True Winter Steelheaders, Question for you... - Fly Fishing Forum
Pacific Northwest Sea Run Forum No such thing as rainbow trout, only landlocked steelhead

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Old 10-06-2003, 01:26 AM
Scott K Scott K is offline
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True Winter Steelheaders, Question for you...

My questions are for Steelheaders who fish the winter monthes for True Winter Steelhead (Dec-Feb).

Have you ever fished the whole season on variety of water bodies using ONLY the floating line, long leader, and a weighted fly? What is your feeling on limiting yourself to this set up? Do you think with a properly weighted fly and right leader length you are in the game as well as say someone using 15 plus feet of leadcore or equivilent tips and non/slightly weighted flies?
If you have done this, do you feel you've faired as well as you should have if you had gone to tips?

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Old 10-06-2003, 03:06 AM
cupo cupo is offline
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I haven't done it. I don't use floating lines in winter. I don't even fly fish exclusively in winter. By fly fishing, you're limiting yourself to what water you can effectively fish. By fishing with only a floating line, you're limiting yourself to even less water.
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Old 10-06-2003, 05:55 AM
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juro juro is offline
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I flyfish only for steelhead, knowing it's not the most effective but satisfied with the fair number of fish I hook and land just the same.

Although I have thought of using the McMillan techniques, I have become so accustomed to the deep swung fly in winter on tips that I have given it much more than a half-hearted attempt in the softest seams where I knew fish lay, particularly in the lower Green River (King Co.) which was minutes from my house. I wish I had given it more of a try... not for purism, but because in those soft lower river seams it's probably much more effective than dragging a tip across the fish's lie. The more I think about it, one could definitely succeed with that method given enough persistence and in many cases would do better than with a tip.

On the Beginner Hole on the Kalama where hundreds of salmon lay waiting for rain the #1 method is dry line, long leader and small dark fly. A tip is a recipe for a skunking.

Certainly such pools in winter when the bulk of the winter run is in the river would be fished effectively with this technique IMHO.
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Old 10-06-2003, 09:23 AM
Rando Rando is offline
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Question True Winter Steelheader

I don't have a chance to do a lot of winter steelheading but you mentioned the McMillian technique. I've heard this drifting technique mentioned before but really don't know how it's done. Could you or anyone else elaborate on it and how it's preformed.

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Old 10-06-2003, 10:16 AM
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sinktip sinktip is offline
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As I understand it, Bill McMillan used a floater, a long leader and a heavy hooked fly (such as his Winter's Hope) to dead drift for winter steelhead. The technique was simply an across or across and up cast followed by upstream mends and slipping line to allow the fly to sink to the lower column. As Juro mentioned, it lends itself to soft seam holding water.

I have used it only on a couple of occasions without major results but can see where in certain water conditions, it would be deadly. I do believe though that you are limiting yourself overall when compared with using a sunk fly swing and tips.
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Old 10-06-2003, 10:43 AM
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BCOrchidGuy BCOrchidGuy is offline
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Just for clarification please..... The hook itself provides the weight on this method right?? no lead added to the fly.... no barbells etc... just a 2x heavy relatively sparsley tied fly....?
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Old 10-06-2003, 10:56 AM
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inland inland is offline
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I have a friend that does practice the method throughout the winter months- The technique is not as effective as tips. Under most circumstances tips will outproduce for winter fish.

The deep wet fly swing probably gets you down to about the level of a type III. Careful editing of the water, line control skills far beyond any tip presentation, and finally fly design (they don't have to be weighted) are the requirements. You also need the confidence to stick it out and accept reduced odds.


It is a deep wet fly swing. Not dead drifting. McMillan did dead drift the Paint Brush (and stone nymph), but, his preferred method is controlled mends (to gain depth) and leading the fly on the swing. To this day he still fishes the floater, with a two hander, on his new home river.
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Old 10-06-2003, 11:47 AM
roballen roballen is offline
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Fishing the Paint Brush or similar: simple dead drift .. cast up and across, stack mend a few times then fish the drift watching the tip of the line for a strike..

fishing the Winters Hope or similar..

