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How much time and effort spent on the winter dry line swing

  • Very little, don't have much confidence in the method

    Votes: 54 46.2%
  • I give it some effort, but give up easily due second guessing and lacking success

    Votes: 23 19.7%
  • I give it a fair amount of effort, am beginning to get a feel for the method

    Votes: 19 16.2%
  • I fish the method regularly, had some success, it is my primary method for winter steel.

    Votes: 21 17.9%
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Each winter, we have discussions about fishing the dry line swing for steelhead. Some of these discussions have been very extensive and have evoked some spirited exchanges. Since it seems that there is a good amount of interest in this technique, I just wondered how much effort interested folks put into learning and utilizing the method.

As for me, it took a leap of faith to use the method consistently. Even with Bill McMillian's writings etched into my brain, it was tough to muster up the confidence and persistence to stay with it. But in the winter of 2009/2010, I made a "pledge" to stick with the method throughout the winter season. My persistence finally paid off late that winter/spring with my first dryline winter steelhead succumbing to a bead head MOAL on a dry line. That success lead to more confidence and subsequent successes in winters to follow.

Over time, I've learned more and more in utilizing the method and anymore "it's just the way I fish" for winter steelhead.

I've come to accept the reality that I will generally not catch as many steelhead as my buddies who fish tips, much less guys fishing indies, but every winter steelhead encountered with the dry line swing brings a special sense of satisfaction that keeps me at it.

For folks interested or curious about the method as well as those that utilize the method to any degree, please chime in with your thoughts and experiences with dry line swinging for winter steelhead.

I'm Looking forward to seeing what this winter season will yield to my dry line efforts.

Wishing you all a great winter steelheading season.

Todd
 

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Todd,
I spent just over a year fishing a dry line exclusively...I kept it on there for the winter and had one of my better steelhead seasons....

So why am I using tips again this winter???
LOL!!! Good question?

Pretty much in a nut shell I found as odd as this may sound, I didn't like how far out I was fishing with the dry line method...with a 15' leader I ended up looking for shorter heads to stay in closer...which limited my line selection..
I normally use the nextcast lines so the 45' Fall fav. even wasn't getting all the way out the rod tip and as such was not so nice to cast the bigger heavier flies I use in the winter...

I also found myself at odds with the flies I liked to use...some patterns just don't get down on a dry line with any current so I was tying lots of dumbbell eyes on and then even they would "skate" at times...So there's that..

Now something to also consider is Bill is fishing the Skagit and it doesn't get really cold water wise in the winter...especially compared to other rivers...He also fishes it (or used to as we all know why) more into the spring when there are actually fish in there and where a warm snap can make a huge difference in catching or just practice casting again!!!

So, to answer your question...on some rivers and at some temps I would have no problem going with my dry tip and probably should learn from my experience and use it more....but there are other times and places where I like having just my tip and a bit of the head out and i'll do that too...

As always though.....More power to you...just remember, Bill also said he was just to lazy to change to tips so it's not religion my friend!!!
 

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A big part of using a dry line in winter is being selective on the types of flies you use and most importantly paying attention to the type of water you are fishing. If you are skating dumbell flies, you aren't fishing the right water for the method. Theres a big difference in effectively fishing the water in front of you versus effectively using a method..

For me it simplifies fishing. It also means I can use some old school dee wings on heavy irons or spey flies with amazing hackles that swim oh so nice in slow water that will swim where I want them to if I fish the right water for the method..or I can use the lift at the start of the swing to properly fish a fry pattern ( ie sink the fly with stack mends then let the line come tight, thereby swimming the fry to the surface). Steelhead at anytime in the winter find fry patterns hard to ignore..
 

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I don't think he chose not to use tips because he was too lazy. He saw it as inefficient. Time spent changing tips, was down time. He sees the floating line as being more versatile. It is much quicker to simply tie on a larger, or smaller fly for differing runs than to change tips. But I do agree it is not religion.

I also do not think he did it because of warmer flows, since he talks about being able to get his large Winters Hope to touch bottom in six feet of water. I do think he was fishing smaller streams with shorter casts than we have on some of our larger streams.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Paul:
You are absolutely right, dry line swinging for winter steel is definitely not religion, just a preference for some.

