Keep the hook side down (or up)

Some flies are designed to let the hook ride point down. Others want it riding point up. Regardless of the preference, there are a couple of ways to make sure the fly rides true on the swing. This is important with your fly, we don’t want spinning or a hook riding sideways. We only get a few shots at winter fish on a swung fly, so every detail counts.

  • Tie dumbbell eyes on the side of the hook you want pointing down. When the fly hits the water, the heavy eyes go down first and determine the position of everything else.
  • Tie directly onto a large hook (Alec Jackson steelhead hooks) They might be considered the old-school way to keep a fly upright, but Harry Lemire caught steelhead long before people were blogging about it. There’s a fine line between the right amount of wing to do the job and so much material that the fly doesn’t sink. Experiment with different amounts to find that balance, and you can always buy a pattern and inspect it to get a feel for proportion.
  • Throw a wing on it. Yup, put some material opposite of weight and desired hook direction and give her a keel! (see the video of Mr. Berry’s fly swimming true).

Build swinging flies for steelheads with the right profile

dsc_0478-e1382933296929When building flies to swing for steelhead, keep in mind how big in the water you want the fly to be.

For big profile flies, wrap a ball of chenille or dubbing behind your hackle to help the fibers stand up against the current. You want enough material that the fly doesn’t compress. Streamlined flies don’t need the support. Tie up both varieties to use in different conditions.

Regardless of the profile you’re tying at the moment, use less material than you think you need. You want your fly very sparse so it can sink through the water column. Too much material and it’ll never get down, and the movement of your oh-so-fancy natural materials will be limited with overdressing!

6 ways to better manage your tube flies

Tube flies are a bit of a different animal when it comes to rigging and organizing. Try these six tips for keeping your tubes in order and ready to go.

Use a compartment box

Find a clear plastic compartment boxes — a narrow one like the Tuff Tainer for your tube flies and rigging. They’re cheap, you can see what’s inside, and they hold more than just flies.dsc_1143-e1389983622139

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Two hands not required – single hand rods for winter steelhead

With the Alsea and other coastal creeks and rivers on the rise, steelhead will be moving upriver. When these fish get in the upper reaches of our coastal rivers, the need for spey and switch rods goes down and the good ol’ single hand 7/8/9 weight comes out. These are our tool of choice for fishing small, pocket water systems. Here is a breakdown of the rods we use.

Redington Path – 9′ 6″ 8wt $129.95- Fantastic rod for the price, responsive and powerful enough for even the biggest brutes without breaking the bank.

Echo Ion – 10′ 7 or 8wt $189.95- Although this rod is on the heavy side of things, the added length of this rod makes mending and line control a breeze. Add the durability Echo rods are known for and you can’t lose.

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Here comes the rain. Read our top 5 winter steelhead posts, then get out there.

1) Shooting Line Clarity – A must read to understand what you want to have attached to your shooting head.

2) Sink-Tips – The low down on the different tips you can fish and the situations that call for them.

3) What is a MOW tip? A simple explanation of intermediate and floating combo tips.

4) Winter Layering 101 – The title says it all.

5) Beaching your beautiful, wild steelhead is very tough on the fish. Learn the different ways we land fish to avoid it.

The skinny on shooting lines

Shooting lines are a key part of shooting head systems, where the main weighted belly of a fly line (i.e. shooting head) is connected to a shooting line that lets the head sail to distance.  Shooting lines were used originally by competition fly casters, who replaced the skinny but sticky standard running line on their fly lines with even skinnier and slicker monofilament to get maximum distance. Anglers quickly adopted shooting head systems, which let them swap out shooting heads of varying sink rates, using just a single shooting line, giving great angling versatility without extra spools.

Today, these two factors – enhanced distance and fly line versatility – have solidified shooting head systems as standard tackle for anadromous anglers.   The shooting line is key to this system because it connects the angler to the shooting head, and most of a fishing day is spent handling the shooting line. There are three main categories of shooting lines (and some variants) to consider when choosing a shooting line.

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Step, step, and step again

img_1901-e1384977467882One thing I have often seen while guiding spey fisherman is that they just wont move. I’m not talking two-stepping here but simply working a run in a methodical and timely manner.  Under most conditions I prefer to move three to four feet between casts which has several benefits.

1) By steadily working your way through a run you will cover more water throughout your day than the person who only moves a couple feet every few casts.  Remember, we are looking for players, the fish who are aggressive enough to eat your fly on the first pass.

2) Constantly fishing new water it is simply more interesting and I tend to stay more focused as I move though a run.

3) We are not trout fishing – you will not find a steelhead river with 2-6 thousand fish per river mile, so covering water is the key to finding fish.

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I do slow down for several reasons.

1) If I know fish are in a certain area and I feel that they are not willing to move far to a fly, I will slow down my pace and work the fly with different presentations.

2) If I feel a grab but don’t hook up I will cast back to the fish, trying a couple of presentations. If this does not work I will mentally note where the fish was holding and make another pass with a new, smaller fly.

dsc_0707-e1385752827440By maximizing the amount of water you cover in a day you will swim your flies through more holding lies. When searching for winter steelhead covering water can make the difference, it only takes one fish to turn your day around.