Scratching the surface... [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Scratching the surface...

04-26-2004, 11:05 PM
This is part two of the sinktip post. When do you all switch to a floater? Is it governed primarily by the calendar, the water temp. or ???

I usually will make the switch within a day or two of the Fourth of July. Usually by then the water temps are in the low 50s. I used to follw the Haig-Brown 55 degree guidance but now feel that once it crosses 50 you are good to go. Once I switch, I likely will not go back to a tip until November or later unless the river is way up and near out.

As my name says, I do enjoy swinging a tip and a sunk fly but after a long winter and spring of throwing the big rods, it is sure nice to toss the seven weight around for a few months with a floater and long leader.

04-26-2004, 11:14 PM
When I feel like it, weather, water level, pace, etc. A couple of years ago when the rains were late and the rivers low I took a screamer on the EFL swinging a dry line in December on a low water pattern.


04-26-2004, 11:15 PM
I usually go the third week of June and do not pay attention to water temps all that much.

For me I feel it depends more on water clarity. All during the summer I will switch to poly leaders if the water is less than 4' of vis.

I also try to figure out what Leland is using since he seems to catch all the available fish in the snoqualmie ever summer.

Just over a month away...


Big K1
04-26-2004, 11:29 PM
I usually switch in July. It all depends on snowmelt for me.
At the rate the weather an rain is going it may be June 1st.
I never have checked temp.


04-26-2004, 11:29 PM

Does that not imply you would have to switch to begin with???

In all honesty I have been messing around with the floater for year round fishing over the past 3 years. After some superb coaching the past couple of springs it's a done deal. No more tips for steelhead under any conditions.

When to start concentrating on fishing near surface to dry? Anytime for summer fish. The village idiot exists.


04-27-2004, 09:40 AM

My apologies for the assumption that anyone needs to switch at any time. I know there are those that fish the floater all season. And also those poor misguided souls that fish a tip all year long.

You are not dead drifting are you for winter fish? (Not that there is anything wrong with it. :hehe: ) If not, could you share your thoughts on keeping a swung sunk fly sunk. Not wanting you to give up techniques just your thoughts on the appeal of it.

I do admire the no tips at all approach but I must admit that I like fishing a tip and all that goes with it. I also really enjoy a floater and its joys but there will always be some attraction to the feel of swimming a tip through a run. It just seems like winter steelheading to me.

04-27-2004, 11:25 AM
this is a loaded question for me,,,like ,what about the angle of the sun,,,midday,the summers are low,time to add weight,,,no ONE level is going to suffice for all areas all the time,,this is the reason the `upper Rogue' fishers use a weighted pattern on the leader;the water is colder coming out of the dam,it'll be 42 degrees ,while the mid. will be 60 plus!;metabolism,,versus light conditions,many other factors,,all secret of course:chuckle:

04-27-2004, 12:30 PM
God, Sinktip you know how I hate these types of threads.

But I will have to say that the beauty of the sink tip is it fits perfectly with the bleakness of winter steelhead fishing. One must have a strong soul and a sound body to be a winter fisherman. Rain, snow, cold winds, ever present gray skies and knowing that sucsess is not in the few fish taken each year. If you think about it long enough the concept of fishing such a device as a sink tip fits right in in a confortable way with a day on the winter river.

Under certain melodies it is the proper dance step to take. But winter fishers are slowly finding out just because it has been said many times by more famous fishers of the past that the sink tip is a must between November and May that this is not always true.

Winter water temps may not be the factor that we all have come to believe. 38 degrees could mean nothing in the future and visability could be a more deciding factor in one deciding to fish low or floating. And even vis may not be that big of a factor if we have the courage to observe long enough throughout the winter months what is going on the river that one fishes. Is the floating line not utilized enough in Winter? Also is it a falicy that Sound fish do not come to the surface as freely as fish in other worlds? I'm not going to say on any of the above but it will always be the same if we keep believing that we must fish as others have said. I do not mean that the tradition should be broken I am not talking about the evil dead drift on a floating line. But if anyone thinks that R H Brown would roll over in his grave if we swung a floating line in winter I think you would be wrong. And just for the record I would be very happy camper if all of you keep chucking sink tips all winter long especially Sinktip.:smokin:

beau purvis
04-27-2004, 12:41 PM
"bleakness of winter" personaly,I prefer winter when the goldeneyes and sawbills are serching for chum fry.there are more eagles around looking for scraps of the chum fry parents.There are Elk in the field near concrete.there are more misty, low pressure, mojo days with fewer fishermen. the ones that are out and about seem more real and hardy and committed to the sport.Give me a feb-march day anytime!Beau

04-27-2004, 12:45 PM
mostly on the water conditions for me. I actually don't worry much about water temps when using tips/floater. My main concern is water depth vs clarity. I mostly use a tip most of the fall/winter. But have had conditions (in recent years) that warranted a dryline and a slow sinking fly because waters were so low and clear. Even fished some on the surface with success in recent years.

