Monday, November 16, 2015

Winter Steelhead - Secrets to Success

Winter Steelhead Secrets by Marty Sheppard
 Is the choose to be jack of all rivers and master of none or to truly master a river. 

 I choose to have complete confidence in each day, based on thorough knowledge of my surroundings. Conditions are everything, on the west slope of the Cascades Mountains they change each day. So many rivers within a day drive and I have no desire to explore new haunts.  The goal, for me, is to know every water level, each rock, and the subtle changes to the greatest extent. For the entire winter I am faithful to one river. This bleeds confidence and this assurance hemorrhages success.

These are my secrets to success.

When the river is high and has good clarity you should be there, as the fish will be holding in prime lies.  Often in 2-5 of water right in the middle of your swing! Low, cold, and clear river and the fish like 10-20 feet of water. This is when you need to focus on the deep seams and get down.

Early in the morning, late in the day, and especially in periods of high flows the tactic or temptation of fishing heavy sink tips and weighted flies is completely detrimental to success on my chosen waterway. Fishing a tight line through soft flows in 4 to 5 feet of water with un-weighted fly and light sink-tips compensates for most of the steelhead landed throughout a season. Put on ten feet of t-14 and a weighted fly results in being hung so bad right out in the sweet spot that you almost pull the earth off axis trying to free it up, usually breaking it off, with the whole ordeal spooking any fish in the area.

Take the opportunity during those low flows to learn the river. Often the best fishing is at higher flows and the chance to learn rocks, depressions or drop offs, and subtle channels are right under or behind you as you fish these lows flows. Take note. It’s important for next week when the river doubles in size and you can recall what features exist in that soft run. Low and clear is also the queue to fish deep. Time to get down.

Joe Saracione lands a winter hen.
Some simple points for winter steelhead success:

·         Start short and high in the run. Especially in water you cannot see into. Too many people walk out into the top of a run and strip out the head plus 10 feet of running line and completely miss those chrome creatures tucked into the head of the run and laying 5 feet in front of you.

·         Be consistent and turn over your casts. A predictable fly on the swing gets crushed. I believe the cast that gets the fish to eat is not the cast that created this chance. I believe your last 5 casts are the reason that fish ate! The steelhead saw the pattern of your swings and this primed this critters attitude. When you get that hard grab it is because this fish anticipated the swing. It knew where it would land, how fast the swing would be, and the predictability of it all contributed to the fish knowing it was going to be able to crush your fly! Fish through a run erratically and it is tough to convince the fish to grab let alone hang around. It is much more important to fish at a shorter distance unswervingly than huck out bomber casts that result in Helter Skelter crazy swings.

·         Sharp hooks stick fish. Keep them sticky. Touch a rock? Check your hook. Dull hook? Change or sharpen. It’s a sin to fish so hard all day and finally after all that dedication get grabbed only to come up empty because of a super dull hook that has been ticking bottom on each hang down.

·         Fish hard and fish long. One fish in a day will make it a great day. It only takes one cast to get it done. It could be your first or last cast. Keep positive knowing each one could be the one. If you think your not going to catch a winter steelhead, you likely wont. If you think you are going to catch one you likely will!