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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Howdy Fellow Speypagers,

Haven't posted in awhile, but in the interest of stirring up some trouble and maybe getting a fun discussion going, I have decided to post about my favorite subject - pursuing steelhead on the surface.

Feel free to share where you are at in this journey, no matter if you are a total newb, intermttent dabbler, or seasoned die hard. - Tell us some of your memorable surface steelhead stories,
- pose any questions you may have to our collective wisdom, or
- even share some of your misgivings and frustrations.

The goal is to have some fun, generate some surface steelhead excitement, and share information.

For those that don't know me, I am one of those persistent diehard types. From late spring to late fall, there will always be a strange foam fly at the end of my line. I have become so passionate about seeing a steelhead attack a fly on the surface, that the only time a wet fly is tied on is during a desperate comeback attempt after a steelhead has risen to a surface fly.

The steelhead surface attack just never gets old. As our friend Adrian woukd say #sufaceattacksarecrack.

For those who are interested, I have a blog about surface steelhead called Dry Line Steelhead - Oregon: https://toddhirano.blogspot.com/?m=1

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Todd
 

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I've only caught a handful of steelhead with dry flies. I do fish them on an intermittent basis during the summer but I'm not nearly as crazy as Todd ;-)

A few summers ago I was fortunate enough to tag along on a couple of 3 day trips up the Deschutes with a couple fellas who have a jetboat and have been fishing the river for decades. Admittedly, they had the river dialed in, knew which rock the fish would hold near etc... On the second trip, the fishing wasn't great but I was able to scratch out a fish or two every day, all of them on a POM skater. I remember them giving me a good natured hard time that first evening when I had the gall to tie on a dry fly when none of us had touched a fish all day, but they were believers by the end of the trip.
 

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You know me, Todd...all my summer stuff is tied to skate or fish in the film. I sort of count a light-wire Spade or unhitched TRC as in the "dry fly" category (sort of) as they usually come to the surface near the end of the swing. Well, occasionally I will put on a small wet as a follow up effort...but very occasionally.

And to tell you the truth, almost all of my dry fly takes are of the "slurping" rather than "slashing" variety, other than when I have a Wang on.

3 years ago, I had a big buck at Fake Walnut rise very gently into a full head/shoulder slurp and just pluck a purple muddler pattern. I watched the take and was amazed at how delicate he was for a big shouldered brute.

My favorite take ever was one that happened to Coover. That fish slashed and missed a Wang on successive casts before coming fully clear of the water on the 3rd effort and grabbing the Wang on the way DOWN. Saw the whole thing. Damn, if these fish ain't cool! :)
 

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By "On the surface" I assume we are talking strictly foam flies? Or are we counting wakers like muddlers and bombers?

I'm going on year 3 of fishing a surface fly anytime I fish when the sun isn't on the water in the summer. Not many fish but those I do get are well worth the effort. Plus its just funa nd exciting watching that sucker skitter across the surface knowing at any point a fish may explode right where I'm looking.

That said I spend a lot more time with a Lemire caddis or muddler on the end. I think its way more effective and the grab is just as good. I just don't see it in half of the places I fish, so you lose the visual piece. I do need glasses though...

Most exciting this year has been winter fishing on a dry line. Winters hopes and such under a mono leader on a mid-belly. As if the runs weren't weak enough I decided I needed to make the game harder. Got a couple but want to do it full time next year, minus dirty water scenarios. I found this year that it just makes you fish different water. Water most others don't fish, which is a good thing.

hi Mitce.
 

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Am dedicating this summer and fall to this fishery, heart skips a beat when I do it with trout, hope I don't get a heat attack with steel, wish me luck
 
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My first steelhead on a fly was on a riffle hitched steelhead caddis. that would have been the case for the first dozen or so if I had known the whole drop the rod tip trick, this is essential when skating on small streams where casts are 50 feet at the extreme. Unfortunately this type of fishing no longer exists due to the river it took place on longer having runs that longer in the sections open to fishing.

My surface steelhead fishing anymore is pretty much limited to locations where i know the exact location of the lie, i don't so much swing these spots as i cast the fly into them and hold it there as long as possible. these are primarily on the North Umpqua. I used to do quite well on the Klickitat but in recent years crowds have minimized my time on that river.

