what do you look for? [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: what do you look for?

01-12-2005, 12:14 AM
When searching for new water what makes you stop and fish it? Whats that special thing that makes the water feel o so sexy? Is it structure, pace, depth...I'm not talking about the runs you know or have heard about from others, this is new water.

Also, do you fish different water for summers and winters?

01-12-2005, 01:29 AM
I look for a different combination of factors at different water levels and have runs that are productive from different sides, depending on water levels. It's hard to say, aside from the obvious you stated, for me, it sometimes is just a hunch, experience or a sense. I love to try new runs and hunches, it keep things from getting boring and always brings new expectations.

salt dog
01-12-2005, 01:07 PM
only other ff would understand the description! :D But I know what you mean, those waters that make you start to drool when seen from the road and everbody in the car starts making simultaneous gleeful noises, or make you say "oh yes" as you round the bend on the river, starts you scrambling out of the craft before it stops with gear dropping out of pockets. When in new water, you see a section that just looks like its supposed to. Like some picture that you've never seen before that makes if feel like you recognize it but can't remember where from. Usually there is a rock wall, rapids, river bend or plunge pool associated with it.

On Rivers east of the Cascade Mtns I'm usually fishing the water differently depending on the temperature of the water, up in the head during hot weather, tailouts on the cool, runs above fast water on the cold days. I have one section of water that looks like that, above a honey hole I always fish, and I fish it every time for years because I cannot believe it doesn't hold fish, but I never get a hookup. Each time I just can't believe it doesn't hold fish, and feel I just haven't figured it out yet. Why I cannot pass it by without fishing it? its too sexy not to, the water is too enticing.

wet fly
01-12-2005, 04:01 PM
I usually get a first impression by the water speed, depth, boulder garden, a tailout or a seam. Then I go through the hole and see how it "fishes". It seems I automatically go back in my memory bank and compare it to a hole from the past. For winter fishing with heavy sink tips I tend to look at more the seams and the shallow water. In the summer with lower water I can fish the whole river and deeper spots. The summer fish will travel farther to the fly. We are handicaped in the winter fishing the fly so a good looking hole will take a lot of time to find out if it is for real. Since I have become only a fly fisher I look at a river a little differently then throwing gear. Jerry

01-12-2005, 04:06 PM

All three, structure, depth, and pace, are part of it. I will pass by water that lacks structure, even if it has depth. Likwise, I will pass by water that has good structure if it lacks depth or something like a slow walking pace at a minimum. And I will pass by water with good structure and depth if it is too fast.

I remember well taking out a friend on the OP rivers in the Forks area who was just learning to fly fish after 25 years of using gear when I lived in Port Angeles and have him being very surprised at the water I simply walked right by without wetting a line. John felt I was making a mistake not fishing it because he had fished it with gear in the past and would sometimes pick up a fish. After he had been fly fishing for 3 years, he had the realization that just because a run could be fished effectively with gear, it didn't mean it could be fished well with a fly.

01-13-2005, 12:08 PM
I will choose structure over depth, the right current over none or too much and location rounds out my top three. By location I mean what is above and below it.

But what do I know, I have yet to catch a steelhead.

wet fly
01-13-2005, 12:38 PM
We can look at a drift with all the right ingredients but it still has to be a "lay" hole. When I started steelheading we called this a slot. At one time I knew of about 5 "slots" on the river. A slot is the nearest thing to a to a sure thing. It takes a lot of searching to find a slot. I missed a lot of slots because they just didn't look right. Most of the slots were less then 20 feet long. The only proof of a slot is that the fish will be there day after day. As see it there are two kinds of steelheaders out there the "pitch and pray" guys and the slot guys. Jerry

01-13-2005, 01:35 PM

I like what you said. This is what makes the Skagit flood of '03 so cool in my opinion. Now a lot of the "slots" are gone and new ones were created. My fishing partner and I made a point of fishing some place new every time out because you could find the water but until you swung a fly through it you really didn't know. Some places we tested we went back to others we never looked at again.

01-13-2005, 03:12 PM

I have a local river that in a single run has two "slots" at the right level. River rises one slot moves across (75ft) the river one goes completely away. One is a scallop in the bottom no appearent structure, but its there. The other is off to the side of a basket ball sized rock.

Tipper, I have seen you land a GB and it is getting close to your time of year.

