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Green Highlanders, Bricks & Pink Ladies

I don't see why there has to be a “Great Lakes style” of two-handed casting or fishing? Yes, the region does have generally cold river temps throughout much of the season, and on average some of the rivers are small to medium in size, but cold temps do not equal short-head lines. And if you call fishing for steelhead and salmon in creeks that are the width of a car, “angling”, whether it is with conventional tackle, a single-handed rod or double-handed rod, I think you should take the time to reflect on your “angling” ethic.

Some medium-sized rivers do lend themselves to double-handed rods, but that is true as much of the rivers of the Great Lakes as it is for the rivers of northwest Scotland. Most medium sized rivers tend to be by their very nature spate streams, which on the Great Lakes means that once the fish are in so are the crowds. Not the greatest way to single-Spey or even Perry Poke while you are in a line of 10 guys with the closest being less than a half a rods length in either direction of you.

That leaves us with larger rivers; some like the Niagara would rival and surpass any steelhead or Atlantic salmon river in the world for its sheer size and volume. But with its deep heavy flows it is not overly conducive to fly-fishing. There are rivers with steelhead in them, and then there are steelhead rivers. One should never get the two confused. I'm fishing rivers as much for their makeup and design that is conducive to my approach then I am for the simple fact that they have steelhead in them. Most Great Lakes double-handed rod anglers should, theoretically, gravitate towards larger rivers, each state and province has some pretty good ones, some better than others, but all have something within reasonable access.

There is no reason why anglers fishing their home rivers in the PNW, BC, Quebec, Iceland, Scotland, Norway etc. are not fishing rivers with similar stream dynamics. We all have a lot more in common than we have differences if people would just open up to their surroundings. It is the personal preference that should dictate the style of setup you fish and not your geographic location. I fear that a lot of the short-belly mentality coming out of the Great Lakes is simply an extension of the right-angle nymphing, float fishing attitude that is the only way you can catch Great Lakes steelhead. Yes, linking short-belly Spey lines with float fishing is a bit of a stretch, but I'm speaking of more of a mind set than anything else.

If you would like to cast, as Willie Gunn says, “bricks” then all the power to you. But promoting short rods and short-belly or Skagit type setups as the way to fish for Great Lakes steelhead, which many experts and Fly Shops are doing is misleading to all of the options new double-handed rod anglers have at their disposal for fishing Great Lakes anadromous fish.


B.
 

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Group hug

Hey, far be it from me to tell anyone what to do. I'm not and do not want to be an expert. The main point I was trying to make was that “we all”, everyone around the world who fishes for anadromous fish with a fly rod, have a lot more in common than we have differences. By the very nature of fishing with a fly rod, be it a double hander, we are drawn towards fishing certain types of water that suit our delivery. i.e. we generally fish medium to large rivers with medium to fast flows with an average preferred depth of 2 to 8 feet. This is a generality, but a fairly true statement whether you are fishing in the PNW, Great Lakes, East Coast, Iceland, UK, Scandinavia, Russia, etc.

Yes they fish short shooting head in Scandinavia because they have rivers with tight banks, but they also have big wide flowing rivers that they fish from boats. You can fish Skagit style rigs on the Skagit River, but you can also fish it very effectively with an 18 foot rod and a long-belly line.

I can fish Great Lakes rivers in late November and catch steelhead with a WindCutter and a type 8 head with a 3/0 marabou fly, or I can fish a double taper floater and a size 2 Lady Caroline and catch fish. That has more to do with the specific pool or run I'm fishing and the preferred type of setup I like to fish with than the simple fact that I'm fishing on a Great Lakes river. There is this dogma that you need to get down fast to catch Great Lakes fish, and at times you do, but most of the times you don't. Some of the problems arise with methodology, when people try to force an approach, double handed rod fishing, on types of water that it is not suitable for.

My only concern is for new anglers, if they are told or lead to believe that there is a Great Lakes Spey Methodology and it is this ……(insert what you feel it is), then you are limiting them from all of the options that are available for them to catch fish and have fun. It is counter productive to promote a Great Lakes Spey Methodology because at the end of the day you are fishing for fish under changing conditions and with your own preferred approach whether that is in the Great Lakes, PNW or wherever you swing a fly.

Whatever floats your boat or swims your fly, have fun.

B.
 
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