I hear you about finding your fly skating on the swing to be disconcerting, especially since we're seeking a "deep" swing. Like Ralfish mentioned, when I find my 5/0 Winter's Hope or other winter wet fly skating on the swing, I know that I have probably exceeded the effective range of water that I can fish with the method.

On one of my favorite big water fly runs, the upper 1/2 to 2/3rd fishes the dry line swing just perfectly and I am fishing deep enough that if I allow too much slack on the setup, I hang up and loose flies. However, when I get to the bottom of the run where it forms a large tailout, my sunk fly will start skating so I just stop there and head back to the top. However, my friends and other folks fishing tips often get fish out of that tailout - I guess I'm a bit crazy to be willing to turn away from known fish holding water just because of the way I like to fish!

Ralfish:
Agreed, water selection is key for the method to be feasible. As noted above, if one is willing to edit water, the method can work, but one will be leaving a lot of fish holding water behind; just part of the game.

Terry:
Can't speak for Bill, but every method has it's limits and merits and like Bill, I've just accepted come what may, with using the method.

The coldest water temps I've had success with the method is 36/37 degrees and have not fished in water temps below that very often so not sure if colder water would necessarily rule out the dry line swing in winter.

Todd
 

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I wouldn't want to speak for Bill either. I was just sort of paraphrasing him from his writings. In his piece on fishing the Winters Hope he talks about having the ability to slow the fly down more effectively fishing with a dry, double taper line than he could using a fast sinking line. I could be wrong, but I get the distinct impression from his writings, that he believes his method is more effective than sinking lines for the rivers he fishes.

Now the one thing which has changed since Bill wrote Dry Line Fishing, is the use of tips rather than just fast sinking shooting heads. I believe it easier to slow the fly down with shorter tips than it would be a straight piece of high density shooting head. But the one thing which hasn't changed is how much longer it takes to change out tips for different conditions rather than changing flies.
 

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sacrificing gear to the river gods

During the winter I exclusively fish tips. This helps to facilitate my proclivity for donating gear to the river gods. It isn't just the dozens of time consuming intruders and other strung-out junkie flies I've left on the bottom, I've also managed to lose sinking tips and shooting heads, and worst of all, have broken two rods trying to coax the gods into returning my stuff. So, my advice is - if you enjoy tying flies, fish T-14 and T-17 all winter, you'll get to spend copious hours at the vise.:cool:
 

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808

FWIW: I usually switch to a tip when the water hits 48 unless it has warmed up 4+ degrees during the day. Have picked up the odd fish in the winter when I saw them boil during a BWO hatch. Since I am 400+ miles from most steelhead and 600 from winter's, it is difficult to spend the time skating when you have to drive as much as fish. Summer's are a different story.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Terry:
You are right, Bill did talk about it being more effiecient to change flies and casting angles vs. changing head/tips.

Steelhead 23:
I agree, losing flies is a great incentive to keep tying more! Even with the dry line, there are times where I'm fishing too deep if I'm not mindful of the water I'm fishing. During our low water last winter, I kept loosing multiple winter flies each time out, so it's possible to fish too deep, even with the dry line, if one doesn't make adjustments.

Mark:
I can imagine your pain of being far away from steelhead water. I can relate, I lived in HI until 2009! Again, your reference to insect activity being related to steelhead activity resonates. Joe (speysowa) was mentioning the same thing.

Peter's post on the mecahnics of the method was excellent, be sure to check out his post in the technique section if you haven't already.

Todd
 

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The way I think of it is: I see guys hitting fish on spoons mid-high water column all winter, so why wouldn't a sparsely dressed fly on a heavy iron or a double hook, with proper line management and mending, work just as well?

and if a fly with lead eyes is skating on the surface, my guess in that the fly has waay too much material. Another observation ive made is take a big lead eyed intruder and drop it in the water and watch it sink, then do the same with a sparse fly on a heavy iron. on average the sparse fly with no extra weight sinks just as fast or faster (yes theres exceptions obviously)

BUT if I want a huge profile and water is high and dirty by all means I will fish lead eyes big flies and t-14.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Dry line reports, any one??

