Join Date: Sep 2018
Location: North Umpqua / Rogue River
Over my past few seasons on the Rogue and NU I have moved into a fairly standard procedure when swinging flies for steelhead. Time of year or water conditions don't influence my procedure other than fly color (brighter flies for dirtier water). I may be a bit OCD as I hate wasting time relining so I have a different rod for each situation. I have four rods I use for either skating or swinging a wet on a tip in either big water or small water.
Bigger PNW river:
Surface rig - 13'3" Winston BIIX 7wt w/ Airflo Rage, 10ft Airflo steelhead floating leader, and then usually another 3-4 ft of Maxima for tippet.
Subsurface rig - 12'7" Beulah Classic Spey 7/8wt w/ Airflo Skagit Compact G2, 12.5' of T8/T11, , 6" cheater of ~30lb Maxima (save your tips loop to loop), and then 2'-3' OPST 18lb fluorocarbon
Smaller PNW river:
Surface rig - 10'4" Beulah Platinum Switch 6wt w/ OPST Commando, 10' OPST Floating tip, 10ft Airflo steelhead floating leader, 3-4ft Maxima/Rio tippet
Subsurface rig - 10'8" Beulah Platinum Switch 7wt w/ OPST Commando, 12' OPST Run tip (T8/T11 also works), 6" cheater of ~30lb Maxima, and then 2'-3' OPST 18lb fluorocarbon
My goal has been a sort of on going experiment to see which way yields better results (surface vs subsurface). I wanted to be sure I was covering every hole I fished as efficiently as any other fly fisherman could. I wanted to increase my hookups skating, but I didn't want to feel like I was missing fish by not fishing those runs subsurface. Currently I work my way through every run with the surface rig some times dead wake, some times popping. Then I re-fish the same run with my subsurface rig if I don't encounter a fish while fishing the surface rig.
Generally I skate an October caddis or green butt styled foam skater and swing subsurface with various small traditional steelhead wet flies or 2"-3" single station unweighted/lightly weighted articulated flies. Rarely do I find the need to put on T14/T18 and dredge with a heavily weighted 2 station dumbbell eye. I feel like I do fairly well, and I hook up regularly fishing each way. Fishing subsurface does seem to produce more fish when the water is cold during the winter season, but you can't catch fish on a dry if you are not fishing one. I have encountered steelhead on the NU that still rise to a waked fly in the winter months before the river totally blows out. It is very rare considering the number of fish around this time of year in the NU's system, but I specifically remember one in front of our house in the fly water that hammered a waked fly in December last year. Skate first, then swing a wet.