River FF Variables - Trout and Salmon [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: River FF Variables - Trout and Salmon

05-05-2002, 04:34 PM
Picked out of my book case an old book on andromous trout and salmon fishing, which I never thought much of except for one section of it which breaks down all of the variables that can impact river fishing for trout and salmon at any given time you are fly fishing. These apply to non andramous fish also for the most part.

I will give you a few hints, there are at least ten general variables and within the ten, there are at lest 55 other variables that can impact your fishing.

This should be a good technical fishing discussion for every one of river fishing variables etc to be aware of that can impact your fishing. Some are controllable and others are non controllable.

Had to do something to get us off that Jet Sled discussion at least for a while ! :devil:

Hint # 1 - Water is one of the ten general variables. Within water there are at least 5 sub variables.

Look forward to the experts thoughts.

I will give the answers next weekend, actually the authors list could use a few more things.

05-07-2002, 09:35 AM
Hint # 2: Fish Attitude (General subject)

John Desjardins
05-07-2002, 09:59 AM
I've been thinking about this one Hal, I just haven't had the time to type out an adequate list. Maybe tonight I'll get it done.

05-07-2002, 12:39 PM
Water, by the hand of nature:
clarity (turbidity)
speed (current)
oxygen level

Introduced by man:
acid rain
nutrient saturation (sewage)
parasitic epidemics (WD)
exotic species
exotic plant growth explosions
nitrogen super-saturation
habitat conversion (dams, defoliation, etc)


05-07-2002, 12:59 PM
Thats more for Water than the author of the book has. I could just give all the details and let every one comment but that would not be fun would it ? ;) ;)

05-07-2002, 07:44 PM
OK I give in here are the ten general variables the author proposed fill in the sub variables within each one. There are at least 55 sub variables within 1-10.

I added # 11 and # 12.

(Juro added more sub-variables for water, thanks I have enough to worry about on the river already :chuckle: ).

1. Water

2. Weather

3. Fish Attitude

4. Technique - (Line type, etc.)

5. Fly

6. Leader

7. Emotional state of Fish

8. Stage of Migration

9. Aquatic Insects

10. Current Flow

11. River Knowledge (added)

12. Legal restrictions (added)

Comment on all, or one as you like.

Be back on the weekend to this one.

05-07-2002, 10:53 PM
Something tells me "genetics" have a place in there, maybe in fish attitude?.
More to follow, Holy Peat water still flowing from last night!

old man
05-08-2002, 12:10 PM
After reading about all the variables in fly fishing. I've decided to quit reading how it is to go fly fishing and just go out and do it. After reading about what to look for befuddled my mind. It doesn't take much reading to do that.

The only hints that I need are. Are they hitting and what are they hitting on. All that other stuff is way to deep for me. Jim

John Desjardins
05-08-2002, 03:14 PM
Hal, that's a lot of variables. To find fish I tend to break it down into behavioral traits rather than the variables. I break it down in three basic ways the "Easy Chair", "Greasy Spoon" and the "Hormone Crazed Teen".

The "Easy Chair" approach is to find a spot where the fish is protected from predators, food is brought to them and little energy is expended to get the food. Sort of like sitting on a recliner watching a football game.

The "Greasy Spoon" is that spot where there is not a lot of food around and safety is debatable but hunger causes fish to eat. A lot like some greasy spoons just off interstate.

The "Hormone Crazed Teen" exhibits itself in several manners. Gluttonous feeding with little regard to where they are, sulking for no apparent reason, and doing almost anything possible to attract the attention of the opposite sex are prime examples of this trait.

From what I've seen those behaviors cover ~ 90% of trout fishing.

John Desjardins
05-09-2002, 02:35 PM
I'm working on this one a little bit at a time. Values of the variables I'd expect for the given behaviors are below.

For "Easy Chair" behavior I'd expect the time of year to be late spring into early summer. The fishing pressure is down because almost everyone is out chasing stripers (thats what it seems like in MA ;) ). Water temps, levels and flows are at moderate levels. Hatches are ocurring at a reasonable rate throughout the day.

The "Greasy Spoon" occurs with less water flowing, in streams with fewer if any hatches ocurring. It can also occur when a lot of fish competing for a finite amount of food. Water temperature is higher, oxygen content is lower, and coolspots in the stream may be attracting trout.