As for a memorable experience. In 1998 ish i was on the North Umpqua fishing a run called Discovery, it's a horrible wade for anyone under 6 foot and anyone over 6 foot will have their face in the overhanging alders. i was fishing it anyway. I rose a fish on a Bomber about 1/2 way down. It came all the way out of the water for the fly but missed it, 6-8 casts later he came up again and missed again. I rose that same fish several more times as I worked down the run then finally hooked it down at the extreme end of the tail out. I have it in my mind that it rose 8 times but i don't remember for sure any more. I think i landed the fish but i don't remember that for sure either. I do know however that it was on my Orvis "Salmon" 10 ft 9 wt and my Hardy St John.

had a 10 fish day on the Grand Ronde once all on top.
 

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My first western steelhead was on a skater on the Deschutes 10 years ago this fall, the first fish of an amazing trip I'd dreamed about for 40 years, since first reading abut the river as a kid.

A couple years later, the Steelhead Monk told me I didn't need to fish subsurface on his river, and it made sense. And spread. I skate my little muddler from May til... November? I only occasionally switch to a wet- rarely as a comeback, usually just for a touch of variation. But as soon as I cast, I miss the little glimmer of the wake, and a dozen casts later, I switch back.

Since moving back home, all my fish but one have been on the surface.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I've only caught a handful of steelhead with dry flies. I do fish them on an intermittent basis during the summer but I'm not nearly as crazy as Todd 😉

A few summers ago I was fortunate enough to tag along on a couple of 3 day trips up the Deschutes with a couple fellas who have a jetboat and have been fishing the river for decades. Admittedly, they had the river dialed in, knew which rock the fish would hold near etc... On the second trip, the fishing wasn't great but I was able to scratch out a fish or two every day, all of them on a POM skater. I remember them giving me a good natured hard time that first evening when I had the gall to tie on a dry fly when none of us had touched a fish all day, but they were believers by the end of the trip.
Hey Chris,
You may not be as crazy as me, but sounds like you're getting there after those Deschutes trip!

Todd
 

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Not a newb anymore ... can you be a 54 year old adolescent? (Every wife / significant other on these pages screams “Well, duh!” In unison). Thanks to Todd, Adrian and a few others here I’ve mostly fished dries /muddlers into November on NorCal /Southern OR rivers over the last 3-4 seasons and have even succeeded in not screwing up the grab a few times. Got a long way to go though.

Most memorable? The first time I ever tied on a skater. I decided to just see if I could make it skate correctly on a little side bucket just upstream of Mott Bridge. First cast (if 20’ can even be considered a cast) didn’t look quite right. Second cast, just as I thought “that’s what it looks like in the videos”, a 10#+ fish came rocketing out of the hole, grabbed the fly on the way up, did a complete somersault, and came down on the leader, breaking me off before I even knew what the h*ll just happened. Quite an intro into the world of surface steelhead.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
You know me, Todd...all my summer stuff is tied to skate or fish in the film. I sort of count a light-wire Spade or unhitched TRC as in the "dry fly" category (sort of) as they usually come to the surface near the end of the swing. Well, occasionally I will put on a small wet as a follow up effort...but very occasionally.

And to tell you the truth, almost all of my dry fly takes are of the "slurping" rather than "slashing" variety, other than when I have a Wang on.

3 years ago, I had a big buck at Fake Walnut rise very gently into a full head/shoulder slurp and just pluck a purple muddler pattern. I watched the take and was amazed at how delicate he was for a big shouldered brute.

My favorite take ever was one that happened to Coover. That fish slashed and missed a Wang on successive casts before coming fully clear of the water on the 3rd effort and grabbing the Wang on the way DOWN. Saw the whole thing. Damn, if these fish ain't cool! <img src="http://www.speypages.com/speyclave/images/smilies/smile.gif" border="0" alt="" title="Smilie" class="inlineimg" />
Keith,
You are super fishy with your buggy low riding flies.

As Yardsale mentioned, buggy, natural flies like TRCs, muddlers, greaseliners, steelhead caddis's, etc do often seem to be more effective than gaudy foam flies like the ones I tie. I know guys like you and Adrian, who fish these kinds of flies, tend to fish circles around me.

That's ok, I do like those angry attacks that my foam flies sometimes elicit.

