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>> Archive: Salmon & Steelhead Flies Spey flies to mixed wings, new innovations

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Topic Review (Newest First)
04-24-2004 12:11 PM
Sharp Steelie Feiger,

Have been experimenting for years (since 1986). The catch
rate ratio between the simple patterns/nymphs and the
more traditional patterns (Atlantic Salmon/Steelhead/Speys)
has been staggering. Because of my work schedule for
years, have always had the opportunity to get out on
weekdays when pressure is light and do some real testing.

In my opinion and from what I have learned the fly does make
a difference. If I'm going out to catch Steelhead or Salmon
on a fly I have no doubt what the most effective patterns are.

On the other side of the house, it is alwasy fun to create
something new to try. If the pattern doesn't work - it goes
in the recycling bin. Simply put - I tie flies to catch fish not
fishermen. Have had so much fun and success that I figure
it's time to share for the benefit of some others - specifically
those just starting out.

Have a great week.
04-21-2004 08:45 AM
Sharp Steelie

So, does RA's beloved intruders fall under the KISS method??

All in jest. I have a preference for the spey flies myself, in part the "art" and energy required to make a good one, but also because of their effectiveness. can't argue with 30-40 years on west coast steelhead success, and a couple centuries of swingin' in the old world.

Like many have said, having confidence in your fly maybe the single most influential aspect of your fishing. With a fly you have confidence in, the more intent and carefull you'll fish, and will concentrate on the swing, ready for the take... I have that confidence in the spey/Glasso flies I've tied, not the simple hairwing down at the fly shop....

04-21-2004 08:26 AM
I dunno...

Here in Lake Ontario, New York State took some basic rainbows, and by playing with light in the hatcheries, altered their spawning habits to make 'em FALL spawners. The true steelheads (and Skamies) are spring spawners. BOTH varieties are stocked in tribs leading into the lake. I heard that this was done to keep 'em separate.

In the fall, you can catch some beautifully marked RAINBOWS of extraordinary size. Normal rainbow markings, as well. You will also see them on redds, in the act of spawning. But you can catch some steelies, as well.

The 11-pounder I got last October, following the kings upstream, was caught on an egg pattern while fishing for lake-run browns, and had the most beautiful "typical rainbow" coloration you could ask for. Most of the "steelheads" I catch in the fall are so marked, but I do get some typical silvery "true steelheads" - at least that's what the coloration tells me.

I don't know if the other GL states are similarly affected, but that seems to be true for the streams of western Lake Ontario.

Sorry to throw some confusion into the game, but it's all relevant, I guess.

04-21-2004 01:35 AM
Sharp Steelie Riveraddict - I completely agree with you. FUNCTION is
the key to effective fly patterns - specifically for Steelhead.
I have personally tied just about every type of fly there
is with a few exceptions. I prefer to tie flies that fish will
readily take. Why go fly fishing to not catch Steelhead. There
really is something to the K.I.S.S. theory.
04-20-2004 07:05 PM
wrke RA
Wow, does this mean that I should now start fishing my beloved North Umpqua summer steelhead like they are Great Lakes fish (you know, they spawn in the spring, too)?? Throw away over 30 years of experience of swinging classic flies and now start fishing egg flies? I think I'm going to cry.
04-20-2004 06:08 PM
Back to the original question at hand...

One thing to keep in mind about the GL (Great Lakes) fishery is that a significant number of the steelhead enter into the rivers in the Fall prior to the Spring that they will spawn, with others continueing to trickle into the rivers throughout the onset of early winter. These particular fish have not taken on the "mindset" of spawning, and will actively feed, in fact quite aggressively at times. When they first enter into the river they can act very much like opportunistic trout and bite just about anything that is thrown their way. But, as they accrue more time in the river, they "key in" and become more "adjusted" to the food forms that are actually present - salmon eggs until the middle/end of December, then nymphs - and like any resident trout, they start to become "selective". Once "residualized" to the river, GL steelhead are "keyed" to food items that drift naturally with the current, as that is the most likely means with which the most prevalent and common forms of food found in that environment present themselves to the steelhead. These fish will also assume holding spots that will have more to do with feeding than resting, and will remain in them for greatly extended periods of time as compared with PNW (Pacific Northwest) winter steelhead. These facts have a great deal to do with the popularity of egg flies and natural looking nymphs in the GL region. Swinging flies for GL steelhead works, but most certainly not to the degree that dead drifting glo-bugs or nymphs does. For GL steelheaders it comes down to whether one wishes to fish most effectively (dead drift glo-bugs and nymphs), or whether one wishes to catch steelhead in a manner that is more personally pleasing/satisfactory (swinging flies - whether they be Woolly Buggers or Speys).