The "Hormone Crazed Teen" is the toughest one to get a handle on the variables. That will be the next installment.

05-10-2002, 07:59 AM
Yes lots of variables its no wonder we catch any fish at all after looking at these.

Maybe I should stick to golf ? The only major variable there is ME.

I should have time this weekend to complete the outline from the author and add a few more of mine.

Majority of variables are uncontrollable, but it is could to know what they are since you can sometimes adapt the where, when, and how you are fishing to possibly be more successful.

Yes it must be nice with all those MASS anglers chasing stripers and you have those nice trout streams to your self. Always wanted to FF the MASS rivers but could never get out of NYS and PA when I lived in Northern NY. Grew up there first 30 years of my life.


05-11-2002, 10:01 PM
Here are the subject area variables and sub variables within each for fly fishing andramous great lakes steelhead and salmon:

1. Water

Temperature - increasing, decreasing, stable
Clarity - clear, clouded, dark

Tributary locations and impacts

Ground spring locations

2. Weather


Rain -down pour, sprinkling, steady

Clouds -Overcast, scattered



Barometric pressure

Air temperature direction

Sunlunar Indicators

Photo Period - length of daylight hours

3. Fish Attitude




Personality of fish strain - steelhead types - Little Manistee strain, skamania, Kalkaska, etc.. salmon - kings, coho, kokonee, etc, brown and lake trout, etc

Wild or hatchery fish

4. Technique

Drift fishing

Shooting Head

Indicator fishing

Sink Tip


Spey Rod

Single Handed Rod

5. Fly

Size - many

Color - many combinations

Type - 1000s of types, dry wet, spey, nymph, streamer, egg, etc..


6. Leader

Tippet - color, diameter, length

Knots - leader to fly, dropper flies, leader sections, leader to fly line, fly line splices etc..


Fluor Carbon

7. Emotional State of Fish





8. Stage of Migration





Dropbacks, kelts, etc..

9. Aquatic Insects

Free drifting eggs

Free drifting nymphs

Hatching flies

10. Curent Flow

Fast Run

Slow Run


Cluttered pool

Long slow pool

Under cut bank

Shallow run

Shallow pool

Deep Run

Deep Pool

Structure - log jams, sweepers, rock gardens, rapids, pocket water, etc...



Dam control impacts

Headwater/tributary impacts

11. River Knowledge

Angler knowledge of river, none, low, high, etc..

Availability of river information - none, some, a lot

12. Legal Regulations

Fly types - weighted/unweighted

Hooks - Barbs or barbless, hook gap size

Fishing hours

Fly fishing only or all methods etc..

13. Miscellaneous

Lake or ocean forage fish, insects, etc

Boat pressure - Drift boats, canoes, etc

Public and private land access points and issues

Well I think thats enough variables to challenge us and no wonder why every one has fishless days. Even the supposed experts will fail at times. Thats what makes this sport so interesting you never have it conqured there is always something to learn and a new challenge for you.

This information was taken from the following book which I added some more to it based on my 42 years of FF experience which has been primarily for river trout and salmon, although I have done some salt water, bass, musky, and pike.

"Fly Fishing for Salmon and Steelhead of the Great Lakes" Kenn Filkins, Wilderness Adventure Books, 1998, Page 9.

For the price of $ 20 in paperback this book would be a good addition to any one fishing the great lakes tributaries.

There are not many books about the great lakes fly fishing for salmon and steelhead. I can think of no more than 4-5.

01-29-2003, 03:25 PM
Any body have any new variables to add to the list ?

I am preparing to update my steelhead trip control check list so that I can attempt to mange the controllable items on this complex list and have a contingency plan or two for the uncontrollable ones.


I need your input on this. BTW, going to Eddie's Log Cabin bar for drinks and warmth is not a solution to any of these variables. I call that giving up. :D ;)

PM Out

01-29-2003, 04:38 PM
variable (no kidding) is "your mood" when you left the house. Everything 'else' could be 'perfect,' but if your mind is elsewhere you probably won't hook fish.

I've had several trips over the years where, within a half hours fishing, I knew my mind was "long gone, and elsewhere." Short of a fish ripping the rod out of my hands (never happened) I was wasting my time. Zero Focus; reeled in and went home to Joan.

