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This is a segue off of the "East coast vs. West coast" thread which touched on the subject of "all steelhead being the same, regardless of where they are". I would like to hear other peoples experiences/opinions on this subject, and also expand its scope to include all anadromous salmonids - what are some of the situations that you have encountered where a species of salmonid displayed behavior that seemed "unusual" compared to the "generally accepted norm"?

I had the opportunity one Spring to be doing an exploratory for Chinook on a fly on a river in Kamchatka, Russia. This river was very large, on the order of the Skagit in total system length/area, and down where we were, about the volume of the Skagit at Sedro Woolley (20,000+ cfs). We had access to about 32 miles of river (limited upriver by an impassable-to-jet-boat canyon ), were about 22 miles upstream from its entry to the ocean, the lower 12 miles being quite braided and estuary-ish in character, the upper 10 also substantially braided, but shallower, rockier bottomed, and faster currented. The river was receding from an incredible barrage of snowmelt, had just become barely fishable at about 18" visibility, and high enough that it was still up in the willows. We had been confined to camp for a couple of weeks because of the runoff, and were itching to bust out and fish. We knew from talking to the "commercials" that the entire run of Chinook in this huge, way off color water was on the order of 10,000 fish, and that figure was BEFORE they took their share in gillnets, which we never got a quote on what "their share" was.

So, a HUGE river, very dirty water, small population of fish, and it was all a big "unknown" as far as sportfishing went. Sounded like an "impossibility". We set out in the sled and starting straining with our flies everything that we could find that looked like "king water" under those conditions. After hitting some of the bigger "classic" king water without so much as a sniff, and beginning to lose enthusiasm for Kings because of the conditions, we started to investigate some comparatively smaller back channels because they had slightly better conditions of viz and we were hoping to maybe at least run across some trout - ANYTHING to get a pull on the line - but nothing. Wasn't looking good.
We then parked the boat at the mouth of a channel that was so shallow there that we didn't want to drive the jetboat up into it. As we walked up into the channel about a hundred yards "bwoosh", a fish rolled. "What the ...!" "That looked like a King!". Several minutes later, another. Then another. We ended up hooking about a half dozen Kings in that tiny back channel before things went quiet. That was the beginning of a week where my friend Monty and I managed to hook several Kings a day on a fly under very challenging circumstances, in areas that were very "unKing like". The reasoning for where the fish were where they were? The backchannels that had entrances too shallow for a seal to want to enter into it provided safe resting areas for the upriver traveling Kings! Man, were we fortunate! In a river of that size, with a run of fish that small, the odds for running across Kings on a fly under IDEAL conditions would have been a huge stroke of luck. Lady Luck gave was definitely smiling on us that week!
 

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i am convinced that as soon as you think you know how something is it will be different next time.

a good friend and guide was on a medium sized GL stream when we had some very warm weather (60) for november. he encountered a pod of steelhead in a slow glassy pool. while tying on a small bugger to swing by them he saw what looked like a fish rise. he watched and again it looked to be a classic head/tail rise to an insect. he watched the water and he saw some small midges skittering around and some lying spent on the water. he digs through a trout box in his vest and finds a trico #20 (no crap) and ties it on, drifts it over the fish and he comes right up and eats it. he sets too early and just lip hooks him for a second but enough to realize the fish did indeed eat the fly. he digs around and now finds a #18 caddis a little closer in profile to what he is seeing on the water. waits untill another starts to rise puts it over him and hooks up. he did indeed land the fish on the #18 caddis. also got one more hookup and lost fish a little later before it got dark. that day i put a small trout box in my pack where hopefully i will have some use for it.
 

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After travelling out west, living there for some time, and putting in a couple months of rod days in (for not a lot of fish mind you), the one thing I experienced with the fish I hooked were almost all slow takers. There was one fish on the Clearwater that was a classic surface take but still wasn't the kind of "bone jarring" take that is often written about. For the most part these were all summer fish or early winter fish on warm days so I had expected more. It caught me off guard because when I think of slow takers I'm thinking 36 degree GL steelhead. I've had GL fish tear the rod out of my hand after tracking the fly for 30 feet or more but the WC fish for me were rather ordinary, though I didn't expect that they'd have mouths like concrete.