We all have our own styles and that's what makes this fun!

Todd
 

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Discussion Starter #12
By "On the surface" I assume we are talking strictly foam flies? Or are we counting wakers like muddlers and bombers?

I'm going on year 3 of fishing a surface fly anytime I fish when the sun isn't on the water in the summer. Not many fish but those I do get are well worth the effort. Plus its just funa nd exciting watching that sucker skitter across the surface knowing at any point a fish may explode right where I'm looking.

That said I spend a lot more time with a Lemire caddis or muddler on the end. I think its way more effective and the grab is just as good. I just don't see it in half of the places I fish, so you lose the visual piece. I do need glasses though...

Most exciting this year has been winter fishing on a dry line. Winters hopes and such under a mono leader on a mid-belly. As if the runs weren't weak enough I decided I needed to make the game harder. Got a couple but want to do it full time next year, minus dirty water scenarios. I found this year that it just makes you fish different water. Water most others don't fish, which is a good thing.

hi Mitce.
Great that you have been fishing surface flies with conviction in recent years and finding success! Fyi, steelhead will still come to surface flies with sun on the water, especially areas with a broken/choppy surface. In summer, it's mostly due to the heat that I am primarily out mornings and evenings, and during rare overcast conditions. Fall is prime due to the cool, mostly low light throughout the days.

Congrats on your winter dry line success as well. As you have found, fishing the right water is the key.

Todd
 

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Am dedicating this summer and fall to this fishery, heart skips a beat when I do it with trout, hope I don't get a heat attack with steel, wish me luck
Good luck your efforts! You are correct in that it does take dedication to get steelhead on the surface, but stick with it, the fish will come. On those special days when the stars align, you may encounter a loaded run where multiple steelhead attack your surface fly, talk about heart stopping fun.

Todd
 

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Discussion Starter #14
My first steelhead on a fly was on a riffle hitched steelhead caddis. that would have been the case for the first dozen or so if I had known the whole drop the rod tip trick, this is essential when skating on small streams where casts are 50 feet at the extreme. Unfortunately this type of fishing no longer exists due to the river it took place on longer having runs that longer in the sections open to fishing.

My surface steelhead fishing anymore is pretty much limited to locations where i know the exact location of the lie, i don't so much swing these spots as i cast the fly into them and hold it there as long as possible. these are primarily on the North Umpqua. I used to do quite well on the Klickitat but in recent years crowds have minimized my time on that river.

As for a memorable experience. In 1998 ish i was on the North Umpqua fishing a run called Discovery, it's a horrible wade for anyone under 6 foot and anyone over 6 foot will have their face in the overhanging alders. i was fishing it anyway. I rose a fish on a Bomber about 1/2 way down. It came all the way out of the water for the fly but missed it, 6-8 casts later he came up again and missed again. I rose that same fish several more times as I worked down the run then finally hooked it down at the extreme end of the tail out. I have it in my mind that it rose 8 times but i don't remember for sure any more. I think i landed the fish but i don't remember that for sure either. I do know however that it was on my Orvis "Salmon" 10 ft 9 wt and my Hardy St John.

had a 10 fish day on the Grand Ronde once all on top.
Rob,
Thanks for sharing your stories! Having a NU fish come back so many times is incredible. I found it interesting that you kept raising that steelhead as you worked down the run. Was this during fall? Most of the players I encounter seem to remain or return to the same lie.

A 10 fish day on the GR, on dries??? Heavenly! I need a day like that once in my life although "four is enough"...

Todd
 

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I'm really, really new to this but my first swing-up was virtually a surface take (short, light tip with a fly that tended to swim up and the fish tail-wagged in the air before turning on the fly)

I don't have any interest in fishing deep in the buckets with T14 or 17 if I don't have to, I much prefer lighter tips and light flies. I've never been anywhere - until this year - that had a good fall or summer run. I'm dedicating most of my fall now to picking one up on the top.
 

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Well, I've had many over the years. I think my first steelhead was a 10# hen at Overlook on the NU probably 30 yrs ago on a dead-drift bomber.

