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Pin cushion
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Here's the scenario, cast ,mend,swing...bump...bump...bump,.....wham, fish on. Not all of them are 3 bumps some are only one or two,but the friends i fish with and I have all had a few that are up to 7-8 bumps then the good grab. Has anyone actually seen this sort of take from above? Is it just something boring like the fish just plucking,or.....could the fish be pulling out a little Jackie Chan down there that we can't see! On the Muskegon we don't have the opportunity very often to watch things from above and I was just wondering if this is a great lakes thing or if you guys out west get it to?
twohand
 

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We "Rogue Rats can Relate."

Crikminee.. just got the sneezes!! Where/what causes these darned ..A CHOOOOOO. Never mind.

Very common here on the upper Rogue; go to a finer wire hook. Size, per se, doesn't matter .. just a light wire hook. Lead underwire to your (SNEEZE, SNEEZE, SNEESE, POOP, ENOUGH ALRADY!) hook for weight if you want, but fine wire to get these 'pluckers.'

Off for more nose rages. Double poop.
 

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Whatever is said...

Whatever is said in this regard is truly just another plucking theory.:devil:
They do this everywhere I have been. How about Russia any clue that it doesn't transcend the Quiet Waters of the North Pacific, River Addict?
 

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If you have ever gear fished. You always know when to set the hook. I was always told that you were bumping the bottom until I found out different. I would set the hook on about the second bump because you feel that it is not the bottom. Just a thought.

Jim
 

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Could be a little Jackie Chan...

While I have not been able to observe what is really happening out there, this is just as much a guess as anybody.

In watching how predatory fish feed, and in particular in how they 'vacuum' their prey. I believe that the bumps are the fish attempting to suck the fly into their mouths. Sometimes this will take a few times for them to get the fly deep enough for the hook to hopefully grab. Who knows? Maybe RiverAddict will chime in....Or Topher with the gin clear sight fishing on the Gaspe.

I commonly experience this behavior with any swinging presentation at any level in the water- from dries to dredging.

William
 

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Things that go bump.....

While fishing the Eagle River in Labrador, my fishing partner Mike Crosby told me the following story (I paraphrase):

"A couple of years back, I'm standin' in the back of the boat makin' a few real short casts--I mean a couple of arm lengths of line and ten feet o' cast (leader) when this grilse (1 sea-winter fish) comes up and sucks in my fly. I'm waitin' for the pull and watchin' the fish the whole time; well, I don't feel a damn thing, I mean his mouth is open and my fly is IN his mouth and he swims for twenty feet with it, and I don't feel a thing.

"So I makes another cast. Same damn thing: fish comes up in the same spot, sucks in my fly and comes all the way 'round with 'er; never felt a thing. I gave him time to get back to his lie--same amount of time it takes to light up a Belvedere Extra Mild and pull in three good draws--and fired another cast in there. This time, when the fish came up and sucked in the fly, I stuck him hard and landed him before my cigarette was out."

Now Mike's the best salmon fisherman I've ever seen: he's landed right around 2,000 of the little buggers, which is no mean feat in this day and age. What's more, he got most of them on public water where you got to outsmart the other fishermen before you can outsmart the fish. So I listen when Mike talks salmon.

If Mike had not seen that fish, he never would have know it was there; nor would he have known to set up on him. How many times does something similar happen when you can't see your fly? I figure plenty. If we knew the real answer to that--had a little camera on our fly and a fiber optic cable running up the fly line--we'd probably have to wear diapers while fishing.

I've been able to CLEARLY see maybe 10-11 salmon take someone else's wet fly, mostly while standing in the stern of a canoe or up high in a tree. When I say "see a salmon take a wet," I mean the whole shebang: you have the fish spotted ahead of time; you are the eyes for another angler; you tell him where to cast; and up comes Mr. or Mrs. Salmon from its lie and takes the fly. You see the whole thing from start to finish, not just the swirl etc. as the fish takes it. What impresses me most is how fast they grab it when they want it. It's tough to see the fish leave his lie, it's that quick--like a cat pouncing on a mouse.

These are the fish that want your fly. I've seen a lot more who follow a wet fly and don't take. The ones who bump or tap your fly are probably somewhere in between: they're definitely interested, but not quite sure if they want to close the deal. Salmon, and I suspect steelhead, can perform any manner of 'Cirque du Soleil' acrobatics in their element. I once saw a 12 pound fish take a dead-drift dry fly with its belly pointed toward the sky; thought it was going to just rub the fly with its tummy, but took it instead. Amazing. Point is, they can do anything with your fly that they like; and they do.

