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Great Lakes Steelhead & Salmon Amazing "Inland ocean" fisheries

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Topic Review (Newest First)
01-03-2005 03:28 PM
peter-s-c Sean / Gillie

Had no idea that it was a rough replication of the Lady Caroline -- I just threw some materials on the hook that seemed to work together. I'll have to give it a good workout on the first worthwhile opportunity.

01-03-2005 02:50 PM
Gillie The Lady Caroline tied small will take winter steelhead on the GL in clear water. I have taken steelies on the Salmon River with this fly. It has been the one "traditional" fly I've had success with up higher on the river where the fish tend to be stale and pressured. I've always attributed it to the subtle nature of the fly.

01-03-2005 02:45 PM
sean Hey Peter,

Not great lakes in particular but what you have there looks like a hairwing conversion of the venerable lady caroline. The spey version is the one I use around here in late summer when flows are low and fish can be spooky. Usually fish it on 6 and 8 tiemco 200rs.

I even fish it here during cold and clear conditions in a little larger sizes. A great pattern and I think the red tail adds a little attraction the steelhead just cannot resist.

Will have to try a hairwing conversion like yours next summer and see how it fairs. Bet they will crush it.

01-03-2005 02:36 PM
Shaq Absolutely, but I tend to add my splash of color in the thread, I haven't had much luck with a red tag but defenately had luck with a red head. Not too sure why. Very similiar to what you have there but I have changed the body style alittle to move away from the shrimp/crustacean look to the nymph/baitfish look.
01-03-2005 02:27 PM
Originally Posted by Shaq
Well, I didn't mean to spark this debate but some great ideas. I am currently trying to come up with a series of new "small" popsicles using chicken marabou or the fluff of saddle hackles.
Interesting as I'm currently fiddling with basically the same thing -- trying to make some small, natural coloured wets and speys for those days when the fish don't seem partial to the bright stuff. Just doing a batch of yellow/chartreuse Valk Petites on Partridge #10 single Wilsons for the Credit River - that'll cover off the "bright" category but the drab still eludes.

Early this morning, when I was supposed to be sleeping, I was dreaming up a fly with a peacock herl body and tan chickaboo spey hackled through it, natural squirrel on top, gold and chartreuse tags, plus some kind of colour accent -- a tail maybe. Which leads me to the question, when you guys tie up small and drab, do you usually put a splash of colour on it? Something like this one?
01-03-2005 01:52 PM
Shaq Well, I didn't mean to spark this debate but some great ideas. I am currently trying to come up with a series of new "small" popsicles using chicken marabou or the fluff of saddle hackles. They are based on the nymph colors which have been successful over the years. Black stones, princes, pheasant tails, ect. and represent the colors of egg sacs the bait guys use. unfortunately I spend several hours at the vise per hour fishing so most of my theorys go untested for weeks and I obsess about obsessions. It's quite maddening. My next trip will be to check out the shorter sink tips and try some new flies. And then off to the Somerset Show, any of you guys going down to it?
01-03-2005 10:38 AM
juro It would be my pleasure!

We will have a Noreaster spey clave in spring, and the Catt clave so so successful we plan to do it every year (but with a little more time for fishing!)

Might make it out to the S.R. in early March as well, I will let you know.
01-03-2005 10:17 AM
dmas Juro,

I could really use a lesson with the old two hander. My casts are usually functional but I imagine pretty ugly. I tried to make the clave at the Catt last Fall but with a one year old at home and a wife who is pretty undestanding but does not understand fishin time for the most part has been restricted to short bursts at local rivers. Anyway if you decide to have another nearby clave next Fall or ever arrange a group lesson in my neck of the woods that would be something that I am interested in.

tight lines

01-03-2005 09:58 AM
removed_by_request Just my thoughts on this, fishing the GL's for me has been a constant change in tactics.

From fishing roe/bait to hardwrae now to the swung fly. Each step has helped me understand how they (fish) react to our odd environment.

Were it not for this progression I most likely would have stopped chasing them down. It's almost like a chess game, when you finally put it all together this feeling of accomplishment overtakes you. Almost like you have it mastered, right. Your next 10 outings are spent washing your offerings or leaving them on the river bed.

