: Training Steelhead to take dry flies...?
06-28-2002, 02:37 PM
On another forum a member was questioning whether or not you could take summer runs on a dry fly; there were some who stated it was possible for natives but nearly impossible for hatchery fish. Why?
I knew a farmer who trained his dairy cows to only crap in the barn's gutters. I've known people who taught their cat to use the toilet, somewhat human style. Aside from the usual, sit, stay, roll-over; I've trained my rotty to fetch and deliver items wherever I direct. Training...
Is it possible to train the hatchery fish to take surface offerings? You know, conditioned response to variously colored, floating pellets? Any biologist/behaviorists want to take this question on?
I caught hatchery summer runs on dries all the time when I lived out there, a lot of guys did. Where have you been fishing?
They already are trained - smolts eat bugs all the time. No training necessary, mother nature does a damn good job. No human intervention needed.
06-29-2002, 12:28 AM
upper Rogue using Waller Walker, Bombers, etc., as 'wakers' on the surface. Slower/flat water about 3-4 foot deep.
Only recommendation is to take a pee first; the 'take'will make you loose your water. Don't forget to have at least a foot of line to drop when the fish goes for the fly. Drop the line or you'll have 'short strikes' more often than not.
06-29-2002, 12:29 AM
I'll agree with Juro, they already know how! While not as programmed as their superior native cousins. Hatchery fish will without question take dry, skated, or hitched fly.
06-29-2002, 02:21 AM
I know that native steelhead will often take a properly presented hitched or skated fly. I have not been assured that the same holds for hatchery fish "to the same degree". As to the water I fish, my most recent outings have been on the NF Stilly using sinktips and weighted flies - the rivers have been running very high and off-colored. I envision a time within the next two weeks when I can go to dries on this system. I REALLY like fishing the dry fly!
As my original post indicated, there is some disagreement with those I have spoken with on whether hatchery fish will take surface presentations *well*; even those most capable have hinted at some reluctance on the part of these hatchery fish. Yeah, they tell me they take yet hedge their narrative with such qualifiers as "reluctance", "not to well", etc.
So I assume the buggers need a change in dining habits at the hatchery; more food at the surface and less food that sinks. Conditioned response... I note some of da Vinci's ideas didn't fly, either.;)
06-29-2002, 10:47 AM
What follows is only my read on things. First off, hatchery fish will take surface flies. I fish the Snake and the Grand Ronde every fall and that is all I fish there. I have never tried it but according to some of those who have, fishing a deeply sunk fly on these rivers in October will not get you much action. On the westside of the state though, I disagree.
From my experiences, the light sinktip will be often more productive. This is not to say that hatchery fish won't come up because they will and they do. Just not to as great a degree as their east of the Cascade cousins.
The old rule of thumb for switching to a floater was always 55 degrees. If memory serves me, that was a RHB observation. I would tend to believe that if you wait that long, you will be missing some topwater action. I know one local guide who fished a floater last year on June 1st. It would not have been my choice with 44 degree water but he did it. Of course, one of our board members here took a fine hatchery buck out of his back pocket fishing a tip too. :hehe:
For my own fishing, I usually (in a normal water flow year) switch to a floater around the fourth of July. After about two weeks of enjoying casting a dry line, I will switch off with a Type III tip until we are into the middle of August. Often I will fish a run dry and then go back with the type III. From then until the mid-October, I stick with the floater.
Finally, as to training hatchery fish to come up more. There is some talk about training them to come up less. The problem is on the Columbia syatem where there is massive smolt predation by birds. The vast majority of this predation is against hatchery fish. (Much more by percentage than their portion of the run.) The thinking is the hatchery smolts are used to only being fed on the surface by pellet broadcasters so they are migrating to the sea in the top of the water column. Their wild cousins are used to both surface and sub-surface feeding so they stay deeper in the water column and thus avoid the birds.
06-29-2002, 11:40 AM
In my experience the willingness of a summer steelhead to come to a surface fly is less dependent on whether they are hatchery or wild but rather the fish's condition. The biggest key is whether the fish or traveling or not. In my fishing in the Puget Sound region when I could find hatchery fish that were still traveling upstream the seem to come readily to the surface. The fish that have podded up in up-river holding pools were difficult to move. However those up-river fish would come to the surface after they were "stirred up" after the first fall rains. Have had excellent fall (late September/October) fishing with waking caddis on hatchery fish on Stilli, Sky and Snoqualmie. The fishing was usually for only a day or two on the drop following a good river rise which seem to move the fish around. Once the fish settled down they seemed to go stale again; at least for surface activity.
Believe whether the fish are moving or not explains much of why the hatchery fish on the East-side of Cascades seem to come to the surface better. In the Puget Sound area by the time the rivers clear and drop to good waking conditions (mid-July?) most of the hatchery fish are all ready in up river areas and not moving much. However the wild fish (example the wonderful Deer Creek fish) are just starting to arrive in good numbers.
Another factor is whether the hatchery fish are being pressured or not. Whenever I could find summer steelhead (hatchey or wild) that have not been fished much good fishing was found. The fish in runs or glides (less than 6 feet deep is key) would respond to surface methods the best. Unfortunately it is getting pretty difficult to find such fish.
Just my observations.
06-29-2002, 01:46 PM
Well I guess that I will add something to this thread. I have caught fish on Drys such as a Stimulator, Black Humpy,Red Ant.
I would have added more,but you've got to catch more to put it in here. I am usually fishing for small fish but when they hit I am usually ready. Most of my fish have been in the head waters of the Skykomish. Lots of water up there that doesn't get any pressure. Jim S.:D
06-29-2002, 02:09 PM
Good to see you over here on Flytalk. Welcome to the baord.
For mid-summer fish, a factor in addition to some of the great info posted by Sinktip and Smalma and others is time of day. For instance, I could go to a hatchery stack pool and skate up a fish or two consistently between dawn and 7:30-8am -or- while the ranger is threatening to lock the gates to the park at dusk but be floggin' it all day long and not raise an eyebrow on the fish. But none of that matters...
The most important comparison should not be made in terms of fishing, but the fish themselves. Hatchery steelhead are raised in concrete sloughs, fed artificial pellet food, effectively all of their natural juvenile knowledge is replaced with a manufactured mentality. It's a miracle of nature that they can overcome that void and survive to become adults. We should not regard hatchery fish (takers or non takers) as some kind of human success, it's survival in spite of human manipulation - all credit belongs to the wily steelhead itself.
Every hatchery steelhead is just a replacement for the real fish that the river had produced through the milennia, working hard to cultivate a form that had been refined to be perfect for that particular drainage. Nature is the perfect cultivator, humans really suck at it. All we're doing is isolating genetic traits to meet our one-sided needs. The fact that we are perpetuating fish that have no knowledge of digging redds (bonked and stripped), no adolescent knowledge of ways of the stream, in fact smolt swim quickly toward footsteps at hatcheries without feeding machines.
Sorry to digress, but it dawned on me that we are comparing hatchery fish to native fish in terms of sporting value, and it struck me as petty and wrong.