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Discussion Starter #1
For those that have experience fishing the Great Lakes tribs, when do most of you utilize sink tips :confused: ? I'm fairly new to the art of Spey. So for my first season (last year) I stuck with my floating tip so I could learn to cast rather than focusing on the fish. Now that I can at least lay out my line most of the time I'd like to start fishing and not merely practicing as it were. Not that I'd ever mind hooking into a fish during practice. Is it purely a temperature dependence thing or does holding water depth play heavily? I'm using Rio's Windcutter veristip sytem so I know I 've got plenty of options when the time comes to sink my fly. Thanks.
 

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Welcome to the Board

There whould be some additional comment from those who fish your streams with better recommendations.

It depends a little on the river system and how you want to fish. For example, some BC systems are known for surface oriented fish, even in fairly cold water, if the water is clear. Some people like to fish with a floating line, long leader, and heavy thinly dressed flies to get down, even in winter.

Where I fish, I go to tips in the middle of the day when it is bright. I also go to tips when the visibility is down, and when water temperature is cold - lower 40s.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the info. I guess all the Great Lakes folks are out chasing steelhead. In the rivers and streams I fish here on Lake Michigan I really haven't encountered any surface oriented steelhead. Skating or waking flies is a rare occurance over here. I'll just try the sink tips and see what works. Besides, I need to learn to work these lines at some point anyway.
 

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Watershed,
I've been lucky enough to fish both the GLs and PNW. Overall a steelhead is a steelhead. They do vary somewhat from river system to river system but overall the difference isn't huge. Fall run fish in the Great Lakes can be very aggressive. There are many factors you will need to consider ie water temp, visibility, depth, and fishing pressure to name a few. The biggest factor that determines what technique I select is temp. If you can get a hold of Bill McMillan's book Dry Line Steelhead do so. Do a search on this site and you will see that people do catch GLs fish on dries. The temperature plays a big part and by Nov the rivers get rather cold for top water presentations. Even when you do fish a tip don't think you need to be dredging the bottom every cast. That said if you hit the rivers in Dec and the water is 32F and there is ice forming on the stream bottom it could be tough to bring a fish to a swung presentation. Here on Vancouver Island, where I now live, most people I see fly fishing in the winter fish excessively heavy tips and weighted flies. Good Luck. It will take many hours of work to bring one to a dry but you'll never forget it!
 

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opinions are like noses.... everybody has 1

i have no experience fishing the great lakes area, but for the most part steelhead are steelhead. they all hold in the same sorts of places in a river, so tecniques are quite similar no matter where you are if your into swinging flies.

in the summer time i like to use a floating line since the water is warm and the fish will move quite some distance to hit a fly. i find no greater joy than to see a huge boil where my fly should be then feal the weight of the fish. however, if i want to be sure to have a good chance at a steelhead, wether it be winter or summer, i've always used a 10 ft. type 3 sink tip for my "meat and potatos" line. i have personally never seen a steelhead that objected having my fly down in the water closer to them (just not below them). the only time i use a floating line in winter is when i have first shot at the fish and they are holding in shallow tail outs.

take all this with a grain of salt of course. everyone fishes a little differently. experament until you find what works for both you and the fish. so long as your happy and catching your doing it the "right way".

george
 

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having lived in the wny gl area forever, i have caught steelhead on top and along the bottom. i don't believe there is one way to fish for them that is always going to work. i feel we (in the GL area) have to have an open mind and many arrows in the quiver to get the most out of our overfished, slightly cold steelhead. i truly believe it is on a fish by fish basis. if your rivers have wild fish in them as well, there is one more variable.

now on to the actual question. i use rio sinking leaders in 12' length with 2' cut off the tip. usually in 5.6"/sec or 7"/sec sink rates most of the time in normal water levels. i will make adjustments with a weighted fly or unweighted fly or even a small ball of tungsten putty to get the proper depth for the particular run i'm on. if we just want to hook as many fish as possible i feel it is important to make the fly as accessable to the fish as possible. the closer they are to the fly the more likely they are to take it. using flies that have wiggle seems to get them to move, like bunny or marabou. the drawback to the sink leaders is the dark color of them in very clear water. this seems to be detrimental to getting fish to take, so if the water is very clear i will use a clear int. leader or just a standard mono leader with a tube or eyeballed fly to get down to the fish. this is all done on a slightly cut back floating line looped to make it as easy as possible to make changes and use those different arrows. the big deal to me seems to be the depth and speed of the swinging fly in that order. when i used to guide i got a chance to watch people do it wrong (imho) for a few swings to see if there would be any suprises. i was never suprised. when instructed properly and they got the fly down and moving at the slowest speeds they would hook up in the same pool. after seeing this a hundred times i felt i learned something about getting these things to take. last season a friend and i fished with an unexperienced person using the same methods and we both hooked fish after him all day. he wanted to figure it out for himself so we let him and from 100' upstream i could tell he wasn't going to get a take and when we got to the sweet spot one of us would get another most of the time. he was not getting the fly down and slow enough, period. of course i am stating my opinion here and there are many ways to do it but that is my system for all of my GL steelheading. when i try a new river or area i always start with this in mind and it rarely lets me down. i hope that all made sense, feel free to question all of it. we may both learn something.
 

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Water Temp Is Key

Watershed,

Amazed with your wisdom in learning how to cast w/ a dry line, ( tip ). Starting out w/ sinking tips can impede progress. Good advice from the aces above. In my experience the colder the water, the farther from the surface you need to be. There are genetics to account for, but generally speaking, it is unlikely you'll ever get a take on a waking dry in freezing temperatures. As already noted, it's not about how low you can go, but where the fish are. They basically have no down vision, so being below them is less productive. When the water gets really cold you need to almost put it in their mouth, ( they're cold blooded and don't move much in cold water ). My experience w/ really cold water has taught me that it's time to head for the pub when water temps gets near freezing.
 

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Thanks for the info, Black Francis

What techniques do you use to slow the fly down?

Just so I understand, is slowing the fly needed so it gets deep or so the fish will take it or a bit of both?

Bill
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for the advice everyone. These pages are really beneficial to me in an area were all things spey is to some point still catching on or evolving depending on where you're located in the Great Lakes. It's also pretty cool to me to hear from folks living the life chasing steelhead in the PNW.
 
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