But, I've also had many Atlantic salmon, likely one of the most memorable was on a floating dead-drift stonefly (western salmonfly pattern). The fish came up to the fly several times . . . first slapped it with his tail. Next just to nudge it on the top of his head. Next time he came up and just bumped it with his nose. At last, he came up and knocked it up in the air . . . and with the fly about 3 ft in the air, he took it . . . tail just dragging on the surface. 10# buck.

I described a number on unusual surface takes, including this one, in my Atlantic salmon primer video (A passion for Atlantic salmon) that I was asked to do by the American Museum of Fly Fishing. The video is in the video section below on this site. (or just A Passion for Atlantic Salmon on YouTube)

My largest on a dead-drift fly was a 28# hen (bomber), largest on a waker was a 32# hen also on a bomber. I've been successful on the surface with everything from tiny (size 10) tube flies to 4" sunray shadows waked in the surface.

This fall, I'll be trying some of Todd's little wangs for the first time in New Brunswick.
 

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I fish them too, Todd, but there are two drawbacks. The first is the maddening leader twist. I understand you use swivels to fix this. Brand please. The second one is relaxation. I truly enjoy just being there, watching the birds, otters, etc. while paying little attention to my fishing - totally zoned out fishing. Watching indicators or dry flies drifting isn't nearly as relaxing. I still do it (fish dries), but they are my second choice most of the time.

As for my favorite surface attack experience - the fly wasn't a dry fly at all, but a large pink and purple marabou monstrosity that stayed on the surface after my initial cast in the process of getting the line out - about 20 feet away. I gave the fly a quick tug in an attempt to get it to sink - at which point a huge steelie made one of those heart-stopping takes - as if a large rock was dropped in the pool. Mouth agape - I missed it. This was a mega-leech, size 2, 4xl - certainly not a dry fly. I have to admit - I've read a lot about these fish but still haven't a clue as to why they take flies and am completely baffled why they would take one fly over another - which of course adds to the fascination. May I suggest you add a few After Dinner Mints to your box of Wangs - marabou is really fishy and with silicone treatment, can be made to float.
 

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The second one is relaxation. I truly enjoy just being there, watching the birds, otters, etc. while paying little attention to my fishing - totally zoned out fishing.
This is the reason I don't fish dries more. It's also the reason I haven't seen the actual take for many of my dry fly caught steelhead. :)
As for my favorite surface attack experience - the fly wasn't a dry fly at all
Me too! I don't recall the actual fly, but I was fishing in Walnut on the NU. I must of just lucked out and had my fly land right where the fish was because it annihilated the fly immediately and took off into my backing.

A second memorable take was in Station on the NU. I was fishing a muddler on an intermediate polyleader. While stripping in my line I saw the fish slash at the fly and miss. It didn't miss the second time, it grabbed my fly took off down the chute and hung me up something fierce. I pulled and pulled, eventually it broke free but the only thing I got back was the fly line. It came off where I'd nail knotted the mono butt to the end of the line.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Not a newb anymore ... can you be a 54 year old adolescent? (Every wife / significant other on these pages screams “Well, duh!” In unison). Thanks to Todd, Adrian and a few others here I’ve mostly fished dries /muddlers into November on NorCal /Southern OR rivers over the last 3-4 seasons and have even succeeded in not screwing up the grab a few times. Got a long way to go though.

Most memorable? The first time I ever tied on a skater. I decided to just see if I could make it skate correctly on a little side bucket just upstream of Mott Bridge. First cast (if 20’ can even be considered a cast) didn’t look quite right. Second cast, just as I thought “that’s what it looks like in the videos”, a 10#+ fish came rocketing out of the hole, grabbed the fly on the way up, did a complete somersault, and came down on the leader, breaking me off before I even knew what the h*ll just happened. Quite an intro into the world of surface steelhead.
I happen to be a 54 year old adolescent! Going after steelhead on the surface definitely keeps that youthful excitement going. Good on you with your early success on the NU! That river is not often nice to me!

Todd
 

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Todd, I think the fish would swipe at it then go downstream looking for it. I'd guess i hooked him a good 60 feet from where he rose the first time.

a 10 fish day on the Grand Ronde didn't used to be all that spectacular. back in the 90s returns were better and crowds were less if you found a run with a pod of fish it wasn't unusual to get several grabs. 5 ish out of one run was common. Even the Klickitat used to be that way though it's a much harder river to find pods of fish like that.
 
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