It takes a serious set of brass 'cojones' to set up on a fish (i.e. set the hook) when you feel those little bumps. It could be your only action of the day. You have to be real sure he's got your fly in his mouth, and even then it'd be better if he turned on it. In the long run, I figure you'll land more fish if you train yourself not to pull with wet flies (talkin' salmon here, not Winter steelhead) until something else pulls first.
 

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Pin cushion
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you're right on

Topher, you're dead nuts on not setting the hook on the first bump. I have not had the chance to fish for atlantics yet but a hook set before you feel weight is almost a guaranteed miss. So far, Danas theory is exactly what our best guess was, the fish takes and then just coasts along(tug..tug) before it decides to turn tail(...pull) thanks to everyone for the responses.
Dustin
 

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I have been lucky enough to be in a few situations where we could see a group of steelhead lying strung out in a run or tailout and take turns fishing over them. As much as I like to catch fish I would rather observe any day. I have seen the fish calmly track the fly and sip it in and return back to it's holding spot, head always facing up stream, and the angler just feels the line gradually get tighter and tighter until the fish is on and takes off. Very common, I think we have all had a lot of takes like this. Even on the Atlantic side of North America. I once watched as Topher had two huge salmon (30+ pounds) track his fly and then disapeare back to their lie. Next cast they tracked and one took and calm like returned to it's lie and the line got tighter and tighter and Topher pulled tight and presto huge salmon on and landed I am hop'n around the rocks like a scalded weasel taking pics.

As for the tap, tap, tap, I think the Dana is right on. I once saw a steelhead come forward a couple of feet to intercept the fly in it's swing. In coming at the fly and then turning with the direction of the swing and belly, drifting not much faster then the fly speed, the fish created slack. All the angler felt was tap, tap, tap as the fish held the fly and increased the size of the belly. As the fish turned down stream and before the line went tight it opened it's mouth and out came the fly. The fish had the fly for 15' and what seemed like several seconds and then circled back into it's lie and never moved to the fly again. I believe that as the fish held the fly and the hook turned flat in it's mouth, you have a 50/50 chance that the hook point turned the correct direction. If the proper direction, then as the fish lets go, the hook finds the corner of the jaw for a perfect hook up. If the point is out, the fish lets go and the fly comes free with out so much as a prick. Offset hooks would probably do the trick but the past few years on such tap, tap situations i have been pulling the line tight while keeping the rod low and pointed down the line. I do not pull hard or fast, I just think to myself 'remove the slack'. This really seems to work well on steelhead and I believe it is because the fish feels the tension and takes off therefore setting the hook before they can spit it out. This is based on the idea that the fish has the fly in his mouth when we feel the tap, tap, but I think it works even if the fish is actually just doing a follow and nip-spit-nip because as you pull the fly away from them they have to either '**** or get off the pot'.

I do believe that Topher is correct in saying that we probably move a lot more fish to the fly then we ever see.

Sorry to ramble on so long. pictureing those steelhead and salmon follow the fly gets me a little excited.

Greg
 

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Man, these things keep me up at night. Steelheads on sunk tips in Michigan, Browns and rainbows on the swing here in Montana, Steelhead on the dry line on the Pacific rivers. They all eat on the swing pretty much the same, and those bumps, pecks, ticks and other not quites are haunting. But it is nice when you get one to peck you a few swings in a row and finally get him to drill something:smokin: It seems to me that when you swing for Steelies, trout, and I would assume Atlantics, the bumps are part of the game. I have no answers, as I haven't watched fish from above, it seems like no two fish eat it quiet the same.
 

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The very light take is a common occurance on the Klamath especially with the half pounders. I used to wait until they would take solid but it often never happened - just a single light pluck. I have lately been holding the line with the left hand and slip striking - just a tug on the line when I feel the pluck and it often results in a hook up - this does not really pull the fly away like a set up by pulling the rod sideways would do so if they miss there is a good chance they will still track and take.
 

