the overall context of the situation. Of course exceptions occur, but keep in mind the definition of "exception". I have way too many personal experiences that validate the importance of fly size in steelheading. Try fishing a 3 1/2" Intruder for three days on the Deschutes in October while your buddies are fishing size 4 Freight Trains, Coal Cars, and Purple Perils. During that time I didn't get so much as a sniff on my fly, while my compadres scored 4-6 fish apiece each day. On the last day of fishing I switched to standard sized Deschutes patterns and voila! caught steelhead. On an interesting note, is it coincidental that inland summer runs that come from streams that are rich in aquatic insects, usually an implication of prolific amounts of small sized insect life, are the races of fish that seem to prefer small flies? The Deschutes is the prime example. Compare it with the Grande Ronde, more of a freestone river with less aquatic insect life, and a river where larger flies (large-grasshopper and stonefly sized) can be equally effective as the tiny stuff. Of course this theory does not explain the Clearwater, a large freestone river where the steelhead also seem to prefer rather small flies.
Another thing to think about as far as each of us relating our personal experiences about fly size. Size is relative - to each condition , fishery...and individual person. One person's large fly may only be a medium to another angler. Also, fly size is not just a function of length. A 5" string leech is definitely quite long, however it has a very skinny profile. A 5" Intruder would displace 3-4 times the volume of a similar length string leech. I state this just to let everyone know where I am "coming from" when reading my opinions about fly size. When someone tells me that they are using a "big" fly and they show me a 1/0, in my mind an instant mental clip of the movie Crocodile Dundee appears, that scene where a would-be mugger pulls a out jack- knife and Paul Hogan says, "You call that a knife? Why that ain't a knife", sssccchhiiiiiinnnnggg! pulls out his Huge pigsticker knife and says "Now THIS is a KNIFE!" Like I said, it's all relative.

12-01-2003, 01:27 AM

I agree that all things are relative.

A couple of questions come up from your post.

1: If you are always fishing flies that seem to make the most sense out of the conditions, how do you know for sure that the other, smaller, flies do not work as well as the bigguns? With your knowledge of the resource I would wager that your number of steelhead hookups, throughout the winter season, would be remarkably similar if using a 2 inch fly compared to one three times the size. I would also wager that if you fished the same size and color fly for the season, the numbers would still remain even, or nearly so.

2: With the Intruder example given on the D, did you present the more traditional size fly exactly as you had been fishing the Intruder? Just curious.

In the whole scheme of this game I do believe that fly size sometimes seems to make a difference. I have my pet beliefs and set of hunches that I follow to address the conditions. But I also know that there is more than one way to catch these fish...

What I believe matters most is that good anglers know where taking fish hold under certain conditions and how to best present a conducive swing, at the correct depth, to that lie. The rest of it falls under 'black magic' as it seems we all have our formulas of what works and when. :)

Tight lines,


12-01-2003, 10:19 AM
I use flies that are sutible to cast with the rod I am using. In the years past I have tried very large flies but they are a bear to cast. Mostly now I use size 4 or 6. I catch enough fish on them to keep me happy.

Additionaly, I think the large hooks can do severe damage to the fish. If I were fishing only over hatchery fish I wouldnt be concerned, but most of my fishing is over a mix of wild and hatchery fish. I dont want to put their eys out with a large gap hook or take the chance of killing them.

12-01-2003, 11:36 AM
Skilly - using tube flies or a Waddington shank, it is possible to use large flies with smaller hooks. These often hold fish better too, while doing less damage. Also, These can be bulky without being so difficult to cast, as you do not have the heavy hook. The "appearance" of bulk with materials that do not absorb a lot of water.

The "intruder" style fly is a good example of this idea.

Topher Browne
12-01-2003, 02:25 PM

To continue the movie motif (and speaking purely about myself):

As his cellmate in "Trading Places" says to Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy), "It ain't cool to be no jive turkey so close to Thanksgiving." And so I renounce my earlier devil's advocacy in order to come clean.

I, too, believe fly size is important. Alec Jackson, with whom I have had the pleasure of discussing such concepts (and Philip Green, with whom I have not) refers to the question of fly size as a search for the "reasonable fly." By "reasonable," I take Alec to mean a generally accepted RANGE of fly sizes for a given river system, strain of fish, and time of year.

The size of the fly must work in concert with the speed of the fly in order to present the illusion of a living thing going about its business. That speed is determined, or greatly governed, by the size of fly one ties on in the first place. This relationship has a bit more of a 'chicken and the egg' sort of thing going on than one might prefer when gift-boxing one's pet theories.

In medium to low water on Atlantic salmon rivers, we generally know right where the fish are. Fish location ain't the problem; getting the little fellers to bite can be. We often run a tremendous variety of fly sizes over the the fish: I'm talkin' 5-inch rigs down to sz. #14 doubles, and everything in between. We're looking for a combination of the right fish, the right size of fly, the right speed of fly, and, yes (to introduce a greater obfuscation into our little discussion), the right fly pattern. As a 'presentationist,' I believe "the right fish" is by far the most important part of that multi-faceted equation.

I've fished the Skagit and Sauk both Spring and Fall in the company of Messieurs Rossano, Stroebel, Kinney, Mahoney, and Farrar. The steelhead were far more scattered than I am used to on your typical Maritime Atlantic salmon river. Taking into account my REAL limited time on these two rivers, actually finding steelhead was definitely the toughest part of the deal. I figured if I found a taking fish, any reasonable fly fished at a reasonable speed would probably get him. Please correct me if I don't have it quite right.

I look forward to conducting additional research in your neck of the woods.

Best regards,


12-01-2003, 05:18 PM

Thanks, I will have to try some of the tube flies.