After hitting the 'send key,' remembered something a golf instructor once told me. The ball is laying perfectly still on the ground (assume flat ground) and all you have to do is 'coordinate' 13 physical functions 'perfectly' to properly hit the ball down the fairway.:whoa:

01-29-2003, 04:42 PM
Thats right you have to be into the steelhead hunting mind set zone. How does one prepare them selves for that or is it just inbred in us ?

I think that is the case, it is the basic hunting instincts of man.

Do we have steelhead psychologist amongst us?


01-29-2003, 04:59 PM
Originally posted by pmflyfisher
Thats right you have to be into the steelhead hunting mind set zone. How does one prepare them selves for that or is it just inbred in us ?

I think that is the case, it is the basic hunting instincts of man.

Do we have steelhead psychologist amongst us?


Hal, had to laugh when I saw this post. Years ago Joan cut out a one panel cartoon (Woody's World) that 'addressed' that question.

Driving rain, sleet, etc., and Woody's standing up to his fanny in the river .. with ice floating by. Caption under the cartoon was wife saying: "Whose the steelhead? The fish, or the fisherman?"

01-29-2003, 06:13 PM

I am going to have to charge you extra for the laughs.

Maybe there is a market for a steelheader pschologist, you know some one to mentally prepare you the day before you go steelhead hunting.

Naah, I guess not, you either catch the fever or you don't.

Got to write another report tonight, for real work, so will check in tomorrow for any more thoughts on the original subject matter of this thread.

PM Out

01-29-2003, 07:55 PM
And here I thought I had it all broken down, to wit:

"Anytime I can be out fishing is a good time to be on the water!"

- What do you do if the fishing gods are making it tough? Even when the soothsayers and oracles read the goat entrails, and said it should be good? Go to "attractors". I don't see anything on the list about them - but, at times, they DO work well - in fact, better than anything else!

And what about spey flies. Have you EVER seen ANYTHING even remotely resembling them? And you've got to have the pattern "exact". ("Of course you're not catching fish, Dummy - the pattern calls for EMBOSSED oval tinsel overrib, not plain, old OVAL tinsel!")

And here I was, having fun just fishin' - and catchin' 'em, too!! Poor me! I guess I'm just to simple for all of these complex gyrations for a critter with a brain smaller than a pea.

Many, many years ago, before the steelies and salmon were even in the lakes, and I had just got out of the Marines, I went out the opening day of trout season to a small local stream in a snow/sleet storm. I was dressed in my ratty old foul weather jacket and cheap, patched waders. Using my favorite early season technique (very large streamer), and going to my favorite stretch, I pulled out a very large (20" +) brown. Immediately, I was surrounded by a bunch of bait slingers, so, playing along, I said in my best imitation of broken English, "Vot iss diss? Iss carp or sucker?" Everyone said, excitedly, "No. That's a trout. " So, I threw it back in, and said, "Dot's too bed - I likes dem carp and suckers." And I immediately stomped off downstream.

My buddy later was laughing hard, and told me I left just in time - the other fishermen were so astonished, then got mad, that they were just about ready to do me in!

And that's fishing for me - pure FUN!

I like to walk up to an obvious snagger, and say very directly, "How they bitin'?", just to see the look on the guy's face as he nervously searches for an answer, and hems and haws.

Have fun, guys!


01-29-2003, 09:56 PM
There are only two important variables; active fish and inactive fish. Seen fish active in the worst conditions and inactive in the best conditions.

As to Edies, if you don't go there after 12 hours on the water to eat, drink, and BS with the guides. You did not have the full Baldwin experience. If its a Friday or Saturday night all the better. The indoor scenery gets a whole lot better.:devil:

01-30-2003, 08:29 AM

ROTFL :chuckle: :chuckle:

I have got to go fly fishing with you someday. I was going to add more to this thread now but am laughing to hard about your trout story above.

PM Out

01-30-2003, 09:46 AM
No matter how you look at it, its fishing. It is supposed to be relaxing and fun.

Enjoy the moments for there are far too few in life.

01-30-2003, 12:24 PM

Maybe you could be our steelheader psychologist, you know don't take it seriously hints, like when we do mutlple o fers in a row, meet the undesirables on the river, loss a big one, how to deal with these steelheader downers, etc....

Pm Out

01-30-2003, 01:15 PM
It's pretty simple, is the object to rack up numbers of fish or enjoy yourself?