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Personally I've never regarded the 'bump' as a take. In fact I don't think the fish has the hook in it's mouth, nor do I believe the fish is nipping at the tail of the fly. What I think I'm feeling is the Steelhead's ability to vacuum suck it's prey from over a foot away. I was first exposed to this idea by Mike Maxwell and believe him to be right as I've had incredibly poor success striking at taps/bumps. Last couple of years I've been fishing primarily fast rods, short heads and slickshooter. If the bump was caused by the fish inducing slack in the line such a setup should be able to regain tension with a sharp hook set. On the Bulkley(perhaps the 'bumpiest' of fish) I have been fortunate to watch Steelhead move to the fly from a high bank while the angler below experienced 'bumps'. During such an occurance one can clearly see the line move from the rod tip in a bit of a pull toward the fish signalling the absence of slack. One would think, if the hook was in the fish's mouth(even sideways),that striking during such a pull would be met with some measure of success. Instead I believe Mike to be right and that the Steelhead is instead following behind your fly and moving it towards their mouth(without ever taking) in an act of curiousity.
Brian
 

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At least on the Klamath, the slight bumps do seem to be from fish actually taking the fly as I am getting consistent hook ups by a sharp tug on the line when I feel these taps. Fish can be very subtle in their takes - this is evident when nymphing for trout or steelhead with an indicator - one rarely feels the take but just a slight pause in the line/indicator means the fly has been picked up. I have witnessed steelhead take a fly on the N Umpqua and shake their heads quite violently with the angler never feeling a thing. On another occasion while fishing the Feather, we found a pod of steelhead in a back channel with no current - they were very shy when throwing standard patterns but we tossed small #14 and #16 nymphs at them and they would charge the fly. We would never feel the take but when they did, you could watch them stop and flair their gills and see the white mouth open up - a strike at that time was a hookup - without seeing this from the bank we would never know when to stirke

Admittedly, I often am not ready to tug back and sometimes I do not but on the Klamath it is such a common occurance that I am often anticipating it on those days when the fish seem to be taking very lightly. I am much less inclined to do this on other rivers when takes are quite far apart such as the N Umpqua as I just can't hold that much anticipation throughout a full day of casting where you may get only one or two grabs if you are lucky.
 

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bump, bump

Bumps, plucks, nips, taps, and kisses on the fly... what the heck is happening? I think that it is most interesting to note those circumstances where they seem to occur with the most frequency.
It seems to me that light touches on the fly take place most often when the water is colder or warmer than "preferred" by steelhead, or when it is extremely clear or very dirty. Also bright levels of light seem to increase the "pluck factor", as well as heavy angling pressure. Fish in the act of moving - pluck - when one is fortunate enough to actually get one interested in the fly. I have also noted that small flies produce more taps than big ones.
Is there a pattern here? Too cold and too warm of water suggest decreased activity levels in the fish for metabolic reasons. Too clear and/or bright light are factors that probably shift a steelhead's primary focus towards concerns of personal security. Dirty water? Another condition that seems to divert a steelhead's center of attention towards I don't know what. Heavy angling pressure is self-explanatory. Moving fish - their attention is completely riveted on getting from point A to point B.
Each of these conditions either dulls a fish's activity levels, or concentrates its "consciousness" onto a primary factor of survival. This in turn either diminishes their capacity for receptivity (metabolic factor) or completely overrides it (survival concern). In other words, under such circumstances a fish's "mind" is not freely "open", "clear" and "uncluttered" to a "notion" for taking a fly as it comes swinging by. Therefore they display less aggressive actions towards a fly, if in fact they do so at all.
On the other hand, I believe that natural conditioning is responsible for the small-fly-more-plucky syndrome. Small prey items are generally not as radical in escape tactics as larger ones, therefore steelhead are probably used to "vacuuming" them into their mouths by flaring their gill covers. As has been discussed before, one's fly is "tethered" by the leader, and thus does not always go "flushing" down into the steelhead's gullet. The result, a pluck or tap, but no fish. However, in most instances (Pacific coast standards), if one does not set the hook - but rather waits it out patiently - the fish will come around for a second, sometimes third try, and will usually have compensated for "missing" (actually the anglers fault) it the first time around.
By the way, Moonlight, the steelhead in Kamchatka do pluck, but it is towards the latter half of the season when water temperatures are on the drop. Earlier on, when temps are in the low 50's, they absolutely CRUSH CRUSH CRUSH!
 

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In the past I have always thought those plucks were small trout that just couldn't get hold of the fly. Then after having a series of plucks during a swing on the North Umpqau, I decided on the following swing to do a slow lift while I was recieving those plucks. I was amazed when I found my self fast to a gorgeous wild hen.