I'm wondering how much Inland fishes the OlyPen? LOL. You must cast WAY upstream with ALOT of mends and a heavily weighted fly (or tied on an oversized hook). I've tried the McMillan method a bit. But not the success as a sinktip on those heavy glacial streams. I know I have a hard enough time getting the fly down on some rivers (Hoh and Duc come to mind) with heavy sinktips. I don't like weighting my flies. As mentioned, I have started trying the McMillan method undertying a larger fly hook to help add to the sinkrate on a floater. Has worked great for summerrun fishing. But didn't work well for winters (didn't get a chance to try it this winter).

Sinktip, if Inland is using McMillan's method, you should see if you can find his book. Think it's steelhead and the dryline (or something like that). Is some very interesting reading. I have a copy, but damned hard to find. I'd loan mine out, but afraid I wouldn't get it back, and looked long and hard to find it. It's not the Jock Scott forward book either.

04-27-2004, 01:33 PM

For me, it depends on water flow and clarity whether I use a floater or a sink tip for summer runs. Some years it is the first of June, other years it is mid-July. And it is subject to change if we get a rain heavy enough to color up the river.

Fishing dry or greased line with low-water flies is different still. Water temp is the key for using dries/skaters or low-water wets fished greased line. I've not done well with either of these until the water temp is in the mid-50's. Once the water temp reaches 55-56 degrees, I fish nearly exclusively with skaters or low-water wets greased line style, provided the water is clear.

I use water clarity and flow and water temp for the decision to fish floating or sink tip and for fishing skaters/low-water greased line on all rivers I have fished. The floating line, used as mentioned above, has worked as well for me on our Puget Sound rivers, the Olympic Penisula rivers, the east-side Cascade rivers, and the Southwest WA rivers when the river temp is mid-50's or higher.

04-27-2004, 02:01 PM

I am just a rank beginner with McMillan's dry line method for winter fish. And because of that I am not able to comment on the technicalities. Between his DryLine book and the one large article in Wild Steelhead and Salmon there is enough info to get a good head start. Doug Rose's new OP book has a bunch of the new McMillan flies but did a real poor job of explaining the method. He believes John McMillan is using the dead drift to get his fish, which is entirely incorrect.


04-27-2004, 02:01 PM

I have read Bill's book and agree it is a good read. I am less concerned with the mechanics of the floater in winter and more with the aesthetics of it.


I agree 100%


You are welcome to fish a floater anytime you want when we are fishing together. And I will even let you go through first ---- 50% of the time.

Leland Miyawaki
04-27-2004, 02:20 PM
I took my the tip lines off my reels two weeks ago and they are nicely coiled in a ziplock bag and stored in a drybox way back in the corner of a dark closet. I don't care what the water temp, height or clarity is it's dryline time. So what if I'll be using my heavier wets for awhile? I'll just swing them slowly. Hallelujah dudes, it's summer steelhead time!


beau purvis
04-27-2004, 02:42 PM
My first attempt at fly fishing was all the McMillan technique.He was at the greased line in vancouver.I started in the spring tieing winter hopes on heavy hooks.Used a floater and stack mended a dead drift.When the water warmed I switched to steelhead caddis skated. this was all on the east lewis, wind, kalama, wash,toutle.Mark Noble at greased line got me started on that style with all the materials and technique.I have a great picture somewhere in my files of a tremendous E.Fork Lewis springer caught by Pete Tronquet on a stack mended drift.Beau

Big K1
04-27-2004, 02:43 PM

You couldn't have said it any better. I love floating lines and hot fish! I think I will put the tips away today. I feel a great winter weight is off my shoulders.:hehe:


Sharp Steelie
04-27-2004, 03:20 PM
Good post - always based my fly line on the strength
of current and depth of holding fish. If the fish are
holding in a tailout with a moderate to slow current -
yahoo, it's floating line time. If the fish appear to be
holding in water say 5 - 10 ft deep surrounded by
strong current - it's sink tip time. My goal is to always
put a fly within 1 to 5 feet of the fish so they can get
a good luck at it. Been on rivers that on a certain day
to get the proper presentation you had to go with
a floater - other days had to use a sink tip. I don't
use any weighted flies at all - think the proper type
of fly line with an unweighted fly that allows a good
natural presentation is critical. Prefer to stick with
the K.I.S.S. theory - simple sparse flies, proper fly
line for the conditions, leaders/tippets that are 6.5
feet or longer (including sink tips), and depending
on the conditions - tippets that are 2x. It can be
a very effective combination! :cool:

04-27-2004, 05:40 PM

Not to start nit-picking, but, were you getting fish on the swing or were you dead drifting the fly? From the sounds of the post you were getting them on the 'natural drift'. Reading between the lines in DryLine Steelhead, it is pretty clear that Bill moved to the point that dead drifting sucked and was only used as an absolute last resort. I would also wager that he no longer dead drifts anything other than dry flies, and probably has not for decades.


As I said earlier I am not the expert on this. There is a guy who infrequently posts here that IS, maybe he will come out and shed a little of his 25 years experience using the method.

But I will reiterate that the true deep wet fly swing IS NOT DEAD DRIFTING THE FLY. And from my limited experience using the method, 99.9% of the grabs come from the point in the presentation where you bring the fly under tension and lead it through the broad, slowly rising, swing.

As for the 'feel' of the whole mess- if you like fishing on autopilot, the method is probably not for you. If you like your senses and skills to be challenged, along with the fly design limitations, this is a grand way to catch fish against the 'common knowledge' grain. It is one thing to 'know' that people are successful with the method than to actually BE that person- Demons in the head will mess with you, BIG TIME. While I know that the method is limited by nature, and I accept those rules, I also know it is plenty effective to be the go-to when conditions call for it. What can be simpler than tying a knot and changing the angle of the cast???

As OC said, there is far more to a successful steelhead day than hooking fish. If your measuring stick requires hooking fish, might as well stick to bait. If you want to challenge those 'status quo' truisms, than by all means use the space between your ears to explore and explode every BS 'pattern' of behavior that exists about steelhead.


beau purvis
04-27-2004, 06:16 PM
I was talking about way back in time when Bill was was at the Greased line. Probably like 1979.Not what I do today. just ,as I said my first attempt.also, he was fairly young in his development.At that time ,if my old memory is correct, his style was more of an upstream cast a stack mend or two,to get down and then a swing at the bottom half or therabouts.Did not like that free float part and converted over to a more traditional wet fly swing with a lot of a greased line profile at the start.Since I was new to flyfishing and casting, I tried to work on the skated caddis a lot the majority of the year.Mostly my post was just a drift back in time to a great memory of the start of a love affair and the memory of a great {extinct} fish that rewarded my fishing partners progress with a new way to fish taught to us by a couple of legends!!!forgive my sentimental wanderings,but these posts remind me of things I enjoy sharing and babaling about.Beau

04-27-2004, 06:30 PM

Very thought provoking. I did not think you were dead drifting and was hoping you would share what you did. My few limited attempts at the floating sunk swing have frustrated me but also convinced me that it is really an art form.

I would take some exception if you mean to equate all fishing with a tip to fishing on autopilot. I think that a number of people do in fact fish this way but one of the attractions for me to tip fishing is having to use your other senses particularly feel to compensate for what you can't see. Not claiming that I am an expert at it but I think those are those that are and for them, they are always working the fly, slowing it, speeding it up, twitching it and all while seeing it in their mind's eye as it swims above the cobbley bottom.

Still, you make a strong case for giving it more than the cursory attempts I have so far. I agree that it is not about numbers of fish and since at least around here, there are few fish anyway, what is to be lost with a further challenge.

Thanks for the input!


04-27-2004, 06:48 PM

The free dift part of the method is a neccessary evil. I find this analogous to casting out a tip, strong upstream mend to pull it in line (or whatever that particular piece of water requires), and then letting the rig 'back slip' to gain depth. When properly done the deep wet fly swing brings the fly under tension much, much, much sooner into the drift than tips. It also requires master line manipulation skills, something that is years away for me. I still lose a good percentage of my presentation as I can't quite get the fly under control soon enough. The choice still comes down to McMillan's orginal point of developing the method: technology or skill.

