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Great Lakes Steelhead & Salmon Amazing "Inland ocean" fisheries

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Topic Review (Newest First)
11-18-2004 07:52 PM
shotgunner "Shooting ducks on the pond gaurantees you will get a few ducks. Is that not what it is really all about?." posted by Muckle Salmon.

Muckle salmon, i think your opinion to be presumptuous to a degree. consider every one who placed a post here or the dead drift thread. thats alot of water to be intimate with. the whole pacific coast? the entire great lakes region?

there seems to be a tendancy here to lump anything other than a swung fly presentation into some sort of bastardized drift fishing on a fly rod tactic. that is the reason i started this thread. there needs to be a DISTINCTION between fly fishing a nymph or egg in a legitimate manner and drift fishing. if we were talking of say nymphing for trout (anadromous rainbow TROUT?) it wouldn't even raise an eyebrow let alone be considered by some as unacceptable. so why is it?

"BTW. I've come up with a rig that works well for fishing slots at short range and still requires a spey cast to execute." borrowed from peter-s-c

peter, exactly! sngl hnd, dbl hnd, spey, roll, overhead....... flyfishing casts. i wouldn't bother with anything that i couldn't comfortably cast using conventional fly casting methods.

Riveraddict, most of the animosity towards C&D comes from misuse and total disregard for sportsmanship displayed by so many people anymore. deliberate foul hooking of spawning fish is the root of the current poor opinion. this perception is alot of the reason i feel a need to defend a credible method i and many others enjoy that is more often than not veiwed as one and the same. a tough pill to swallow.

people who use the tactic in an ethical manner are much more evident around this time of the season. the salmon are done, steelhead few and far between. certainly not "stacked" [at least not locally] as was hinted at earlier.

thanks. SG
11-18-2004 11:22 AM
h2o Interesting debate and no hard feelings. Every river is differant, the waters I fish have little caddis larva in them from about now til' March. There are golden & black stones in larger sizes but not a lot. In Feb. - March a good amount of tiny brown stones. In the spring you will also find some March Browns. There are some burrowers amongst the silt year round. Early fall (Sept.) there are good numbers of Slate Drakes and a dark soft hackle works well.
Emerald shiners and other minnows migrate in from the lake starting in December for there spawning and egg stealing ritual. I have taken many Steelhead swinging shiner pattern streamers along shale ledges in winter ice water of Dec. - Feb.
Again, I really don't care how someone fish's except from a conservation stanpoint and what it does to the fishery.
11-18-2004 08:37 AM
Caddis Larvae

We do very well on steelhead and winter trout on green caddis Larvae all winter. Where the larger mayflies, especially the borrowers are unavailable to trout in the winter, the caddis seem to be around in all sizes at all times. There are several species which can be called green rock worm where I fish but most free standing caddis and net spinners have multi-year larvael stages. Plus caddis hatch every day from april to November on some of the waters I fish so I know the nymphs are available in the winter. Helgramites are also a good nymph imatation in the winter, I have a friend who keeps trout from time to time and he has observed many helgramites in stomachs of browns we have taken in January and February. I have never kept a steelhead so I can't speak to this. The cold water must slow the strong-swimming helgramite down...just a theory.

in response to Muckle Salmon...No shooting ducks on a pond doesn't equate to swinging flies in my opinion, would you use a stimulator during a Blue Winged Olive hatch to catch trout? Ducks do fly, and do come to decoys and will get you more than one shot per outing. If I was going to get four or five shots at a steelhead per outing swinging a fly, guess what? I'd be swinging flies all day/ In NY the evidence is the opposite, you might get four or five shots at swinging flies per season.

On the Pacific Northwest tribs, doesn't swinging a fly that looks like a shrimp or October Caddis match some sort of hatch? We swing flies early season and late spring when the water is in the high 40's to 50's, the water temp is an average of 33 to 34 in most of the tribs I fish in January through March, the cold hard truth is, these streams are not spring fed, we don't have moderate temps like the Pacific NW does the winter in Northern NY is harsh, the fish's motabulism just doesn't require them to eat much. Caddis Larvae and eggs provide vasts amount of energy for minimul effort, why would the fish move for something else.

Anyways, good debate fellas, I am always looking for new techniques for my fishing and this has been a big help.
11-18-2004 08:06 AM
peter-s-c As I understand it, C&D with ersatz fly fishing rigs is used in NY to get onto the "fly fishing only" stretches.

BTW. I've come up with a rig that works well for fishing slots at short range and still requires a spey cast to execute. I use just a WC belly (or a reversed WC), attach a leader of around 10' plus indicator, spey fly, and BB splitshot above the tippet knot. The thick WC belly actually spey casts this rig, not lobbing it, then an upstream mend, hold the rod tip back, try to keep all of the fly line off the water, and 'steer' the leader down the chute, holding it back so that the fly is the first thing downstream. I use it with wets but it could be used with eggs and nymphs as well.
11-18-2004 06:31 AM
h2o River Addict,

In reply..........It would be hard to find much green caddis larva in December. Most are not developed yet..............maybe your river is differant ? Or maybe they were tiny midge larva..........hey ?