If you don't step back and see the reflection in the glass you miss everything.

Some of my best fishing moments were with friends streamside bsing and having a good laugh.

Fishing is too cyclic to get all hot and bothered about who caught what and how many. Just enjoy, one day you'll be too old to then what? It's the good memories you will remember not the 0 for days. Trust me on that.

01-30-2003, 09:48 PM
What's this about "too old" ? The day you're too old is the day you assume room temperature!

Last time I saw my Great Uncle Tim (the guy who taught me how to fish trout with a fly rod when I was an 8 year old), he was in his mid 80's - and still looking forward to opening day! (and that was the day before, with a sleet storm forecast for the next morning!). On cold mornings, he usually carried some liquid anti-freeze, his "snake-bite medicine". If he was getting cold, he would just say, "I think I saw a snake!", and that was reason enough. A WWI veteran, he made it to 92, and STILL enjoyed roaming the local streams!


01-30-2003, 09:59 PM
Wow, "Too Old"

Whats our steelheader psychologist going to say now ?

Thats MJYP not Bobk.

God I love this forumn, more fun than watching those reality TV shows for sure.

PM Out

01-31-2003, 07:54 AM
Every man eventually hangs up his waders for good. The only variable is when.

01-31-2003, 08:50 AM
Speak for yourself! I just may be buried in my waders!

You've got to enjoy yourself - and all your life. Fishing ranks right up there with seeing and playing with my grandchildren, grouse hunting, fly tying, etc. and reading about these things. I make it a point to learn new things every day. I can learn as much on a stream as anywhere else! Try out new things - techniques, fly patterns, streams, ad nauseum.

I have seen too many guys who worked hard all their lives, retired, and a few months later, "assumed room temperature". Why? Well, they had no interests. Didn't know what to do with themselves, didn't have anything to do, were bored, and just were convinced they were useless.

So keep a positive attitude. Me? Well, I can't climb hills as well as I could at 18, but the doc has me take some pills. Every year the stream banks seem to get a little higher and the streams seem a little more treacherous (erosion, I guess!), but I still enjoy the outings in the great outdoors!

I've got 3 herniated discs, and arthritis of the lower back - but I STILL go out every chance I can, wade the streams, catch some fish, chase birds and deer in season, and play with my grandkids on the floor, and pick up the little ones and play "horsey". What more is there to life? Funny, my back doesn't bother me at all when I do these things.

Hang up the waders if you want - I'll be the first one at the clearance sale for your gear, too - especially if the price is right. I'm as "THRIFTY" as Hal ( a polite way of saying "cheap").

And make sure you fill us in on your favorite spots so we can all know where to go to catch your fish and have a ball for ourselves!

Or maybe I am wrong. Yeah, that way the streams won't be so crowded. Maybe all the rest of you old guys better hang 'em up now! That way, the streams won't be so crowded! Pass the word that the fishing is lousy, too. That should also help keep the crowds away, too!


01-31-2003, 11:29 AM

I am aspiring to be like you, a hard core fly fisherman to the end. I am 55 so you can tell me your secret spots, trust me, I can keep a secret. My whole corporate life I have needed to that in my various positions.

Shoot me an email sometime to discuss. If ever get out to Michigan rivers we will take care of you for sure.

PM Out

01-31-2003, 11:38 AM
Such hostility for a senior citizen. Anger is a bad thing, it will shorten your life span.

It is just a natural progression in life. You may be one of the lucky FEW. People get old, people get sick. It is not our choice. We never know our fate in life it happens while we live it.

Boat fishing does not equate to stream fishing. My one fishing partner had to give it up at 82 due to cancer and arthritis. He didn't want to, he had to!

Don't think you'll be buying my gear(me being a grandpa is a long way off), it is I who may be selling yours on e-bay.:hehe:

01-31-2003, 02:39 PM
Not angry - just laughing at a young person's poor outlook on life. I have seen people turn "old" at age 30, figuring they were "over the hill". And they did turn old soon after. It's mental attitude! You sound like the old German pessimistic philosopher, Schopenhauer.

You have to keep a good outlook, and always "look forward" to something.

It's supposed to be nice for a couple of days - after I take care of some outdoor chores and a "social" engagement (my new granddaughter's Christening), I'm out of here, and on a stream!

The only hostility I have is when someone suggests that I will someday have to hang up my waders. No way, Jose!