By far most of the takes occur at the same point in the swing as tips. Even on a complete hang down they will still come and grab it. Other than having to monkey around to get the fly deep it 'feels' just like summer steelheading.

BTW the Intruder jigs make a great floating line lure for the deep wet fly swing. You just need a big rod and enough grains in your floater to get them to turn over nicely on a 15' leader.


My example of autopilot was just one side of an extreme. No referance to all tip fishing, and certainly not about the sporting qualities.


04-28-2004, 01:19 AM
I think the original post was geared toward when do we all start fishing the fly near the surface? My answer is water depth,and water temp. ? Direct sun ,or sun behind the fish . Also the amount of fishing pressure,is figured in there somewhere. This one of the things that makes our sport so great. No absolutes! The deep wet fly swing off the floating line,is a very rewarding ,when you get it all together,and a fish is in the mood. I have seen inlands tech. first hand, last March . I especially liked it when his Mr.squidly Orange Heron,tied on a wadington shank connected with its first fish. The meathod invites alot of thought,when it comes to fly tying. One of the early drawbacks was the use of the 5/0 big iron,in solid hookups,and or landing fish. We have got around that by using attatched stinger hooks on waddingtons, 3/32 gauge brass cotter pins, 1to2"long with intruder style hook rigging. The right two handed rod makes a good tool for fishing bigger rivers with this meathod. Once you get in touch with the fly,and it is swimming under tension you have alot of leading and tension reduction , You can keep the fly deep almost all the way through the swing. Even in 38* water you can pull a fish toward the fly ,for a take,if you first got it interested with a soft swimming fly, near his holding lie. And yes , you can't fish this way in all runs of every river system. You have to be selective . Just as there are certain runs in the summer and fall, that lend themselves to the waking dry. You get some funny looks from the other fly fisherman ,seeing no sink tip,or watching you back mend, to get your fly into position for its swing. I get a kick out of it.:whoa:

wet fly
04-28-2004, 10:37 AM
I am an avid spey rod proponent but last fall I had the opportunity to watch one of the well known dry fly fishermen. He used a single handed rod. With the delicate presentation and the drying effect of the single handed rod I could see its advantages. He followed some wet fly and sink tip spey men through the run. Needless to say the ol pro got the 17 pounder. A lesson learned. Jerry

04-28-2004, 02:56 PM

Similar to my thoughts with light tips/poly, I feel I can fish a long line and still get down.


04-29-2004, 01:22 AM
The deep wet fly swing off the floating line was used by Mr. McMillan In the smaller rivers of SW wa. He disliked fishing a sink tip on the single handed rod. spey casting sinktips today ,on modern two handers is very pleasurable. It is all about fun. The modern tackle we have today,has enabled us to take Mr Mcmillans deep wet fly swing meathod to a larger scale for bigger rivers. One still has to keep a medium length of line -75',or less. to control the swing of the fly,and keep it down. I was on the river this morning. the water temp was 49*. I was fishing on top with confidence. Nothing happend, but I felt very confident. It is surface time! In my neck or the woods.:)

04-29-2004, 12:31 PM
depends greatly on the river or more accuratly the run you are fishing. I took a fish this winter on a Small Lower Columbia trib On a dry line and a lightly weighted fly, (cone head string leech) not a fast sinking fly but fished a run where a slow swing is possible and with the proper upstream cast and subseqent stack mends the fly gets down in the water column before the swing starts. Anyway this run was 4 feet deep boad and fairly slow and in the cold water of January produced a fish on a floating line..
So when you have the appropriate water type water temp is not a concideration for using a floating line. Like any kind of fishing knowing the water is the prinary key to success.

However, 50 degrees is when you can really expect typical floating line presentations to start being effective. Fishing will improve with rising temps up to the low 60's. Above 65 you shouldn't be fishing as the fish are already stressed do to the warm temps. Above 70 and you are talking about temps that are lethal to steelhead.
One side note some hatchery stocks particularly the wretched disgusting worthy of no respect Skamania stock remain very unresponsive to floating line presentations under most water conditions. the exception being shallow water 55 degress or warmer.
On the flip side the wonderful wild fish of BC are noted for being surface aggressive down into the 30's.

in short count on 50 degrees and you won't be dissapointed