Chuck & Duck - To each there own. For some reason some anglers in Mich. feel the rivers are differant than elsewhere and require that method. Others in Mich. don't feel that way. Chuck & Duck is a spin fishing method used with drift (bottom bouncing) rods. It works better with those rods, yet some want to spool a fly reel with amnesia, mono, or running line and have at it with a fly rod. It lines (floss's) more fish than any other method I know. Just trying to answer your regards to "why" each there own.

Thankfully we don't get much of a King run where I fish.
11-17-2004 11:47 PM
Riveraddict First off let me say that I personally don't have a problem with C&D though I certainly do not consider it to be flyfishing (because there isn't any FLYCASTING involved). In appropriate situations I view C&D as an enjoyable and legitimate method of fishing. I did quite a bit of it when I used to live in Michigan. When it comes to making short, tight casts on small rivers I think it would be difficult to find any other fishing method that is as accurate for thoroughly covering small slots and pockets. On some of the really small streams it was the only alternative to using a spinning outfit because there was absolutely no room for ANY kind of a flycast. And, regardless of what many people may say, for me catching a fish on a flyrod and flyreel is still more fun (more "feel") than on a spin rod, even if the flyrod is not being flycast. It seems as if there is a lot of animosity towards C&D. My question is, if a river is open to all forms of fishing then what are the grounds to complain about C&D anglers? Or if a river has a "fishing with flies only" regulation, which is NOT the same as a "flyfishing only" regulation, once again what is the justification for complaining about C&D? Just curious.

I used to live in Michigan from the early 70's to mid 80's, excluding a few years in the middle of that time when I did a tour in the Navy. Every steelhead that I killed during that time (a bunch... those were the "good old days" when the fish outnumbered the fisherfolk) had its stomach examined for possible contents. The most common item prior to November was salmon eggs (fresh). During November aquatic insects started to make a significant showing along with "old" washed out salmon eggs. By late December eggs became a minor item and aquatic insects became the major item. I have caught steelhead in the middle of Michigan's winters with stomachs packed to the bulging point with small green rockworms. Even though there might not appear to be much insect life around in the winter, it is in fact there for the fish to take advantage of.
I would agree with you that fishing pressure definitely dampens a steelhead's enthusiasm for chasing, but I also believe that there are several other factors that also contribute, and that it is a combination of all these factors together that is responsible for what seems to be (most of the time) a low display of interest by Great Lakes steelhead for chasing flies .
11-17-2004 09:01 PM
Muckle Salmon

Shooting ducks on the pond gaurantees you will get a few ducks. Is that not what it is really all about?
11-15-2004 10:44 AM
Day of the swinger

Unfortunately you might find it tough to find a place to swing your flies.

The Deschutes has been my home river.

When you fish it today you might want to bring you own autographed flat rock to stand on. Even then you may not find a suitable place to swing a fly. The only sure method I have found is get there EARLY. Be standing on the rock you brought long before its time to fish. So its 2:30 AM get up drive two hours to the river, stand in the river for two hours trying to hold your spot then hopefully no one low holes you and you get to fish the run.

When I get there, and there is no suitable water to swing, someone is already fishing it. I tie on a nymphing rig and fish the water no one wants. One of the local fly shop owners asked me why I would nymph. I told him simply, I dont get up and drive eighty miles to watch other people fish.

11-15-2004 09:28 AM
h2o Shotgunner,
After reviewing, I would just like to appoligize for my previous reply. It did not come off the way I intended it to................sorry.

There are some conservation issues, here on my local Steelhead waters, which are on the back of my mind when posting.

On smaller tribs I love to fish soft hackles sz. 6 to 10 slightly weighted or bead head, cast 45% upstream, drift and then swung out. I use a floating line, hand tied mono leader with a good butt section, a small size b or bb split shot or two when needed, etc. This is about the only way they(smaller streams) can be fished. A RIO 7' sinking leader only comes into play if the flows are high and in a couple certain pools.

I fact I do the same on larger rivers when the Steelhead won't chase much,slots,chutes,etc. or if every indicator nymphing egg fisherman and centerpiner is hooking up and because of pressure, cold water, what ever........I can not get a fish to pursue a streamer,bugger,etc. on a sink tip.

I very much enjoy tying and fishing my soft hackles for both Steelhead & Trout...............always have, always will. Very simular to what you "spoke of".