01-13-2005, 04:50 PM

The new 11/12 Jetstream was baptised on Sunday by a lovely little anadromous creature. I am not saying what the creature was but it was not, repeat was not, a GB. In keeping with the thread, it came out of the same "slot" where I hooked that fish with you back in June.

Take one part Salar, add 8 oz. of Carron, a pound and a quarter of Perfect, a pinch of hotep, throw it in the oven and bake until well done.

01-13-2005, 07:47 PM
I look for water that combines suitable ranges of depth, velocity, and substrate that makes for good lie water. Then I compare and contrast those combinations, when I find them, with adjacent, near adjacent water, and whatever's a ways upstream and downstream from there. My highly subjective evaluation or rating system, based on experience, assigns that water as low, medium, or high percentage water. Then I have to fish it, and re-evaluate it based on how it fished, and whether it produced.

Structure is an interesting element, as I've found that I cannot always predict its shape or presence from surface conditions. More than once I've discovered a prime piece of lie water by accidentally walking or floating over it and spooking the fish that were there. It was an otherwise non-descript, small gravel, not too deep, medium current in the middle of more of the same, except, it was a depression of nearly a foot that existed in a vast area of what seemed like non-descript habitat. And that made all the difference. It held fish almost every day.

Serendipity helps too.


Salmo g.

01-13-2005, 08:10 PM
Duggan, I still know where that spot is now I just have to get back up to Seattle. I know you kiss and tell, so must have been a "d"ollie :lildevl: So talk to me about that Carron. If you still want to get ride of that other line you cut PM me where to send the check.

BTW, I'm expecting to be up for Dennis and Sparkeys little party in Feb.

Steve, exactly my eyes and brain look at the water but you can't tell until you swing though.


wet fly
01-13-2005, 09:40 PM
Kerry, I know you have got some slots. I think I better follow you around some day. Some of sinktips slots require a jeep that can fjord a creek. jerry

01-14-2005, 11:28 AM

That "slot" is sadly totally gone. The creek is still there though ;)


Forget the check, you can buy me a beer or a toddy some time. PM me up your address and I will get it in the mail to you. I finally got it, and the Perfect, back form our common friend. I think he was having seperation anxiety.

01-14-2005, 01:52 PM
Sexy water just calls to you! :lildevl: :)

Based on your past experiences (which reminds me of Sinktip's sig), you excitement level goes up when you find the right depth water with cover and good flow. Double points if it's above a good hard rapid or the first holding water above a long stretch of undefined frogwater.

You "feel" the speed of the swing and the force of water against your waders and relate it to the temp of the water (colder=softer). As has already been suggested, it takes fishing the spot and/or seeing the structure during low water periods to really understand just how good a piece of water really is.

Not to say that there aren't "slots" - within any good piece of holding or resting water there will be a sweet spot /preferred lie. Knowing exactly where to focus your efforts and tailoring your presentation to appeal to fish holding is nice.

At least until the next flood. :chuckle:

Leland Miyawaki
01-14-2005, 04:24 PM
I look to see if any of my friends hook a fish. If so, I'll get into their spot the next morning. The next best thing is to look for Sinktips jeep with the WSU plates.

Reading water is easy if you know what to look for,

01-14-2005, 06:38 PM

Reading water is easy accept, I don't read fish very well. I get the occational sentence that I commit to memory. The thing with that is I I somethimes I get teh wrong translation. I have tried babblefish but it has not worked.

The thing with "Tipper" is you have to drive in your waders in the morning to have a chance at the water.


01-14-2005, 08:54 PM

Can't argue with that. Seeing a fish hooked there is pretty convincing evidence. Sorta' argues for having some good anglers for friends - who don't mind you following them around.


Salmo g.

01-15-2005, 12:39 AM
At my rate of typing it would take several weeks to jot down ALL of the things that I watch for when searching new water. I will list one of my favorites though: in any area of river where the surface is ruffled, riffled, or chopped by the current I am always looking for "oily", "slick", or "flat" looking patches of water amongst the rougher textures. If I happen to observe such a condition, and the beach adjacent to it has rocks that are grapefruit size and larger then OOOOOOOOH MAAAANNNN, I tend to get a little excited to run a fly through there!

