Differences between summer/fall steelheading and winter/spring steelheading [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Differences between summer/fall steelheading and winter/spring steelheading


juro
03-06-2012, 04:28 PM
The pacific northwest is blessed with both summer and winter fish, each pursuit has it's nuances. Now would be good timing to discuss these differences, to the benefit of those who are planning to explore the fishery over the next couple of months - the prime time for winter steelheading on the fly as temps rise and water levels drop.

What are the primary differences?

For me the primary differences are (a) fly design (b) line type and (c) presentation.

Most of the time I fish more prominent size/color flies (although not always). Blacks, reds, purples, oranges, blues, cherises, and or combinations thereof. Not a lot of earthy tones when the water is colored for me, other than shrimpy pinks with tans and whites sometimes.

I use light tips, handmade to combine with the taper of a normal floating Spey head. I rarely if ever go with a full floater in winter, sad to say.

To some extent, I fish different lies than I would normally do in summer.

That being said, some flies work year-round as do lines and swings. But there's merit to the sayings "slow and low" and "hanging down" longer, letting the high water dangle to your advantage.

Where I have hooked many summer fish in riffles I rarely hook winter fish in them. Also surface flies, although by late March / April depending on river depth I am sure it's just my lack of faith because I barely get a mend into a cast sometimes and a big winter fish is cartwheeling on my line.

And where time of day is a huge factor in summer, I've had good late morning and mid-afternoon action in addition to the first light aggression that is undeniably high, perhaps because of the fish moving into a lie overnight.

Boulders are your friend. Boulder fields are your playground. Deep pools are oxygenated and not the stagnant voids or salmon holes that they are in summer.

I believe that generally fish don't move for the fly as much in winter as they do in summer, so painting their nose with the hackles will get more takes.

That being said, when a fish hits with a breakneck ferocity in 32.5 degree water and leaps like a mad tarpon down a tumbling rapid there is nothing subdued about it whatsoever.

Lastly use the best quality tippet and tie the best knots you know because when you hit the lottery any tiny malfunction will be your doom, and it could be another thousand casts for the next one.

To those who fish for numbers, this may all sound horrible... but to steelheaders, every fish is a lifetime trophy and no number of "smolts" (i.e. regular trout) could ever be combined to equal even one wild steelhead.

https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-snc7/395983_10150462609579315_691204314_8882817_7838332 66_n.jpg

Eric
03-07-2012, 01:00 PM
Nice piece, Juro. Still looking for my first winter fish of the year -- maybe tomorrow.

Thompson River fish in photo?

Cheers,

Eric

juro
03-07-2012, 04:10 PM
Hope it works out!

Yes that is a T fish, which defies every distinction of summer vs. winter in that floating lines are effective even while there is ice on the guides.

I may be getting a fortuitous work engagement in the PNW this month, fingers crossed.

Moonlight
03-08-2012, 01:37 PM
Great bit Juro, enjoyed the read. My personal slant on Winter vs any other time of the year is "Attitude" simply stated winter steelheading is warfare an Army of one against the others.:lildevl:
Camp is in the same place again so by all means stop by.

Eric
03-08-2012, 05:10 PM
Interesting about the "warfare" angle Moonlight mentions. Used to be, you could fly-fish the boulder/large cobble runs alone because the drifters would get their gear grabbed and lost in these mine fields. Now, with the onslaught of the bobber-jig brigade, this is no longer the case. The boulder runs are as crowded as any other.

Went this morning to a favorite stream that is 100% catch & release for steelhead. I won't go so far as to say all the steelhead in the stream are stream-bred, but most of them are. Nobody fishes the pretty, little stream but a few masochistic fly flingers. Today, I saw no one else.

Of course, I didn't see any fish either. Let alone hook one.

Nice day, though. Good to be out amid the skunk cabbage and ousels.

Cheers,

Eric

Moonlight
03-08-2012, 06:07 PM
Eric, you totaly understood my post:cool:

juro
03-08-2012, 07:48 PM
One thing I found useful when lots of driftboats are on the river is to fish above known drifts early, then go back up to the launches once the flotilla is past.

I was fortunate enough to hit a fish last year just as a plug puller was backing down into the hole. I think they were entertained by my antics as this fish was hot and clearly kicking my ass. I lost the fish but no fault of theirs, the guide (OP) was courteous to quickly pass as far as possible to the opposite bank with only enough resistance to avoid tangling his clients lines otherwise full current speed.

Eric
03-09-2012, 12:03 AM
There was one very productive drift I used to fish on the Clackamas for winter, spring and summer steelhead. I usually would have about an hour -- starting at flashlight-to-tie-on-fly time to when the first jet-sleds would begin pounding up the riffle. That pretty much put paid to my efforts and I'd leave for work.

The big satisfaction was to be able, very occasionally, to stow a big, fat hat fish in the refrigerator in our break room after arriving at work.

Them was the days.

Cheers,

Eric

Moonlight
03-13-2012, 01:40 PM
Then there is the fact that in the winter it "rains and it rains and it rains"

SalmoGairdneri
03-15-2012, 12:32 AM
Then there is the fact that in the winter it "rains and it rains and it rains"

except when it snows & gusts a gale force breeze!

-t

Eric
03-15-2012, 12:44 PM
except when it snows & gusts a gale force breeze!

-t

Speaking of which, we had both big time on the central Oregon coast Monday. Right now it's raining with close to gale force winds driving same. I'm staying inside, and today is my regular weekly fishing day.

Phooey.

Isn't there a song or something that goes "Oh, the weather outside is frightful..." If not, maybe someone should write one.

Cheers,

Eric

Moonlight
03-15-2012, 05:46 PM
Eric that made me laugh.

Eric
03-15-2012, 11:37 PM
Hooray! Then the day's not a total loss!

Cheers,

Eric

juro
03-16-2012, 08:53 AM
I'll be in Hood River on business next week, plan to hook up with OC and a steelhead or two before/after work. P S Y C H E D ! ! ! :smokin:

Moonlight
03-19-2012, 11:12 AM
So is this next week?