The only problem I have with "how people fish" it effects the fishery from a ethics and conservation standpoint and how it effects the fish being pursued from a respect and conservation standpoint. Unfortunately on some waters the great Steelhead & Salmon become a numbers game and get about as much respect as catching buckets of panfish from a boat with bait.
11-14-2004 10:02 PM
juro In my annual pilgrimages to the great steelhead rivers of the pacific northwest; and in my dreams to fish more of the great atlantic salmon rivers of the world - I envision more suitable swing water than I could cover in a lifetime (though I would like to try). With every cast, mend and swim of my fly, I see more opportunity to refine and improve every aspect of what I am doing and have no doubt that I will never even come close to learning it all.

However, if one deploys other means to find satisfaction in their home waters more power to these crafty anglers I say. I hope I did not come across as anything other than one voice from the perspective of the dedicated swinger, just as some have effectively put nymphing and indicators, et. al. into perspective in other threads.

In fact I have a lot of respect for the capable drift fisherman, savvy plug puller, and spoon/spinner angler as they really have figured out a lot about fishing and catching. Not my choice to fish that way, but there is no wrong or right, just many rights to each his/her own and we are all fortunate to have the opportunities to explore and indulge in these pursuits.

Ed Link, seasoned 30 year veteran guide on the Salmon River Idaho and an acquaintance I am glad to have made recently might say... "A good guide needs to know all 5 disciplines of steelhead fishing to make a living. One day you need to use Skagit casts to work down a tight bank, and the next day you'll place a boat rod in the hands of a cigarstore Indian and row steady down the center aisle just like you're in church on Sunday, sideways into the seventh row, over and stop at the pretty lady and place the hotshot underneath her petticoat without her knowing it." It's his mastery of so many angles that impressed me the most. Besides, Ed's shore lunch is so legendary that even an off day is worth the boat ride and the stories are as good as any you'll hear in a lifetime of river bull. Somehow I am left thinking there was no bull in Ed's b/s, or at least not enough to matter. Ask him about the rocks that line the canyon near Shoup.

I never knew that elk steaks and slow roasted red onions with a dutch oven cobbler could be so good by the campfire. Tom, Keith, and the gang sure put on a mean dinner I won't soon forget!

Anyway my point is, it's all good and each technique requires it's own brand of study, discipline and mastery.
11-14-2004 08:45 PM
shotgunner juro, very nice read. tough act to follow, but that seems to be your M.O. writing or casting. still i need to try, like the long awaited furlough of a days fishing that sours with poor weather. at least put forth an effort.........

"I stare into my Wheatley at the creations from the night before at the no-tell motel with fluff and feather flying about the room, spitting out bronze mallard bits floating in 20 year single malt in a tin cup". borrowed from juro.

this i can relate to. tell me though, is there no life in a small perfect black bead head pheasant tail? or an intricate flash bodied partridge & philoplume tied on a small heavy wet fly hook? if not then i've been decieved..........

even within your post above there seems somewhat of an undertone that anything other than a swing is done to hedge the bet or stack the odds, and never out of necessity. the small numbers of fish i play, or even less that come to hand would test the patience of any mortal.

"But rather than the water I fish dictating my technique, I have decided that my technique will dictate the water that I fish" borrowed from Gillie.

this i can understand easily and makes good sense. i too have my reasons for choosing some of the water i fish as i stated earlier.

a last quote by a man who gave the credibility to a method that i've been searching for here on this site, concerning my little corner, the great lakes area.

"Another case in point are small streams with fast currents and/or exceptional depth. Such watercourses are too narrow to actually produce any real sort of "swing", whether it be to initially "trigger" a steelhead to take, or to work the fly down deep enough to attract a fish's attention. The narrow, confined aspects of such streams makes "traditional" approaches of flyfishing almost impossible." borrowed with great thanks from Riveraddict.

11-13-2004 06:40 AM
Gillie Very nice Juro

11-13-2004 06:22 AM
juro I often dream of walking thru the trees to the waters edge, the sound of water getting stronger and the long rod threading through the last of the path to the gravel shore. The lie is not deep nor shallow, fast nor slow and lined with stones that any man would labor to carry, but he could. Between these stones lie gravel of varying granularity, from pea to baseball, shifting into scallops and ridges with every freshet and creating a diversity of chutes and slots, pockets and lies.

And in some of them lie the alpha trout, the realizations of chrome daydreams, the wily hardbodies home on leave from searun bootcamp - the wild steelhead of the legendary variety, hard to have but dear to hold even if just for a minute.

Now I could fool them with roe, or tempt them with metal. In fact I have in the past. I could play the numbers high with slinkies tapped on the gravel with a level-wind reel on a trigger handled drift rod, or float a bobber on a centerpin reel for 75 yards of seam standing on the same rock all day. But while some are quite happy with all that, my personal choice is not any of those because I don't fish for numbers, or even so much fish - I fish for satisfaction and I get that from seeking to perfect Spey casting and fishing the swing. The more 'pure' the swing, the better the casting, the more satisfaction I bring to hand. No split shots, no bobbers, no egg flies for me but I use sinktips because they let me swing through the winter months with reasonable (sometimes ridiculous) success. And summer greased-lining can be purely indulgent when the fish get to thinking it's time to torpedo a surface bug.

