why do steelhead roll? [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: why do steelhead roll?

10-18-2005, 07:22 AM
I was fishing a run yesterday and observed steelhead rolling all over the place. No takers, but great big swirls everywhere. One even rolled right over my line. Does anyone have an opion regarding this behavior?

I just figure they roll because they don't have a middle finger!


10-18-2005, 07:37 AM
I have associated this with moving fish ( upstream migration). A fishing friend of mine used to say they roll because there are too many of them under the water and the smart ones are looking for new places to live. :hihi:
This time of year it doesn't get me very excited as there almost always are lots of fish around but in the dead of Winter its time to really cover the water carefully when you see that boil.

10-21-2005, 06:42 PM
On the Deschutes, the general experience I've had is when the fish are rolling, they are in, in numbers, and willing takers. With a few exceptions, of course. I was with a couple of very expert steelheads in the old Water Tower pool (before flood and DFW bulldozing), in the evening when the water was absolutely awash with swirls. Although the fish were very active, no one had so much as a pull.

Bottom line: if I saw a swirl, I generally figured a take was in the very near future.

As to why the display: very unusal event, possibly associated with atmospherics, or when Jupiter aligns with Mars. An Atlantic Salmon fishing buddy of mine said that was one of the big behavioral differences between the two species: Salmon are showy; steelhead are not.



10-21-2005, 07:27 PM
I recall reading years ago that the ORLEANS BARBER or Northern CA and Southern OR was developed expressly for this type of situation when the steelhead were showing and rolling while pretty much not touching anything tossed at them. It might be worth a try tossing one at them when they are exhibiting this behavior to see if it really works.

I recall The ORLEANS BARBER is tied like this; but I may have left something out since I didn't bother to look it up. The dressing can be found in Trey Combs 2nd book on steelhead STEELHEAD FISHING AND FLIES.

tip: fine or small oval gold (tied short, only 4 to 5 turns)
tail: barred woodduck (the feathers with the black & white barring) in strips
body: red chenile or dubbing (Alec Jackson's ostrich chenile body would be my
choice for its elegance)
rib: oval gold (optional)
hackle: natural brown

I don't recall it having a wing and that supposedly the barred black & white woodduck with the red body is what triggers the steelhead to strike when they are showing in the manner Link described. At any rate, it is a simple fly, although finding barred woodduck, might be a little challenge.

10-21-2005, 09:47 PM
Doesn't happen enough over here to get a read on but my experiences on the Idaho and far Easter WA rivers is that mornings when they are showing heavy = few takers. The following morning where there is no visable sign and you wonder if they all headed up-river during the night, they are ready biters. (This is of course with floating line presentation) Its not scientific but has happened enough to seem to be a patttern for me.

10-21-2005, 10:15 PM
My God, the Orleans Barber mentioned after all these years.

The following is from an extended article by C.J. Pray on steelhead fishing in McClean's _The Wise Fisherman's Encyclopedia_(1953), Ed. by A.J. McClean, Wm. H. Wise & Co., NY

[Pray selects his 13 best flies for the Eel and Klamath rivers (northern California). The Orleans Barber is No. 7 on the list.] Pray writes as follows:

"_Orleans Barber_ Construction: tail, barred wood duck or mandarin; body, bright red chenille; hackle, gray; no wings.

"I christened this fly in 1934 in honor of a famous fly fisherman in Orleans on the Klamath. This fly fisherman was known as the Orleans barber and one day he gave me and a couple of my fishing companions a most entertaining exhibition of his fly casting. The fly, tied by the barber, was unknown until that eventful day. It might as well have been called a Gray Hackle Red, but somehow that wood duck tail and the chenille body made it look entirely different. So it has been known ever since as the _Orleans Barber_. It catches fish in almost any stream, and is definitely a standard fly."



10-22-2005, 09:15 AM
Interesting I have caught a few steelehad that have shown themselves. A couple of them have been particularly memorable. I don't relate seeing fish roll to them not being in the river ( they are just not rolling). This summer fishing the Carron beat on the Spey it became apperent that in Scotland they do expect to see fish and the Atlantics that show will often be takers?

Willie Gunn
10-22-2005, 01:35 PM
Because of the rock.

Ok I'll get my coat.

10-22-2005, 08:36 PM

Yeah, thanks for jogging my memory on the Orleans Barber and its use of grizzly hackle (not the brown I listed). You bet, it is a fly from some of the early days of steelhead specific flies. Rather unusualy looking too with the barred woodduck tail.

Mark Vegwert
10-28-2005, 04:50 PM
I just figure they roll because they don't have a middle finger!


That has always been my thought also. I figured they were giving me The Fin.

As with a few of the guys above, it has been my experiance that rolling fish are not good biters.