Just wondering if any one has some winter dry line reports to share?? It's been a "dry" dry line season for me thus far. I've been fishing consistently and consistently getting skunked! I'm hoping to at least experience some dry line excitement vicariously through others.

Todd
 

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I fished all of November with a dry line and only hooked one fish. In December things looked up and I landed 5. For January I have hooked a couple fish but have yet to land one. The dry line game can be tough mentally for me because after I go through a run and don't touch a fish I wonder if I put a tip on will it make a difference.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I fished all of November with a dry line and only hooked one fish. In December things looked up and I landed 5. For January I have hooked a couple fish but have yet to land one. The dry line game can be tough mentally for me because after I go through a run and don't touch a fish I wonder if I put a tip on will it make a difference.
You are doing well with dry line swinging this winter. You are absolutely right about the mental challenge with the dry line game and wondering if a tip would have gotten fish in water you just fish through. Many times, the answer to that question is "yes!". In my case, I fish along side two friends most of the winter, who are very good at fishing skagits/tips, and they outfish me by a wide margin consistently.

The point was made very clear last winter when my buddy Craig had found some holding water that had just produced a couple fish in the days just prior to our day on the water. Since Craig already got a couple fish that day, he had me fish through his new found bucket. This was water that seemed perfect for the dry line swing - main current pushing on the far side with a nice soft cushion on the inside. I made two confident dry line passes through this short run with no result. Craig fished through after me and after a few casts, I see the junction from his running line/skagit head tighten and fish on! Fishing a tip through the same water produced a fish where the dry line didn't.

Knowingly persisting with a method that is less effective can seem like insanity, but I continue to seek ways of maximizing my chances within the confines of swinging with a dry line. I find myself thinking more about the water I'm fishing, where a fish may hold that could be vulnerable to the method, and perfecting ways to keep my fly in the zone without the help of a tip. It is a game that definitely keeps me fully engaged. Even despite the dry spells, it's a game that I love.

Todd
 
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Dry Line

floating line:
At first, the frustration of line control and thoughts of missing with tips. I never did go beyond a type three or rare occasion six. After keeping at it, to me it's more like hunting upland bird with a small bore shotgun. I need to be careful the water I fish, but more so: the way a hook is dressed & the line swing. It has become a little more fun with every trip out, and more exciting to fool a fish into the offering. I now feel an advantage over someone with tips (in the right water) Maybe my fly is swimming into to shallow water as it dances around? maybe the fish are looking up? or it's just a numbers game? Either way, I fully enjoy fishing the cold flows of winter in a more traditional manner. Sure the old timers greased the silk, and yes, the fish counts are down. But a fish to a floating line, greased across the run is an exciting feeling. The best grabs have been this way for me anyway. I personally feel (in the right water) that this is a great way to spend your time. One can't fish deep and fast flowing water, but that soft 1-5 ft nervous water is looking just fine to me.
DD
 

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Discussion Starter #15
floating line:
At first, the frustration of line control and thoughts of missing with tips. I never did go beyond a type three or rare occasion six. After keeping at it, to me it's more like hunting upland bird with a small bore shotgun. I need to be careful the water I fish, but more so: the way a hook is dressed & the line swing. It has become a little more fun with every trip out, and more exciting to fool a fish into the offering. I now feel an advantage over someone with tips (in the right water) Maybe my fly is swimming into to shallow water as it dances around? maybe the fish are looking up? or it's just a numbers game? Either way, I fully enjoy fishing the cold flows of winter in a more traditional manner. Sure the old timers greased the silk, and yes, the fish counts are down. But a fish to a floating line, greased across the run is an exciting feeling. The best grabs have been this way for me anyway. I personally feel (in the right water) that this is a great way to spend your time. One can't fish deep and fast flowing water, but that soft 1-5 ft nervous water is looking just fine to me.
DD
I love your thoughts on this subject! I also agree that there are places and conditions where the dry line can be an advantage. For example under low water condtions and in shallow glides, the dry liner can potentially cover more water without getting hung up as often. Another example where the dry line can be advantageous is in near shore soft cushions where folks fishing tips have to start stripping in before the end of the swing to avoid getting hung up.