I am quite happy with the results of a season of swinging flies even when a particular day might be less productive than another method. But a day is not pivotal in an entire lifetime of swinging flies for steelhead and salmon, and a lifetime's worth of swinging fish to the fly is worth much more to me than many times the fish fooled by roe.

I am convinced that when my arms and legs fail me and I contemplate the days I have logged in my journal, it will be the fish I took by most honorable means (again, in my own humble opinion and perspective; very subjective) that I will remember as the accomplishments of my angling life.

Strip-strip-strip, switch. Hmmm... I stare into my Wheatley at the creations from the night before at the no-tell motel with fluff and feather flying about the room, spitting out bronze mallard bits floating in 20 year single malt in a tin cup. Weather channel in an infinite loop, and losing sleep over the excitement of being in steelhead country on a mission. And here I finally stand, and a black heron spey tied with a signal light tag makes the grade and gets the double turle nod.

The leader is fresh; the line mended as the first swing of the day begins. For me, there is simply no other way to seek the grab. Again, I fish for satisfaction, and sometimes that means a fish. When all goes right it means several in a day. But it always means satisfaction as long as I am surrounded by beauty, making good casts, and playing the numbers to move a fish to my fly on any given day.

11-12-2004 10:05 PM

You can avoid the chuck and duck and still fish deep enough by finding the balance between a fly's weight and your style of outfit, in my humble opinion. I prefer to tie flies with heavy hooks sparsely dressed, or weight the hooks with a few turns of lead or a tungsten bead. On a spey rod and long belly floating line many small to med sized nymphs and wets can be fished on a long leader without the adverse C&D effects. The flies, that are not too heavy but just heavy enough (#10 beadhead birdsnest, #6 purple peril hairwing on a heavy english salmon hook) to want to sink on their own, are cast just upstream enough to allow for enough of a sink to fish the depth you desire. If you need to get deeper tie em bigger and/or heavier and/or use a short belly with sink tip. You can then adapt the depth and fishing style (dead drift, swing) to meet the immediate situation.


The end of your flyline is as good an indicator as any bobber, and to approve or not of another's style of fishing is to apply your world view to another individuals world; one of the classic root causes of conflict in the history of civilization.
11-12-2004 08:10 PM
h2o It was not long ago when indicators were a coreless 2" piece of flyline, a red mono butt section of the leader, a small pinch on piece of foam. Today it is common to see 5/8" to 3/4" lil' corkies(hell........I have them), ice fishing floats, enough yarn to make a sock. It went from a indicator to a float rig.

The scenario about the nymphs natural dead drift, the mention of Trout, almost a "match the nymph hatch type thing" sounds very May or June'ish(makes me want to tie some emergers,grin) and is a bit melodramatic for me. All though I use to say and sound the exact same when nymphing for Steelhead. These days if I drift I drift and make no bones about it.

It's November look under the rocks what do you see..............not much. There are not many bugs now. A few stone flys if your real,real lucky. And if it's a shale type trib even less. Then I would use the.............when the Steelhead were par & smolts they would feed on nymphs in the stream, when they re-enter the stream they remember these traits. Sounds good but again its November and I never mentioned the fact that for months these now large fish have been feeding on schools of baitfish. Then the streams are to small, to fast, to many chutes, not enough swing water.............etc. Yet, come Trout season or even on a Brookie stream anglers will swing a soft hackle, wets, streamers,etc. on even smaller or more gradiant water.

Steelhead fisheries get more pressure these days from anglers than ever. They get pounded.................C & R............over & over again as they make there way up river..........each fall & winter. The more pressure from anglers.........the more line & drift shy they become.........less likely to pursue. Then there is the whole "egg" thing. It's a vicious cycle that spins downward(slower drift,smaller flies,lighter line,.........spookier & spookier presured fish) which is why hardwear and drift fishing is outlawed on some Steelhead waters. It's fine if your in the middle of nowhere's.........say maybe Iceland (certainly is not any "nowhere's" left in the lower states) but it's devastating from a conservation standpoint everywhere else. At somepoint you have to take a look at the fishery as a whole. It's about pressure. I fish a Trout tailwater from a drift boat when water temps. are only in the 30's.........yes 30's. Big Browns chase sz. 2 / 6x long streamers cast with a 200 grain streamer express and striped as FAST as we can strip then. There is no pressure .......................on that water.

Those Steelhead were not drift shy untill they became pressured from getting pounded down low. They are meat eaters..............just as most Trout over 20" are...............even in May.
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