Here in the PNW we deal with a different set of parameters. When our winter fish enter into freshwater, Mother Nature has already "turned off" their need to feed. This does not mean that they will absolutely not feed, but rather that the "desire" to do so is much reduced or non-existent. Also, the sections of rivers we fish basically can be looked upon as "highways" for steelhead traveling to reach upriver spawning areas. These spawning areas are closed to angling at that time of year. This means that we are fishing for steelhead that will "hold" in our part of the river only temporarily, a few hours up to a couple of days, and that our steelhead select their holding spots solely for their ability to provide temporary sanctuary or refuge. Our rivers are also considerably larger in average volume, and usually contain less fish than the GL rivers do. All of this adds up to the fact that winter steelheading in the PNW boils down to a "searching" game, as we cannot predict at ANY time, which particular piece of water will have any steelhead in it, or even where in a particular piece of water a fish will necessarily be holding. Fortunately, because our steelhead are not feeding but do seem to retain a "reflex" feeding response under the right circumstances (thus not "selective), coupled with the fact that their most recent feeding "memory" is oceanic, we are allowed considerable lattitude in the flies that we fish, along with their presentations. These conditons all contribute to the wider variety of flies that can be used successfully out here in the PNW, and also is why the swinging of flies (whatever particular type) is a popular and effective approach of flyfishing steelhead here.

It is true that for many anglers art will actually overtake function when it comes to tying flies... and PNW steelhead are very accomodating to such pursuits. And, as long as the fly is productive enough to keep its creator satisfied, then what the heck! What I don't get though, is how many folks will spend inordinate amounts of time to get some aesthetically pleasing aspect of a fly just right, but won't invest hardly any time at all into improving the actual FUNCTION of the fly.
04-18-2004 02:08 PM

You totally missed my point. Your post implied heavily that it was the particular fly that you were using that was responsible for catching that steelhead, and that the other patterns being used were somehow "not right" for that situation, as "confirmed" by the fact that that yours was the only steelhead caught. I am stating the case that THE CATCHING OF ONE FISH, especially on the piece of water involved, and under the conditions that were at hand, is not enough basis for drawing such a conclusion, or presenting the situation in a way that implies such a conclusion. I too have made multiple passes on that bar hundreds of times (at least) over many years and have done as you do - changed flies during successive passes. I have also fished it numerous times by making several passes while using the same fly each time. Personally, I have found NO difference in success rate between the two approaches as long as there wasn't some obvious change in conditions (this of course assuming that one is using a fly that is "appropriate" to begin with). I have experimented with many different approaches to fishing that piece of water, and have accumulated extensive observations and experiences there, much of it back in the days when there were actually large numbers of fish during our Winter/Spring runs, and have concluded that at most times the fish being caught there are MOVING fish, and only TEMPORARILY holding, and that with each passing minute the numbers of fish and their locations on that particular piece of water is a constantly changing factor, therefore considering the dynamic variables, it is not a good place to try and establish the effectiveness of one fly against another

You are right in what you state. Besides, if steelheading were "scientific" it wouldn't be such an appealing sport to those of us that are "off" enough to pursue it with great passion. However, given enough experience, combined with an aptitude for observation, one can definitely establish patterns of steelhead behavior and circumstances, and this of course helps determine fly selection. I personally do not believe in "magic fly patterns", but instead base my selection of a fly on GENERAL size, silhouette, and color. I believe that all fly patterns that are of the same general size, silhouette, and color, will have absolutely the same impact on a fish, during the same conditions, regardless of whether it is an Ally's Shrimp, G.P., or Intruder, etc., etc.
04-18-2004 12:36 PM
Feiger Exactly!!! tip one back for me!!!!!
04-18-2004 01:38 AM
flytyer Feiger,

Yup! It is pure theory and it ain't worth debating here in the forum. It is best left for time away from the river in the company of fly fishing friends and some quality whisky.
04-18-2004 01:21 AM