Floods - I have a love/hate relationship with floods on the North Sound rivers. On the one hand I do like the changes that offer up new water - keeps things "fresh" for the hardcore river rats, and throws the casual anglers off track. But, the floods around here seem to take away more than they give. Since the mid eighties I have seen the degradation or total loss of far more pieces of incredible fly water than the creation of new fly water. Anyone that sees Sauk Bar as good flywater in its current state, would excrete the proverbial brick if they saw what it looked like before the 1990 flood. Now it is just a mere pale shadow of its former self. The same can be said for Upper and Lower Larson's, Car Body, Dutchman's, Long Run (Slide Hole), and many others. Now that it's gone I can also mention Lyman, probably THE best early winter steelhead run on the entire system for a number of years. If you only fished it in the last three years, you should have seen it 5, 6, 7 years ago. I have run the entire river this year from Bacon Creek to Sedro Woolley - there isn't anything that replaces the caliber of the runs we have lost. Maybe this is just a part of getting older - needing SOMETHING to bitch about!

01-15-2005, 08:32 AM

I tend to agree with most of what you say except that there is less and less fly water. Perhaps there are a few less fly runs then in the past but I would like to think that this is cyclical. Maybe I am being optimistic but I prefer to look at things on the bright side. Maybe with the next few floods more fly water will return. I will argue that car body is better now then it was before the 2003 flood and has improved even more because of the small floods of 2004.

01-15-2005, 02:07 PM
Andre, your original question was what makes it feel so sexy, I and several of my fishing partners have for along bloody time refered to good waters in just that way. It looks good but how does it "feel"?
Many of the fellows have listed lots of valid points of reference for water selection and I agree with all of them but the final test is the one that is ultimately the most important. How the water feels , in other words the amount of drag that current puts on your line and the subsequent weight that you feel in your hand. Years of expierence fishing places that are "right" will make this test very quick and easy the guys who have caught more than there share could tell if a spot is worth fishing blindfolded!
Actually it would be an interesting expieremnt (or challange) the structre would be given a clue by the shoreside rocks water speed could be felt by the water running over your legs hearing would give you some idea as to the proximity of rapids and riffels and choppy water has a quiet sound of its own.
Seeing may be beleiveing but a fellow can go a long way using his other senses!
Sounds like we are in for some warm wet weather,

01-15-2005, 05:36 PM

I sure miss the Lyman Bar because it was only 20 miles from home and was one of the best kept secrets on the river. I never saw many folks fishing it. And the the '95 and '03 floods on the Sauk also took away a lot of good water as well. As for the Dutchman?, I look at that water now and find myself saying: What's the fuss? But oh how it used to fish.

Ken G McLeod
01-16-2005, 04:04 PM
I usually just listen to the grandfather, or pops myself... haha, but if im not with them, and in new water, I tend to just let it fly where everything just feels right at the time. Whether the depth makes me feel that way, or the way the water is moving. Its usually a combination of things I look for to determine if its potentially good water. :smile:

01-16-2005, 04:26 PM

Welcome to the Forum. I couldn't begin to tell you how much your grandfather's dedication to the sport has influenced by angling, and I would imagine there are few who have not whether by success with a purple peril or inspiration from the giant Kispiox fish.

Great to make your acquaintance, and glad you could join us here in our virtual angling lodge.

01-16-2005, 04:38 PM
Try to answer the question, "If I was a fish, where would I want to be?" Haven't done this nearly often enough, but walking small tribs (without a rod) when they're running clear let's me spot fish and the type of spot where they're holding.

Ken G McLeod
01-16-2005, 04:57 PM
Thanks for the warm welcome, its well apprieciated. :smile:

Yeah, my great grandfather, and grampa George, and dad were, and still are quite dedicated to the fisheries, and to catching the big ones, haha. All three are great inspirations to me. Hopefully I'll be able to talk dad into looking for a fish or two next week. I sure would like to hook up with a winter run sometime soon. :smile: .

Ken G McLeod
01-16-2005, 04:58 PM
either of the two of them make the experiance better. My fishing partners. Good guys, whom i learn alot from.

Rick J
01-16-2005, 07:22 PM
What Ed said about floods destroying more runs than they create sure holds true in N California. Of course the floods are worse due to the logging and overgrazing that bring in tons of silt that choke the great gravel bars and runs. The Eel is almost not worth fishing compared to what it was jus 15 years ago. The siltation has been extreme with runs that used to be 6 feet deep almost wadable. Hell steamers use to go up river considerable distances where now the river is maybe 3 to 4 feet deep at Fern Bridge.

I believe that watersheds that are in good shape can handle floods with little long term degradation but those are getting more and more rare!