Great sport, couple that with sideways blowing snow and floating ice puts one in a state of nirvana(or confusion have not figured that out yet).
01-03-2005 09:50 AM
BLACK FRANCIS what strikes me on this discussion is that i have been very sucessful with almost all of the above mentioned flies. i agree with dmas that when the fish are there in any number you can make them eat just about any decent fly in an appropriate color. the bunny spey and variations are old standbyes and the second most used/effective is the marabou "spey". basically a popsicle in the right colors. usually white, purple/black, purple/orange, olive and black/chart. another is the clouser minnow, especially for low water. that is a pretty wide range of shapes and color variations, further proof that there is more than one way to skin a catt.
01-03-2005 09:18 AM
juro dmas, et. al. -

I look forward to exploring the GL rivers with spey tactics and a swung fly - for the satisfaction of it all. I hope to hook up with all of you guys and hopefully we can exchange a little of what we all know for each others benefit, have a good time and prove as many myths and theories as we disprove.

To me fishing is about satisfaction - not numbers. I do OK with the numbers, but stick to the techniques that make my enjoyment at peak level.

What makes one angler satisfied may not make another, but it's all good.
01-03-2005 08:18 AM
dmas No problems H20. I've been down this road before. I'll agree to disagree. Most of my fishing is done on the Genny. It's pretty big water for the GL. I'm casting two handed rods and often I am using tips. The runs I fish call for 70 foot casts and the fish are holding in runs sometimes 10 or 12 feet deep. Every fish I took there this year there came to a popscicle, an Orange Heron or a Bunny Leech (or Bunny leech Tube). I connected on every trip I went up until December. On the Catt this year I fished only twice early in the year in low clear water and took fish on a night dancer and rose one to a Bomber of all things. I missed the fish on the dry only because of my own mistake in reacting, but he wanted to eat it. I have landed fish in the past using dry flies however.

I too have been fishin for our Steelhead since I was a boy in the 70's. At the very beginning (believe it or not) I was first told that they would not bite in the streams, then they said that they wouldn't take a fly, then that they would only eat egg patterns, then that they wouldn't eat West coast flies or dry flies.

In the meantime I caught em on egg sacks, plugs, jigs, spoons, and every type of fly you could think of including classic Speys. I'm not trying to say I'm a great fisherman as I'm not, what I am really trying to say is that fresh run Steelhead, if present in numbers are relatively easy to hook...they are not picky.

I guess my point is that fish can be consitently had using classic patterns also. Hell they will eat just about any pattern if the proper fly is matched for the conditions. You don't have to believe me I guess but that has been my experience.

You may be right maybe the patterns you use are more effective under a wider range of GL conditions. For a while when I swung it was buggers and Bunnies exclusively and I still use them I know that they work well. I'll still indie fish with egg patterns on some of the smaller tribs in the winter time. It's peaceful and very rewarding in a different kinda way. But gone are the days when I need to go up to the LFZ petting zoo and bang double digits standing shoulder to shoulder. It's about more than numbers.

Sorry if I came off as sarcastic as that was not my intent. Normally I'm just a lurker on these boards for that very reason. It's just that I had my best fall ever swinging flies and the majority of the fish came on a Popscicle. It's not a magic fly it's just the fly that I had confidence in at that time so I kept fishin it.
Don't believe me if you wish but I'll keep them in my box.

tight lines
01-03-2005 08:11 AM
h2o Some more thoughts in regards to fly that I have had a cup of coffee. How many patterns with white or white & grey tones were in Mr. Combs book ? As I remember ( I gave the book away..........really) very, very few. Why ?...................out west white is not a top color. Yet, in the Great Lakes it is one of the top Steelhead streamer colors. Emerald Shiners, Alewifes & Smelt are top baitfish for Steelhead here. I don't remember many in Mr. Combs book.
Some of the best local spey & streamer patterns that have been developed imitate the above and are more sparse & realistic, than patterns used out West. I remember only a couple smaller soft hackles or spiders of the buggy nature in his book and they were tagged "for very low water". Yet, here it's is common to swing a size 6 - 10 buggy soft hackle, in Hex, Slate Drake, Hares Mask, etc. tones in froggy fall water.
There is less searching here. In my opinion as a whole streamers or speys need to match local baitfish or bottom dwellers a bit closer, tied a bit more sparse, realistic, smaller, etc. for more success. Especially after the first few runs, because of pressure, flows and the fact that your not searching for them somewhere between 50 and 150 miles in-land.
Larger popsicles fished in the Great Lakes work on early fresh run fish............fair at best compared to other G.L. patterns. I am sure you don't but, most end up swung in front of a King or buck Steelhead on a redd....................and yea, they grab'em.
I very much appreciated and enjoyed tying some of the finer dressings in Mr. Combs well done West Coast book. Popsicles although fast & simple to tie, were not one of them. For the Great Lakes I would take as far, as impressionistic, simple patterns a bugger or zonker over them any day.
Nice Great Lakes Steelhead patterns .......................check out Matt Reads "surf series" in Supinski's book Steelhead Dreams along with others tied / designed for the Great Lakes.
01-03-2005 08:08 AM
Shaq Blind Curve. I ended my day in the Altmar pool. In my experience, unless there is nobody there, there are only 2 spots to use the tips and those are both sides tailout. I spent most of my day in the wires and that's where I hooked my 4 fish. Where in Vermont are you from. I am from Saratoga and a buddy and I make an annual pilgrimage to Vermont every year for the "Free Fishing Days" in June. We have fished the White, the Winooski 2x, the Battenkill, and next year we may try the Lamoille.