12-01-2003, 10:41 PM

I think you pretty much got it regarding steelhead. Any reasonable fly fished at a reasonable speed and depth (depending on time of year) will probably induce a take.

12-02-2003, 03:54 PM
Your thoughts regarding "generally accepted RANGE of fly sizes" pointed out a circumstance that may alter the thrust of what I have been trying to establish in my posts, that circumstance being how clearly/unclearly one manages to explain a point. I have not been trying to say that a difference in fly size as specific as, say between a #2 and a #4 is going to critically affect whether or not a steelhead decides to take it or not. The context of my posts on this thread have been aimed in a more general aspect. Quite frankly, I should have been saying "range of fly sizes". Deschutes fish are a small fly fish in that they are usually caught on flies ranging from size 6-2, as opposed to Skagit winter fish which are most often caught on size 2-2/0, etc., etc. Hopefully my posts will now be better understood, and no one will envision me running around fretting about having to have the absolute exact size of fly for a given fishing situation.
Your thoughts on fishing the Skagit/Sauk are totally dead on. That's what I love about the steelheading here, the act of "searching". I too am a "presentationist" and base my fishing on finding the "right fish".

I don't always fish flies that make the most sense of the conditions. I fish flies that I think are going to give me the best chance of producing the results that I happen to be seeking on that particular day. Some days I may wish just to catch a fish, most days however, I am looking to elicit the most aggressive take, even at the risk of reducing my chances for hooking any fish at all. If I were to use a smaller fly I would in all likelihood catch MORE steelhead, but the grabs would not be the same. I have been flyfishing for steelhead long enough to be well past the stage of having to catch as many fish as possible.
Fish the same fly for a season and catch the same numbers of fish? Let me put it to you this way. If two anglers of equal skills fished together for an entire year, one always using the same size/color of fly, while the other was allowed to match flies to the varying conditions - would they catch the same amount of fish? I think not! I couldn't buy that theory no matter how well it was dressed up.
During my Deschutes example, I fished that fly every which way except backwards and upside-down!

Topher Browne
12-02-2003, 04:56 PM

I ain't a low water kinda' guy, and I never figured you for the type to fret about fly size. I like water up in the trees, the more the merrier; don't like to know where they are, increases the anticipation: "When is IT going to happen?"

It's blowing hard now and the season's done. I'm one big cold snap away from loading up the truck, and pointing it over the Divide.

12-02-2003, 11:11 PM
Exactly! The anticipation is the spice of the game. Hopefully I will someday make it "back East" for some Salmo fishing. I am presuming that the early part of the season is best for "search" type fishing?
To add even more dimension to the fly size debate, any experience/opinions on fly profile? Example, will a fly with a bulky profile display any advantageous aspects for certain fishing conditions as opposed to a fly with a slim silhouette, or vice versa? I should think that the Atlantic Salmon community should have far more insight into this subject than us steelheaders because of the fact that a good portion of salmon fishing is over known fish lies and therefore more study can be concentrated on what responses particular aspects of a fly may/may not produce from a fish.

12-03-2003, 02:03 AM

Going down the same road, and taking different paths, I am all too fond of catching summer fish with small flies. The smaller and sparser the better. I live for the subtle rise of a good steelie to a size 8 low water dress just under the surface. It never ceases to amaze me how soft some of these fish take, and the eternity held in your gut waiting to know if they are hooked.

As for winter steelhead, a few years ago something started to draw me to fishing the floating line for the deep wet fly swing. Tinkered with it a bit but eventually gave in to fishing the known tactics. Through a stroke of pure luck we, myself and a grand fishing buddy, happened to run into one of the finest examples of angler and gentleman alike. A friend of yours, and now mine, he took me under his wing and coached. What was once viewed with pessimistic uncertainty is now confidently seen as opportunity. It opened my eyes to a new world of careful water editing, line control, and fly designs. I love the thought that goes into these flies, always tinkering the balance to get maximum profile with minimum bulk. Certainly not the easiest, or most effective, way to hook these fish.

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer questions and debate my ramblings!!!


Topher Browne
12-03-2003, 10:29 AM

The early season (first three weeks of June) in Quebec is certainly the best time of the year for "search" type fishing. Dec Hogan found the three rivers he fished very similar in tactics, if not in scale, to the Skagit in April. I would agree, having fished both locales.

We do fish some larger "profile" type patterns in the early season: big Magog Smelts (4") and Tiger Ghosts; certainly not necessary, however. Flies of average proportions tied on #4 doubles account for the lion's share of my fish. The water is clear and the fish have no problem seeing the fly. Large profile flies are also very useful in late September in Quebec and in October in Nova Scotia: the fish are becoming very territorial once again.

Generally, I prefer slimmer flies for salmon. Once the water is in the 50+ degree F. range, it is difficult to fish the fly TOO QUICKLY. This is a radical departure from Winter steelheading, where it may be difficult to fish the fly too slowly. Salmon, in general, seem to prefer a faster fly than steelhead (unless you're talking 42 degree F. water). I don't want to piss off the Dean River, Deschutes, and N. Umpqua floating line crowd with this statement, but I have heard the same from many experienced, bi-coastal anglers. Slim flies seem to work well with a fast swing.

As a hardcore steelhead fly swinger, you may find the 'beat' system in Quebec--where you are limited to certain sectors on the river--a little frustrating. You might prefer to take your best steelhead guiding clients for an all expenses paid trip to the Kola Peninsula in Russia....all expenses paid for you, that is. Slap a "research" label on that or a "furthering of steelhead/salmon relations," and who knows, you might even qualify for a tax write-off!

12-03-2003, 10:50 AM
are different. I am wondering if Atlantics and Pacific salmon do not have their differences as well, to further complicate the equation.