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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I've been thinking about this a lot lately because of Jerry French's comments about his underwater experiments with flash, which blew my mind, (from underneath fish basically cant see it unless its basically all flash ie. Scott Howell's Prom Dress. It blew my mind because I've had pretty good success with marabout and flash for steelhead.

I thought this was a timely video and wondered what y'alls experience with flash, etc has been. Thought this was a cool little snippet that might start a conversation.

Thanks...Tim
 

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IN some Steelhead rivers there are two distinct types of colored water: containing mostly brown particles after rain. and white/light gray from Glaciar melting.
Brown particles absorb light, while white color particles from Glaciar melt reflect light when looking from the top , but also scattered light inside the river.

So many times I looked even with polarized glasses at water in late simmer containing excess of glacier melt, specially with some sun not the sky, and visibility can be in only 30-40 cm. However, in shadow places ( at the same time) visibility will jump to 50-60 cm.

It is most distinguishable very early morning, just after day break. Without polarized glasses I can see counter of the bottom( with water 10-15 cm above mu knee). A few hour later it drop quite a bit, but visibility , when looking from the top, is still much better in shadow places.

When light is scattered inside the water, fish can see well, but not an angler……
Also, in water with an excess of Glaciar melt ( due to warmer temps) black and blue gives a great contrast, but not so much when water is colored with brown soil after rain.
 

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There are some studies that show that fish respond in feeding to scent, vibration/sound via their lateral line and visual. Is there any evidence that steelhead respond only to their vision? Just wondering......

While scent can play a part, Steelhead really do not react nearly as much as say chinook that is known to be the most sent orientated of all the salmonoids.
Back when I would fish beads for hatchery steelhead I once caught 9 steelhead in 45minutes with less than a foot of visibility only using 8mm beads, zero scent involved, zero profile. Just a tiny bead right in front of their nose

They are bred to see underwater and see way better than we give them credit. Find the fish and put something in front of their nose.

I have also caught at least 100 steelhead on black, and dont know what Ed was trying to say. If your fly is more than an inch above the fish all they will see is black.
 

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First a stylized fact:

Black and other dark colours, e.g., purple, appear to work in dark conditions, light conditions, crystal clear water and dark murky water (mud brown or glacial till, it does not matter). See Rifflehitch's comment above.



Second, a personal opinion that is clearly not widely shared:

Size and silhouette of flies matter much more than colour or flash.



Third, from personal experience:

Colours known to exhibit low visibility in water such as deep or bright red catch steelhead for me in a full range of conditions.



Fourth, and once again from personal experience:

Flash may attract anglers but appears to have little impact on steelhead catching. Take a pair of anglers in great conditions with water visibility of slightly less than a metre. One fishes flashy flies, the other fishes drab flies with no metallic shine; they both catch a similar number of steelhead.




P.S. I loved seeing the Colorado spinner blade in Ed Ward's fly collection in the above video. With that spinner fly combo, Ed has the 'vibration' aspect covered. :chuckle:
 

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Flash may attract anglers but appears to have little impact on steelhead catching. Take a pair of anglers in great conditions with water visibility of slightly less than a metre. One fishes flashy flies, the other fishes drab flies with no metallic shine; they both catch a similar number of steelhead.

Well, when Skeena for example has 80-90 cm visibility, as it was the case the first half of September last year, and part of late August, any fly will be recognized by Steelhead. In 45 cm visibility , it is a different story......
 

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I recently ran across this article about some fish way below our fishing zone. It gives some perspective about how fish have adapted to seeing in the dark. It also touches on the fact that depth penetration of light is dependent on wavelength and adsorption by water. Reds turn black, at least to our eyes, below a couple of meters. If we are fishing the holes, contrast might be more important than the colors we select for our flies.
 

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My own take on this, unscientific as it may be, is that we just really don’t know for sure how a steelhead is attracted to our flies, or why they decide to eat them. From some occasional opportunities I’ve had to be able to observe steelhead responding to my fly (or watching them respond to other anglers flies), I am mostly convinced that the mood of the fish is the biggest variable in the equation. I definitely do think certain size/color combinations can make a difference, but I’m not sure we will ever be able to unequivocally state the reasons why, and thus extrapolate a strategy that we can use in similar circumstances expecting similar results.

I think there are just too many factors that are in play regarding a steelheads mood to really know. We’ve probably all come across those fish that are just so aggressive it seems likely they would have chased down and destroyed practically any fly, regardless of color or flash, or profile, etc. Of course there are plenty of times where the opposite is true; where they will actively ignore or avoid pretty much every single offering you put in front of them. The thing that always blows me away is when a fish that seems to have severe lock jaw will change its mind suddenly and pounce on a particular offering. Was it the color of the fly, the seductive movement, just the right size, was the fish finally stimulated by the perfect presentation? Or did their mood simply change? I’ve witnessed it a few times, unfortunately it hasn’t usually been my fly that got lucky.

There was one very interesting experience I had once fishing for Coho/Silver salmon: I was fishing to a good sized pod of fresh fish but neither my father or I was having any luck getting one to grab. The water was a tad clear, so it was easy enough to watch their reaction (or lack thereof) to our flies. We had both pretty much focused our efforts on smallish sized flies, without too much flash, due to the low water conditions; but after several fly changes and no aggressive reactions we started trying mid sized flies, larger flies, flies with more flash, flies with more movement, etc etc. There was one fish in particular that I had watched swerve away from my flies numerous times, as I had nearly bumped his nose more than once. At this point we were mostly going through the motions, hoping maybe a few more aggressive fish might move into the pool with the incoming tide, and I knew it had gotten beyond desperate when I tied on a fly I had almost zero confidence in. I tied on a modest sized GBS (one that I had tied with an equal lack of enthusiasm, creativity, or optimism), made a cast or two, when I literally saw that fish turn his head sharply as my fly swam a few feet past him. I watched as the fish swam all the way across the pool, gaining speed as my fly came to the hang down below me. Somewhat stunned, I started stripping the fly up the shoreline to keep it moving and hopefully keep the fish in hot pursuit. The fish was racing straight up the shallows along the shoreline, about half out of the water at this point and quickly closing the distance on my fly. I’ll never forget seeing him open his jaws and explode on my my fly just as I’d run out of line to retrieve! I just couldn’t believe the sheer focus and tenacity of that fish to destroy that boring, lame fly! We had almost no other action the whole day!? We still laugh about it today, as my father was able to see the whole thing unfold almost as clearly and thought it looked more like I’d pissed the fish off and it was racing over to attack me instead of the fly. Who knows why it changed its mind so dramatically?
JB
 
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