Speed or Depth which matters more? - Fly Fishing Forum
Pacific Northwest Sea Run Forum No such thing as rainbow trout, only landlocked steelhead

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Old 01-01-2005, 03:12 PM
andre andre is offline
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Speed or Depth which matters more?

Winter fishing what do you place more value in speed or depth of presentation?
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Old 01-01-2005, 04:05 PM
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Willie Gunn Willie Gunn is offline
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Depth, stick it on their noses
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Old 01-01-2005, 04:15 PM
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If the fly isn't moving slow enough, it will not matter how deep you are fishing. However, if the fly IS moving slow enough, I feel as though a fish will be more then willing to rise and take a fly that isn't right on their noses (especially when we are discussing Febuary, March and April wild fish).

But remember, these are steelhead, are there are exceptions to every rule.
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Old 01-01-2005, 04:41 PM
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Yesterday, last year, I was fishing on the Spey, I know it is closed but someone has to do the research, the fish would only take the fly when I started to handline, rather faster than slower.
Ryan, perhaps Salmon are different to Steelhead?
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Old 01-01-2005, 08:43 PM
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Did you guys see the article in Fly Fishing and Tying the other day. They actually tracked different sink tips in moderately moving water. The depths they achieved were a hell of a lot less than I thought they would be. It just makes me wonder if I am even getting deep enough for winter Steel.
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Old 01-01-2005, 08:44 PM
flytyer flytyer is offline
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Andre,

I don't think you can separate the two for winter fish in the December to February time frame. The water is rather cold with temps between 35 and 40 degrees and if speed of presentation was most important, steelhead would come up to the surface and take a very slowly skated, large dry, something I've not heard anyone getting a steelhead to do.

Likewise though if you are fishing deep but fast, the fish will ignore the fly because of the water temp. That is why I think you need to fish both deep (not down on the stones though, a foot to 18" above the stones would be about right) and slower than the current.
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Old 01-01-2005, 10:49 PM
grouseman grouseman is offline
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How do you really get the fly to go slower than the current without bouncing some weight on the bottom slowing it down? Or, do you mean, swinging from the far bank to the near bank near the bottom as slow as possible?
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Old 01-02-2005, 01:37 AM
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FT,

I agree there is a happy medium. I'm with Willie, I rate depth as being more important. I first wrote up a question with extremes almost the same as your reply, them I edited. I'm interested in seeing how other reply.

Ryan, why do you think a fish will not strike a fast fly swung across its nose.

WG, will your fish move up two feet to take a stationary fly ?

andre
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Old 01-02-2005, 05:18 AM
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WG, will your fish move up two feet to take a stationary fly ?

Andre,
I wish I knew, when I look at a Spey pool, I decide where I think the salmon should be, whether the salmon agree with me is an altogether another matter. When a fish takes on the dangle can you assume the fish was close in at the edge or had it folowed the fly from somewhere else?
I feel that when the water is cold and the river high you just have to get the fly down and slow if you can, I have now gone away from tips and am fishing a full sinker. A long cast at a relatively narrow angle gets the fly deep and slow. By using an unweighted fly I hope, assume, prey that it fishes slightly above the line keeping it off the bottom.
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Old 01-02-2005, 06:59 AM
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My .02 !

Firstly, let me clarify that my experience is with Salmon (in Europe), I have never fished for steelhead.
Our early rivers open on Jan 1st, and every year it`s the same old question, fly size, depth, and speed.
Every belief I have at the start of the season, somehow becomes eroded as time goes by, as I witness the contradictions.
By and large I believe that in low temperatures and high water, you have to get the fly down, and try to slow it`s movement down too.
Now with the best will in the world, I try to do this consistantly, but sometimes with varying currents etc, I know my fly (which is the only thing that matters) is not exactly doing what I want it to.
I have learned that this is no deterrent to the fish.
I have had takes handlining half way across a pool, as I prepared to make a (repeat) better cast.
I`ve taken fish, just after my fly has hit the water, knowing my fly was not where it should be.
I`ve been hit on the dangle as I lit another cigarette, (and momentarily forgot about where the fly was).
In short, I often think we pay too much attention to the minute detail, most of which we are not in control of anyway, rather than just get it "down there" and let them decide.
Having seen salmon take a fly when they want it, I don`t subscribe to the speed theory, or the pattern theory. Let them see it, and let them eat it.