I then had the same thing happen a couple of weeks later on the Willamette. I was leading my fly through some slower water when I had a series of plucks. I simply sped up the swing and gave a slight lift to the rod. Once again, fish on. This was later in the year and I believe the water temperature had something to do with it.
 

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All of the steelhead that I have seen take the fly while watching from a high bank or other such observation point intercept the fly. They swim to it and open their mouth and grab it. That is hard takes and soft ones.

I am not buying the point that a steelhead can vacuum a fly to him thus dragging 80 or so feet of tight line to him. Once the fish has intercepted the fly it very well might suck it down deep, but I have witnesed fish holding the fly after intercepting it. Large tube fly with orange marabou sticking out both sides of the fishes mouth while he is just easing along.

Large mouth bass can and do suck. Steelhead do not suck nor have I never seen one vacuum the fly to his mouth.

Greg
 

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WHOOAAAA!

I assumed, probably as others did, that when I spoke of steelhead vacuuming flies, that everyone realized that this happened only after the fish had indeed intercepted the fly and had thus attained a very close proximity to the fly - meaning within inches of it before actually flaring its gills to initiate the vacuuming process. This action would be undetectable by human observation unless one happened to be within a couple of feet of the fish. At distances greater than that, the vacuuming action would happen so quickly as to be indistinguishable from any other type of "taking" action by the fish. I would be the first to admit that if steelhead could vacuum objects from many feet away it would be an incredible feat, and at the very least quite the humorous mental picture!

Though I have never actually been able to see a steelhead vacuuming a fly into its mouth, I can assure you that it is in fact a prominent means for ingesting food items, especially smaller ones. If you wish to prove this for yourself, fish one day with a "tightline" approach. In other words, when swinging your fly always point the rod directly at the position of the fly and strive to maintain as taut a connection as possible with it. Whenever you get a take, strike it immediately. Record the numbers of fish hooked in comparison to numbers of takes. The next day fish with a method that allows the introduction of some slack into the system, whether that be holding a loop or whatever. Once again record the numbers of fish hooked in comparison to numbers of takes. Now continue this project for an entire season, then tally up the results, and then let me know whether or not steelhead do or do not use vacuuming as a method of ingestion.
 

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In my previous post I mentioned that we found steelhead in a backwater channel with no current and we tossed small dries and nymphs to them. I did see the flair of the gills. They would charge a nymph as soon as it hit the water and stop just inches away but did not always take. When they did you would see gills flair and the white mouth open - very cool to observe!
 

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PLAYERS AND NON-PLAYERS

Hello, Gents

I'm a bit stumped that nobody in this thread has mentioned the words "bump" and "pluck" in the same sentence as "fishing pressure".

Before the internet and the age of instant information, for more years then I probably deserved I had significant sections of water on multiple steelhead rivers virtually to myself. It was tough putting up with a situation like that, but somehow I managed to survive those years. I might even have become a better man for it.

But here's the rub: the majority of fish I fished over in those days had never seen humans or hooks until they saw me and mine. And I can tell you with a degree of conviction that in those days there was no such thing as a "bump" or a "pluck". All you had to do was get your fly out into the holding water with a modicum of grace and then... then what? Brace yourself, that's what.

It was not what you would call a demanding sport. It certainly was gratifying, but not demanding.

Since those days, however, the bump and the pluck phenomenon seem to have grown in direct proportion to the number of people heaped onto those rivers. Sad to relate when I get a bump or a pluck these days the first word that enters my mind is "re-tread".

What's a re-tread? It's a fish that's already been there and done that. It's no longer a Player. I will give that fish one more cast then I'll move on.

Indeed it is with a degree of rue that I hear Mr. Whistler refer to the Bulkley as the "bumpiest" of rivers. In my early days it was absolutely without doubt the unbumpiest of rivers I ever fished. It was fasten-the-seatbelts from daybreak until sun down. I recall multiple double-headers when fishing with my girlfriend back in the mid-seventies. I also recall several triple headers one day when we invited a Smithers local to share our bounty. A "bump" was a smolt or a dolly. Never a steelhead.

These days, the bump and the pluck seems to be almost the rule in that river, which is no more surprising then the eight jet boat trailers parked on the beach.

I do not discount the mysterious ways in which salmon and steelhead interact when subjected to different colored feathers lashed to a hook. But I've seen both sides of the coin as far as steelhead behavior is concerned and my experiences call to mind what physicists refer to as the Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle:

The more you study or try to measure the physical properties of a system the more you ultimately disrupt that system. Measurements at best become suspect. At worst, useless.
 
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