Are we going to start ANOTHER thread debating the merits of one fly type vs. another, intruder vs. hairwing vs. full dress feather wing vs. spey vs. a piece of burlap/estaz wrapped on a hook?? For all of the hypothosizing and theorizing I've seen on other threads of this subject what flies do/don't when, where and how they "trigger" a response and all the things we THINK we can control, the biggest and most important wild card, the action/reaction of the fish (and their movement through a run, where they there, or weren't they there the previous pass, a change in light on the water, did it get up on the right or the left side of the bed that morning.........:eyecrazy: :hehe: :hehe: ), has been and ALWAYS WILL BE unpredictable. Sure, like all other things wild, we can begin to establish patterns of where we expect them to hold in a run, when they MAY be there, and what kinds of presentations MIGHT entice them to bite, but ultimately whether or not it does is completely up to the fish, and the fish alone; at best, all we can hope to do is give it the opportunity to make that mistake.

Until someone can absolutely, repeatedly demonstrate that the EXACT SAME FISH, under the EXACT SAME conditions, with the EXACT SAME fly and the EXACT SAME presentation (with their @#$* on the exact same side of their drawers/wader?? ), why one fly caught a fish in a run, while another fly didn't is purely theory and speculation... Scientific Method fellas...

Tho I must admit I do enjoy some of the battles and bickering---some of you guys take this WAY to seriously!! What, are you trying to make a living fishing or something?!?!? :eyecrazy: :eyecrazy: I jest, fellas...

Here's theory for ya, I "observe" such behavior amongst "forum partiicipants" most often and at its peak when the rivers are blown, the steelhead runs suck, they're havin' to work instead of fish, the season ends (poor OP bastards...)... Solution?? Go Fishing!!!!

my $1.25--keep the change....
04-18-2004 12:47 AM
flytyer Igor,

And on other days it is a different fly that gets the fish.


I have fished that run many times when sharing it with 7 or 8 fisherman when only one fly type has caught steelhead. And I have fished it when nearly any fly caught fish.

It may well have been a recently arrived fish that was willing to take; but it could have just as easily been a fish that was there for several hours that was a player with only one fly type. I have seen on the Skagit/Sauk and other rivers with both summer and winter fish.

The first time through I had an Orange Heron on and got nothing. The second time through, per my usual practive whether summer or winter, I changed to a different type and style fly and got a fish.

I began the practice of changing to a diffrent style and type of fly on any subsequent pass through a run about 10 years ago after reading in Kelson's SALMON FLY why he changed fly style and type each time he went through a run. I have found a taker on the new fly style and type often enough that I think Kelson was right in his assertion about a different type and style of fly may well by the difference between going fishless and getting a fish.

Does it always work, no; but it works more often than going through a second time with the same fly or type of fly as the first time through.
04-18-2004 12:17 AM

I should probably just let this one go, but seeing as how I just ditched a two day migraine and am now feeling a bit spunky, here goes...

Missed two? In my book that is totally inconclusive and shaky grounds for judging the effectiveness of a fly. Two what? Dollies? Suckers? Sticks? Rocks? C'mon, lets be real and go by "hard" facts. One steelhead was landed. It was on at least the second pass that ALL of us had made through that run. Said run is 200+ yards long, is well known as a "moving fish" run, and it was evening - light fading as we fished. Regardless of the order in which we were (you were #1 in line as a matter of fact), the fact is that under said circumstances no experienced steelheader would conclude that it was the fly the made the difference of catching the only fish of the evening. Don't mean to pick on you Flytyer, but that piece of water is infamous for putting out fish in random order regardless of who you are, how far you can cast, what fly you are using, etc., etc. That is one of the reasons that I love fishing it.
04-17-2004 08:46 AM
Igor Of *course* it was the Ally's Shrimp.
04-17-2004 12:39 AM
flytyer William,

You are wrong in your guess. I purposely left out which one was illicited the takes because it was not germaine to the illustration. However, since you asked a direct question, it was the Ally's Shrimp.
04-17-2004 12:33 AM
inland I don't have the patience to sit down and tie ultra fancy flies anymore. KISS= I have simplified most of my staple spey patterns and still can't stomach more than a half dozen the one day a month I force myself to sit and tie. The creative tying juices dried up 7 or 8 years ago. I guess the season has to be looming to get the motivation. However I do derive great pleasure from fishing 'artful' flies, it's that I don't go over the top anymore. Are they more effective? Only because I have complete confidence and they stay tied to the leader.

Now Flytyer, you left that one wide open on WHICH fly had the action. Taking a stab I would guess it was a LARGE prawn type pattern with lead eyes. Could be wrong though...

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