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Old 01-02-2005, 09:53 AM
peter-s-c peter-s-c is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mattzoid
Did you guys see the article in Fly Fishing and Tying the other day. They actually tracked different sink tips in moderately moving water. The depths they achieved were a hell of a lot less than I thought they would be. It just makes me wonder if I am even getting deep enough for winter Steel.
Matt, I have the article too, and I traded emails with the writer on the subject. They were trying to achieve maximum depth at the dangle, not mid swing. Their comments about a mended line ending up shallow makes lots of sense if the mended line is deeper at mid swing, because of overhshoot when the line rises at the dangle.

The usual methods of getting a fly down still work, despite the conclusions in the article. The gaps in my fly boxes are mute testament to the efficacy of the stack mend.

As to depth or speed -- I've had contradictory experiences so I can't say which for sure, but I usually start off with deep and slow.

Last edited by peter-s-c; 01-02-2005 at 10:20 PM.
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  #12  
Old 01-02-2005, 10:38 AM
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Great topic! It's fascinating reading the various responses from around the world.

Another factor I would add is angle of attack. By this I mean most steelhead or salmon (other than the world's most naive) shy away from a fly where the presence of the black sinktip is too obvious or threatening.

Not only does the fly need to be at an acceptable speed for the particular fish, which may be either fast or slow, or sometimes at a dead stop; and the fly must not be out of it's willing reach, which is sometimes creating a wake in a tumbling rapid, or scraping the bottom; but it must also be the only thing the fish sees on it's approach.

In approx 25 years of steelhead fishing I have used methods to mend the fly down to the bottom or lead down and inside, multiple stacks, etc - and can honestly not recall ever fair hooking a fish doing it. However I can recall countless times where a well positioned down-and-across swing held under tension to some fraction of the current speed surprised me with a crushing take even in deep winter.

One of the coldest days in which I landed multiple fish was a February day on a small Olympic Peninsula stream. Ice in the guides, a bitter day - but four steelhead hooked and three of them to the camera. Three grabs / two landed came from a 4ft deep trough that piled up against a high bank with a hard shallow riffle stopping the easy advance of fish upriver. I stood on the head of the pool and gradually swung the fly almost parrallel to the current, using light mends to keep the fly swaying side to side in the seam as I slipped line down. The cast was 40ft to start, but I worked nearly the whole line into this trough in the seam with a light sinktip, never touching the bottom. Each fish came further down the trough, and in all the days I had dredged it before I had never hooked a fish in it. Using the downriver feed method I have landed many more fish in similar troughs since.

The other fish was in a very small pocket behind a 3ft diameter boulder in the middle of a very long shallow run. I was going to walk right past it but had a vibe and took three swings and BANG what a hot chrome fish not more than 5 miles from the sea. This one was a gift fish.

Sorry I got a little day-dreamy thinking about that day. But my point is a big part of the fish's decision in winter / sinktip fishing is what he is shown as well as how he is shown it. Although some methods will get the fly deeper, you will catch more fish showing them something more palatable even if it's not quite as deep.
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Old 01-02-2005, 11:30 AM
peter-s-c peter-s-c is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by juro
Sorry I got a little day-dreamy thinking about that day. But my point is a big part of the fish's decision in winter / sinktip fishing is what he is shown as well as how he is shown it. Although some methods will get the fly deeper, you will catch more fish showing them something more palatable even if it's not quite as deep.