In terms of what I look for it is soft water next to faster water - if fish are in the run at all this is likely where they will hold up

01-16-2005, 09:35 PM

I also echo Juro's welcome to our group. Your grandfather is someone I look forward to seeing and talking with each summer when he is at the river. He is one of the fine old gentlemen of the sport. Also glad to see you're carrying on the tradition of fly fishing for steelhead that goes back three generations before you.

Ken G McLeod
01-16-2005, 10:43 PM
Why thank you flytyer. Yeah, all the guys love to talk with him during the summer, out in front of camp. People get a kick out of him still being out on the river at 83. He knows that stretch of river like the back of his hand too. And yeah, 'll to carry it on. I think this coming summer I will be on the river a lot more than in past summers, as I have steelhead on the brain lately, now that the hunting season is coming to an end. :smile: . Also, my cousin, Erich is becoming quite the steelhead angler in the past few years. He can tie a mean fly or two as well. Hope to see you on the river this summer


01-17-2005, 02:52 AM

One more welcome. Interesting that Flytyer quotes your grandfather as saying that the Skykomish Sunrise is the best fly he ever tied. Of the well-known McLeod flies, I regularly fish the Purple Peril and McLeod Ugly, but not the Skykomish Sunrise.

My son's first steelhead, caught this past June and with pictures posted on this site, was taken with a McLeod Ugly. My daughter was tying up some McLeod Uglies just this past Thursday, at the North Santiam Spey Casters meeting.


Ken G McLeod
01-17-2005, 11:32 AM

Well, its good to hear people are getting fish on em, right? I like the ugly, its a good fly which has taken a few first steelhead I would assume. Congrats to you and you're son on a nice fish! :D Hopefully there will be many more to come.

01-17-2005, 01:19 PM

I think about the Purple Peril, which is one of my favorite flies almost daily. I look out the back window and see the Red Fox Squirrels running through my yard and think of time spend at my bench.



01-17-2005, 07:04 PM
You must be the guy in the CJ I was always competing with in the mid 90's for first water at the Lyman Bar and some of the other drifts you mentioned. Lyman was a great secret until the last 3 or 4 years of it. Gone now!

Brian Simonseth
01-18-2005, 12:33 AM

That might have been Brad A. in the CJ

01-18-2005, 12:54 AM
If you are talking a bright blue one it WAS me.

Considering the !#$8*@!7+$%|:!ing weather right now, all I'm looking for in steelhead water is something that is not quite thick enough to plow and has less than one one- hundred foot cottonwood tree per minute floating through it!

01-18-2005, 01:18 AM
The river went from 1,000 to almost 30,000 cfs on me today. A quick glance upstream every few minutes to be sure you were not in the path of one of the aforementioned cottonwoods was necassary.

And I'll be out there again tomorrow....as many know, a certain piece of water on a certain river fishes best when "the river is in the trees".....although I have a feeling the river will be past the trees and in the farmlands. I will try to remain optimisitc however........... :hihi:

01-18-2005, 01:23 AM
p.s. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water. please dont ruin my new found water.

:( :mad: :( :mad: :eek: :tsk_tsk:

01-18-2005, 01:45 AM
My new found water is in the basement........... 3" deep.

Back to bailing

01-18-2005, 01:47 AM
Well Kush, if the river really is too far gone, I can always just keep heading North and give you a hand with your basement. ;)

Leland Miyawaki
01-18-2005, 12:03 PM
I would lend you my sump pump but it hasn't been off since yesterday afternoon.


01-20-2005, 01:26 AM
Kush, I feel for you, I've been there. Unlike Leland we didn't have a sump pump, I just spend about 10 hours with a wet dry vac sucking it up.

Don't let Sparky in he'll try nymphing it :hihi:

01-21-2005, 12:15 PM
[QUOTE=Riveraddict]If you are talking a bright blue one it WAS me.

Thats the one. It had some kind of a silly orange thing on the side and a cloth top.

01-21-2005, 07:06 PM
So it looked like something a California surfer would drive... it was my cover. When people saw it parked in the woods, at least half thought it was some wayward surfer dude looking for mushrooms... not fishing. My next one will be a pre 80's Datsun or Toyota truck raised 6", small skinny mud tires, dog boxes in the bed, Copenhagen containers and animal beer cans strewn throughout the cab and bed for good effect.

01-23-2005, 11:46 AM
You have a reputation for finding steelhead. From now on I will look for you then I'll be there first from than on.

10" lifts are way cool, as are monster mudders and a shot gun.