Anyways, in my opinion, we are at a disadvantage because of our travel time to the steelhead. I do most of my experiomenting in my head and if the ideas don't work right away, especially on day trips, I am sunk and either have to stick with what I have or revert to the old tactics.
01-03-2005 06:51 AM
Originally Posted by dmas
"Save the popsicles for a trip to B.C."

Sorry this is a bit off topic but I had to chuckle when I read this. The popsicle was my number one fly this year out on the western basin tribs. I went one stretch of about 6 trips this fall where I was averaging a pull an hour...all on swung popsicles. For a chop like me at least that is enough to convince me that they work here in NY. That said, I only use Marabou hackled patterns in stained or low vis water. If I want a long hackle fly in clear water conditions I will go to a Spey pattern. To my eye at least, the individual hackle fibers of a Spey look more lifelike in clear waters where as a Marabou hackled fly forms a tremendous silhouette but the hackles kinda blend together to form one pulsating unit. This seems to be the ticket in low vis conditions...for me at least. I'll also use bunny flies for the same reason.

As far as the traditional west coast patterns are concerned. I think you could open up Combs and pick out any fly in the plates and have success with it. As always, the key is to match the fly to the conditions. I tend to fish bigger water relative to most great lakes tribs so patterns like Cook Marabou's or Glasso Speys do fine for me. I'd agree that on smaller more pressured tribs they won't be as effective.

For whatever reason I get a charge out of catching fish on flies that I read about in Combs etc. Maybe it adds a bit of romanticism to my fishing. Or maybe it just gives some sort of a connection with the great rivers and fisherman out west that I have read about but yet to experience.

tight lines

Funny.................that makes me chuckle too. About 7 years ago when those popsicle's came whizing through this area we were tying them up too. I get out a couple times a week all year, it's a poor steelhead fly for the catt. and other Erie tribs. Kings............they love the things put it front of there noses.

"open Combs book and have success with any pattern here"......................... We (myself & the fishing crew) got all hot & bothered over that book several years ago . I guess it depends on what you call "success". I like to catch a few fish when I go out. There are much better patterns to do that with here...................than are listed in that WEST coast steelhead book. This is the Great Lakes and it will always be the Great Lakes. I tied & fished the crap out of those flys back then popcicles, Lady Carolines & other speys, Ferry Caynons, etc. etc. For "Steelhead" not Kings the only Popcicle, Marabou Spider, etc. out of the hundreds I tied that C&R a few fish was a white & grey combo.

Popcicles are West Coast searching patterns for big water with few fish. Here the waters run less CFS as a whole and the Steelhead are plenty.

In my fishing they were no where near as effective as the above listed streamers and other local patterns like Rick Kustish "Bunny Spey" (Zonker). Looking at Peter's Great Lakes patterns on his site and having fished Steelhead over 20 years here, I would recomend them as being on the right track for here over Combs book. If I was going to take one pattern from Combs book and fish it here it would be the Boss but, with a marabou or arctic fox tail, and tie it on a lighter wire iron that does not rip a hole in there mouth like a saqlmon iron.

I am glad you are currently romancing Combs book and it's beautiful patterns. Been there................done that. I also fish larger waters. The gentlemans question was in regards to Steelhead on the Salmon of the more pressured rivers in the Great Lakes.

The advice I gave trying to help ................was good. This is and will always be the Great Lakes. It will never be the West Coast. Our fish will never see salt , they will never travel hundreds of miles up-river.

I bet if Mr. Combs wrote a Great Lakes Steelhead book..........................the swing patterns would be much different .................much more like there summer run and low water patterns.
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