Funny that, but I just finished writing an email to Dave asking him about leader length on his sinktips. Dave and I seem to have different sorts of days on the Grand. Dave is very consistent, getting his onesies and twosies every time out while I either have big days or skunkings, so I'm trying to sort out the differences in our approaches.

I agree that the fish should see the fly first but I look back at my big days and they've come in warmer conditions, using one of my weamer patterns where I've presented my fly across or even slightly above stream, then allowed the belly to drag the fly downstream, then across. Most of the hits came as the fly "turned the corner" from down to across. My leaders were fairly long, 7' to 8', usually 6 lb. Maxima, when the water is somewhat clear and the current slow.

As conditions cleared up or dirtied up, I'd stay with that same general presentation but that was probably my downfall. I'm a big believer in broadside presentations as it has done me well in the past. One of the better local steelheaders believes in the 'drop back and down' method where he casts quartering downstream, one mend with the rod tip well back, then drops the tip into the swing, dropping the fly ass-end toward the fish. he does very well with it but I have not -- time for a change perhaps.
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Old 01-02-2005, 11:52 AM
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Peter -

I should add that in summer-run fishing with the "greased line" I manipulate the floating line in the most bizzare fashion and virtually all of these precarious applications of line tension have resulted in a hookup.

In reading your response I think there were a few key factors in play - leader length, water clarity, water temperature, and line design / color.

I knew this logger from the Columbia River valley who was a steelhead fishing animal. He got bored with gear so bought a non-name junker flyrod at a garage sale. It had a level floating line on it to which he tied a simple length of 8# test. The flybox which I think he got with the rod came with a few scraggly flies, probably an heirloom of a once-avid angler who had passed on leaving his gear to be nothing more than garage sale fodder for Roy to salvage, but it could not have fallen into better hands as he mastered the catching of steelhead quickly and taught some of us a thing or two because he knew steelhead like few did.

In a bouldery underwater grade that dropped off into several feet quickly, we would fish through with sinktips putting flies right through the sweet spot with nary a touch. Roy would be eating lunch, or having a smoke, watching us flail our $1000 outfits through the pool. To him it was simply a matter of whether the fish would recover from all that or not. They were there, thick in fact.

I knew him pretty good so went over to chat, and he let me know what he thought of our sinktips. He said he watched us freak out the pod the whole time we worked through and he hoped they would calm down so he could fish some more. As much as I thought a level line and straight leader on a no-name garage sale rod was poopoo, he thought ten times over that our approach was crap.

As you might have guessed, he decided to make a pass despite the distruption and promptly hooked a hot leaping hen before we could plant our asses on a log to rest. I think he could have schooled us all day long.

Later that weekend I continued to the Kalama River and the beginner hole was packed with mint-bright coho and summer runs fringed the tackle grabber rocks and the head of the pool upriver. It was kind of crowded but I watched from the high roadside. It was common knowledge for the locals that the only way to get these fish to eat was to keep the line out of the water, floating line only with 20ft leaders. Some out of towners done up in fancy gear came in and fished the far bank with tips. Any presence of a sinktip under the surface freaked them out as Roy had said. I watched as a couple of mint coho were landed by floating line anglers on the near bank even as they fish were harassed by the sinktippers who never had a touch.

The next morning after sleeping by the old foundation pool, I landed a 15 pound unclipped buck at the head of the Holy Water. I fished till dusk and broke another one off at Deadline, and a bald eagle flew so close to my head I could have tickled it with my tip guide. I stuck with a floater until winter came and learned a lot that year about summer steelhead.
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Old 01-02-2005, 12:04 PM
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Willie Gunn Willie Gunn is offline
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Juro,
You are in nostalgic mood.
I would like to try some of these seams with a full sinker. One of the reasons I changed back from tips is just the thickness of the lines required to fish tips.
I'm sure the XLT and Accelerator I have been using are at least twice as thick, if not more as the full sinker or intermediate. Perhaps Fine and Far off works in the winter as well as the summer
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