I'm not critisizing or generalizing, that's just been my experience.

The contrast to my WC experience and my Atlantic Salmon fishing is completely different. Those fish are pure killers, when they decide to move to a fly they're hooked no matter how hard their mouths are. I've only had a few slow takes and it was more by design, meaning I was fishing the patent through some deeper water and found myself connected at the start of the swing. They are, and will always be, two different species.

-Chris
 

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Wilson,

After chasing west coast steelhead for twenty years now, I have come to believe that the "yank" is a a minority event regardless of the time of year and water temp. The variety of takes is actually quite impressive.

While the slow cold water take is real and happens the majority of the time in water in the 30s, some of the more bone jarring yanks I have had have also come in those conditions. Go figure.

sinktip
 

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sinktip said:
Wilson,

After chasing west coast steelhead for twenty years now, I have come to believe that the "yank" is a a minority event regardless of the time of year and water temp. The variety of takes is actually quite impressive.

While the slow cold water take is real and happens the majority of the time in water in the 30s, some of the more bone jarring yanks I have had have also come in those conditions. Go figure.

sinktip
I think that it just comes down to all fish being individuals. Case in point.

Last Mon. 2 fish. water temp. 37 degrees.
First fish slow pull then nothing. Come back on him. Sloww pull. Tarpon set. Thrash, thrash, roll, roll, fish landed. 4lb. female lip hooked. typical cold water scenario.
Second fish 45 min later. Good solid take (not bone jarring but wakes you up)
sizzling run, clears water by couple of feet 3 times. Hard 5 min. fight. Land fish. 10lb. male hooked in side of mouth (not scissors).

Anything to learn from this? :confused:

Ramsay
 

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fish are individuals. I remember years ago I hooked and landed a 30" hatchery skamania strain summer steelhead on a dead drifted dry . I greased up a steelhead caddis tied on a riffle hitch,and proceeded to cast up river while I was watching a friend fish the top of a run. I was just working out line! I was just about to turn around,and start waking the fly down and accross like i always fish a waking fly,when I saw a steelhead do a head tail rise,about twenty feet from me. I was watching my freind, and I called up to him and said" I think a fish is moving your way" I had ;) no idea the fish had taken my fly. I looked back in the direction of the rise ,and saw my fly line with a large up stream bow in it, and realized He had eaten my fly. It must have been 8 or 10 seconds before I figuired it all out. I set the hook and proceeded to play and land a nice 10lbs resh hatch fish. what was really suprizing, was the fish had swallowed the caddis all the way down to its belly. I could not reach the fly with large pair of Hemostats,sticking all the way down its gullet? I was ingesting it! a chrome fresh hatch fish? Makes you wonder
 

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Kings Charging the Bank

Not so much a circumstance but certainly strange is King Salmon charging the bank just after being hooked. Seen this many times in the great lakes river where I bother King Salmon.
The charge can happen towards the anglers bank side of the river or the opposite bank. Opposite bank of course leads to a long screaming run.
When charging the bank the king almost always realizes as he approaches the bank he'll soon be out of the water if he doesnt change direction fast and the fish ends up making a sloppy, very splashy turn around usually in bank side water only a few inches deep.
Once I witnessed a newly hooked King come charging at the angler who was on the bank, the King came came out of the water onto the bank and then very quickley wiggled around behind the angler and back into the water leaving the dumbfounded angler with his line wrapped around himself and of course the King was able to quickley unhook since the rod was no longer providing any buffering of the line- fish connection. That is the funniest thing I've seen while fishing and needless to say gave me some new respect for King Salmon which sometimes here in the Great Lakes are a little under appreciated.
 

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I once hooked a chum that screamed across river, went airborne, landed on the other river bank, flopped itself back into the water and was finally landed. Craziest thing I have ever seen.
 
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