Getting steelhead to hit a shallow running fly [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Getting steelhead to hit a shallow running fly

09-27-2005, 12:09 PM
Never had any luck with a shallow running fly yet I know other people do. At best Ive taken fish with a fly running a foot or two over their heads. Im making these assumptions about getting fish to move to these flies:

A fly with good movement and pushes water.
Water temperatures above 10C 50F.
Slow currents, smooth flows.
Good visibility.

And Im not sure about:

Speed of presentation.
Angle of swing mostly down or mostly across.
Waking or no waking
Fly colour and type
Streambred vs. stockers
Light or heavy fly
Time of year early fall vs. late spring

Anybody have any consistent luck with getting steelhead to rise to a swung fly?

09-28-2005, 07:45 AM

Swinging flies is pretty much the only method I use for steelhead anymore. And from my experience, while the other factors can be important, I think the biggest factor is water temperature. Or more accurately, water temperature as perceived by the fish. To put this into perspective, although it is a rare occurrence, I did once catch a steelhead on a swinging dry fly in 35F water.

You are correct that water of about 50F or greater is optimal. This is when you will get most of your fish on swinging flies. However, rises in temperature after a cold spell as well as the fish just getting used to the cold temps can also trigger them to strike. I have had some great days in January and February in water just over the freezing mark just because the fish had been there for some time and got used to the cold temps.

I think fly speed is probably your next most important thing. Slower in colder weather of course.

The best thing to do is just get out and keep doing it. Experiment and come to your own conclusions. The more your fly is swinging the more you will catch. :)

Just my $0.02.


09-28-2005, 09:34 AM
Last fall season, I tended to do OK with running flies at mid-depth but as the season progressed and the water got colder, my success went down. OTOH, my buddy, who tends to run his flies deeper and slower, was more successful later on. Getting fish to rise to hit a fly on top or just under the surface would be great but I've always been skunked when I've tried -- not even a single pull.

I'd like to fish for them occasionally, as if I was fishing for Atlantics, but endless skunkings isn't appealing.

Don't have a problem getting the fly down to where the fish are, I'd just like to get them to come up to it instead, a few times.

09-28-2005, 11:49 AM
It can take a year or two to get proficient. It just happens and things start to click. Get a hold of trey combs steelhead book and other PNW steelhead books as they describe the methods you can employ whether it be greased line technique or a damp wet fly swing. Other topics like hitching the fly and fishing wakers are also covered. Setting of your swing angles becomes much more important than it is with tips.

It really is something you have to work at and you will get skunked..alot. Just part of paying your dues but once you hook one up top you will never want to dredge again.


09-28-2005, 12:38 PM
Thanks for the tip about the Trey Combs book as I have it but haven't cracked the cover in quite a while. I'll dredge it out tonight.

When you talk about swing angles, are you trying to present the fly pointing upstream or across current? My normal swing angle down deep is to try for a broadside presentation on the "turning-the-corner" part of the swing, where the fly speeds up and starts to rise. Normally, I'm casting across current with a 90 degree change of direction. I know that with the riffle hitch, the idea is to hold an upstream presentation as the fly tracks across the current and the cast is normally more like 45 degrees. I have a couple of flies that should work well when riffle-hitched. Perhaps tomorrow evening after work . . .

09-30-2005, 02:18 PM
[QUOTE= Perhaps tomorrow evening after work . . .[/QUOTE]


I will be on the Salmon River in 15 hours. I'll let you guys know

09-30-2005, 05:06 PM
Blistering high winds knocking trees over so I figured I stay in where it's nice and warm -- call me wuss.

Should be able to wet a line in action tomorrow after the clave thingie has done its thing.

10-02-2005, 06:52 PM
but did hit bottom with nothing but a weighted fly, long leader, and Trey Combs' greased line method. As long as the current is not too strong, it's interesting how deep one can get with nothing more than a mono leader, a bit of lead in the fly, and some useful technique.

10-02-2005, 07:31 PM

For summer runs, I mostly fish a straight foater. Alternating between a standard wet fly swing and greased line. On any waking fly I will hitch it up.
The only sink tip for me this year has been the clear intermediate tip. With it I have been fishing Small leeches and Stones. All these are unweighted.

Sometime this month, as the water temps drop I will start moving down the water colum. But our rivers become higher with discolered water and yours drop and are clear.