They even have "handicapped" access on rivers around here these days - and some GOOD ones, if YOU ever get to need that!


01-31-2003, 02:39 PM

here is another variable that I didn't see listed : OTHER FISHERMAN and within this topic there are a lot of factors that are controllable and unconrtrollable

01-31-2003, 03:25 PM

How about your choice of fishing partners ?

Need one at least as hard core as you are and not one who is going to want to eat sandwiches half the day on the bank, or who you need to tie their knots for, or have to take to town for a hot lunch or nap at the motel, or watch cable TV etc...

Very important variable I forgot about. I have had a few short term partners like that.

When I go fly fishing thats what I am going to do, as long as I can on the river.

Hard core Steelhead Fly Fishing !


PM Out

01-31-2003, 06:18 PM
Way before sunrise and way afetr sunset, into the gray hours.

Had many like minded fishing partners fish all day break on the river to gulp a beverage eat a snickers and then back at it.

That's those fun hours I was talking about.

BK you missed my point, even Ted Williams hung up the waders. My whole point is enjoy what you got, for it won't be here forever. You also would be suprised at my age!!!

Hal, I keep telling you HGH is the key. Buy it take it daily, the reults are amazing.

01-31-2003, 10:08 PM
Hey, buddy, I have a strong sense of humor. But I also have a good outlook. Just clowning around, but I am SERIOUS about my outlook. I aspire to be like my Great Uncle Tim, and keep it going to 92, and maybe beyond. Will I make it? Beats me, but I'm not going to worry about it, or dwell on it.

I do remember one thing. I lost a lot of 18 to 21 year old buddies in the Marines. Every day since I was 19 years old is a bonus for me that they didn't get the chance to enjoy, so I'm going to enjoy it for them!

Ted Williams was one of my idols. He was a Marine flyer (I wonder what his baseball records would be without several years lost for his service in Big 2 and Big K!)

Me - I was just a "grunt", but thank God for the low and slow "piston engine" ground support F4Us and ADs we used to request!

It's too bad that Ted had to hang up his waders, but I don't PLAN on hanging up mine. Yeah, I may have to, but I'll still keep active in some way, even if it's only writing more mag. articles, reading, tying flies for my buddies, or making rods!


02-08-2003, 02:11 PM

Your philosophy is molded like mine. Having been in the service (USAF) during Vietnam and Cold war era I am thankful for getting through that period while 60K other young americans did not. A couple of my high school buddies were lost there. One of the biggest decisions I ever made in my life may have been the one of whether to enlist in the marines or USAF in 1966. It was a close decision but went USAF. First assignment as avionics technician was to Iceland - Fighter Interceptor squadron. Then to Dover AFB - Military Airlift command supporting airlifts all over the world but mostly SEA. Dover was and still is the east coast military mortuary for all services.

I cannot tell you how many plane's pilots I debriefed on the flight line while they were unloading the caskets of 17-21 year old young americans like me. Quite a sobering experience to know one of those could have been me had I went into the Marines for 3 years.

Did go to Nam but only for a few days twice during the Tet Offensive. Was on the Airlift Alert Team (various technical specialities required to support an emergency airlift to any wheres in the world). Tet Offensive broke out a day or two before, they come pull us out of the barracks at 2 AM, they do not tell you where you are going until you are airborne in the C-141 - Starlifter.

It was an emergency airlift in response to Tet to get as many Bell Cobra Helicopter gunships as possible to Nam for the army and marines, and also to airlift millions of tons of ammunition and other armaments. We had planes from every US Military Airlift Command base, coming in every 3 hours 7X24 for 5-6 weeks from Barksdale AFB, LA to Elemendorf AFB, AK over to various bases in Nam.

I like you am thankful for getting through that early period of my life which I now realize was the most risky for me but the period I personally matured most.

Whenever I have a bad day I think back to that period and the names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington.

It puts things right back into persepective for me.

Every additional fly fishing day I experience, as well as many other things in my life, is just one more thing I am thankful for having to enjoy.


PM Out

02-08-2003, 03:17 PM
Viet Nam left a scar on our country that continues to heal.

The ground pounders were the bravest men over there.

I have a friend that was stationed in Thailand during Nam with the Air Force. He said it was like being in the Boy Scouts with knifes compared to the Marines and Army. He was thankful he was where he was.