Cast across or up and across, throw stack mends fish as a dead drift then fish the swing leading the fly across as slowly as possible. mending will only jerk the fly to the surface All the mending must be done before the fly starts to swing.

Flies that are tied and fished properly with this presentation will sink faster than about any type 3 or type 6 sink tip but the fly will rise through the column as it swings. The whole key is finding the right kind of water to fish this method.

The problem with December- Feb is not water temps not water height.. The problem with the early winter season is the reletively few wild steelhead available as compared to Feb- April... Wild fish make ALL the differnce..
Only steelhead matter!
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Old 10-06-2003, 01:07 PM
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pescaphile pescaphile is offline
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I agree with pretty much all that has been said above. I don't care for the "paint brush" methods, that is nymphing nothing more, nothing less. If I can't get a fish to take a swung fly, then I can't get a fish to take.

But water temperatures are a problem. I usually fish the floating line in winter in low water consditins and there is typically a window when the water is approaching base flow levels before it gets too cold where the fish can be responsive. I see water temps here down to the freezing mark, but these are really difficult to get fish to move. And these are all native fish. In really low water a heavy hook with a sparse dressing is all that is necessary to get down enough while in slightly higher water a comet may work better.

To answer the question: I have never done this for a whole winter and furthermore, doubt I ever would. Tips are definitely a more productive way to fish.

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Old 10-06-2003, 02:32 PM
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loco_alto loco_alto is offline
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I use this method on small winter streams (10'-15' wide) where the fish lie in small enough buckets to make swinging impractical. Quite frankly, the mending gets tiresome, so I prefer a sink tip on bigger waters.
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Old 10-06-2003, 03:48 PM
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My bad on the dead drift. If Bill was swinging it on a floater, then more power to him. I would not expect great results but hey, this was never a numbers game.
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Old 10-06-2003, 04:25 PM
Moonlight Moonlight is offline
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Not me personaly..

But a fellow that I fish with used a dryline and swung the fly( not nymphing) for two years. Although he only fished the OP in December through early February he never had a single grab other than a few Dolly Vardens. He did however get several Sauk Skagit fish in March and April. One actually came from the Baker Pool fishing behind the guy who has caught more fish than anyone else, who was fishing a sinktip! The fellow was reported to have commented "You know if I had been fishing a floater I would have got that fish" . There is a point there, but I guess I don't quite get it.
I fish all winter and I find very few places that I want to fish that I have need for something other than a swung fly and a sinktip. But there have been a very few spots that lent thereselves to swinging a sparse fly on a big hook with a dry line. I always have the dry tip in my wallet just in case I run into one of those spots.
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Old 10-06-2003, 05:48 PM
flytyer flytyer is offline
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I have not fished a floating line in winter despite always having the floating tip in my line wallet. I detest casting weighted flies or flies tied on very heavy hooks with spey casts because of the way they leave the water when spey casting. Also, I want my fly to be higher in the water than my sinktip to greatly lessen the possibility of lining fish or hanging up the fly on the bottom.

I fish all winter with various sink rate sinktips and unweighted flies. I can see where the floating line, heavy fly technique would work in eddies; but this is a water type that I usually pass by when steelheading in the winter.
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Old 10-06-2003, 06:28 PM
fredaevans fredaevans is offline
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As has been noted above, current flow/water ..

debth is the ' key' to dry lining in the winter.

The upper Rogue (being dam controlled) gives you a lot of opportunities to use a dry line year round. At normal water conditions the Chetco does the same.

I only use tips if I have to during the winter, heavier rods/flys during the winter, and more restrictive on where you can 'succesfully fish.' But worth the restrictions.

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Old 10-06-2003, 08:17 PM
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floating line in winter

I have used a floating line in some of the smaller rivers, The Green in King county is a very good river to use a nymph style of fishing in the winter. I used glow bugs and a shimp imataion, occasionally a large black Stone fly. I also fished some runs on the Puyallup this way. Dead drifting with a strike indicator. The Only time this seemed to be effecive was CLEAR water conditions.

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