To answer the question... the steelhead that I have hit in the last couple of weeks have been in "standard" steelhead water. What has been a bit unusual is that very few of the fish have taken the fly on the "inside" or towards the latter part of the swing. I think that this points back towards the "nonaggressive mood" that the fish seem to be in lately - they are not willing to "track" a fly very far right now, and the fish that are being caught happen to be the ones where you get a bit lucky and happen to put the fly directly in their face and therefore the fish does not have to move hardly at all to take the fly. The takes for me recently have been mere "stoppings" of the fly, or just "ticks", both indicators of fish not moving far from their lies to take the fly. Disappointingly lacking are the "strong grabs", and "incrementally increasing two ton weight" type takes, which are the "usual" anticipated takes of our April fishery, and indicative of a fish that has moved a significant distance to take.
I thought at first that water temperature was the cause of this phenomona, but the Skagit has been reaching upper 40's in the afternoons, and the Sauk has been even higher. These are temps that should be inducing high states of activity in the fish, with resulting aggressive grabs. But, the fish that happen to be passing through lately, seem to be in a very focused state of getting from point A to B with very little and brief "lingering" in between. I have seen this same circumstance occur up on the Skeena systems, where physical evidence of the presence of fish is much more evident (active rolling and porpoising). I have stood in runs full of obviously moving fish (constant sightings of rolling fish occuring consistently every couple of minutes throughout the entire day), and had takes on the fly only occasionally. The few takes that did occur were not very aggressive in nature. Also, the majority of fish hooked under these circumstances did not "rip it up" during the fight, seeming "asleep" or "in a trance" when hooked. These conditions always occured when the fish were running "late", and that appears to be what is happening so far this April on the Skagit/Sauk. Of course, we are also dealing with a low return this year also.