Using my buddy Craig as an example again, we were exploring a coastal river a couple years ago, looking for swingable water and we found a decent looking short run, but casting stations were limited with the bankside brush. I was able to fish the head of the run from an opening I could find and then Craig fished mid run from another opening. After fishing my upper water, I decided to fish Craig's spot after he moved to the tailout, just to see how it fished with the dry line.

I got on to Craig's casting station and found the water to swing really well with the current pushing to the far side with a soft, slow cushion near my bank. As I got my Ambush head and a few strips out, my 4/0 Winter's Hope was swinging into that slow cushion on the inside when I was startled as a solid yank was felt and a mint bright hen was on the line. I able to bring this little gal to shore as I tunneled my way backwards through the brush.

I don't pick Craig's pocket very often, but this was an example where I got a grab in water that a tip couldn't fish effectively. Craig had later confirmed that he was having to strip in early to avoid getting hung up in the water where I got my fish.
 
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Dry Line

How sweet it is.
Curtain water, in close on those depressions with rocks and structure.... it has its place. Most of the unfamiliar deep water feels like casting practice, but that certain water in that run = aces. Not sure I would ever use a tip again, besides, that heavy tip water is often more difficult to fish vs. that soft 3-4 ft of good holding water. Not saying this is the best way to fish, but once you get through some growing pains; it's rather fun. For me, I don't think this is better, or worse, but just a fun way to learn and look at water that I passed up on with tips. I'm not doing better or worse!
DD
 

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I have been fishing the long and wide glides that range from 2 to 6 feet deep. I am not trying to dredge the bottom as I want the fish to move to take the fly. I also take two steps between casts as I figure with the fly being higher in the water collumn that they will see it sooner. This also allows me to cover more water in a day and hopefully find more fish that are willing to move to a fly.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
DD:
Re: some of that deep open water. I've had a few surprises when fishing areas I thought was too deep and featureless. In one of the larger, deeper pools on my local river, I'd typically concentrate on the upper section where it is shallower and more defined with diminishing hopes in the deeper expanse of the pool. However, I've been pleasantly surprised when I've gotten a couple steelhead out of the depths of the pool in water that I thought put me out of reach with my method. Perhaps there's some unknown structure that holds them down there.

Cool to hear that you are having comparable success with the dry line as when you were fishing tips. I never fished tips much before so the only basis of comparison I have is my talented fishing buds who fish the same water as I do yet, pull out many more than I do with their Skagit/tips setups, but then fishing the dry line is not about numbers, is it?

Blue Moon;
Sounds like you have a great dry line strategy and some great water to utilize it in. You are absolutely right, it's not about trying to dredge and yes, the method often engages a steelhead in having to rise in the water column to take the fly, and thus some of the dry line grabs I've experienced have been very definitive, gotta love that!

Todd
 

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Todd, Not much to report. I fished a total of one day last fall. I rose one steelie right before lunch under a bright sun. The fish came to the fly just before the hang down almost right below me. Like a shark, big white mouth, I flinched and tugged the fly, he went down, game over.

No winter skating to report this year. I just haven't been swinging for steel. I haven't been fishing period. No excuse. Just a general malaise on my part.
 

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Tips are just too much for the river I fish

This might be a situational thing but here in Central California we are suffering from a huge drought that has gone on for five years. The water is super low and I find using even a modest length of t8 to be too much for swinging my home river. I can feel the bottom on everycast and I snag up quite often. After switching to a floating scandi I found it much more pleasurable to fish. The bonus is that I actually have more control over the depth that my fly is fishing at. This has been a big plus for me. With proper mending technique I've found that I can tick the bottom in a four foot deep run, but then when I make my way to the tailout where the water is usually shallower I simply adjust my mending, or lack thereof, and still be able to fish effectively without wasting time changing out the tip. More time with my fly in the water, more efficient.
 
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