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Friend of Wild Fish
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What do some of you guys think is the best technique for getting your fly down to the fish.
T-14? Weighted flies? or both?
As a convert from many years of gear chucking for winter steelhead I know that getting the offering in the fish's face in cold water is the key to success but have yet to find much success with a two hander for winter fish.
If using a Skagit system with a sinking head what do you feel is the limit of water depth for winter steelhead?
I'm using the typical intruder style fly with barbell or cone head.
Thanks in advance
 

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contrary to the assumptiom that you need to hit the fish on the nose with a fly for winter steelhead... i never needed to fish t14...when fishing for winter fish i mostly use type 6 and never had any problem catching fish consistantly.
One very important thing when fishing winter runs, is to make sure u swing your fly right to shore..use too heavy of a tip and you will get hung up and miss out that important part of the swing.
 

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I echo the comments on not needing to get down to the stones.

In recent years I have been mostly fishing skagit lines for winter fishing and have been using short lengths of T-14 (5-7') coupled with a small barbell-eyed flies. Contrary to what one would think, this setup does not sink like a rock and fishes comparable to a 15' Type 6 and a 1/0 fly.
 

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I generally use T-14 in varying lengths - typically 6', 9', 12' and 15' to match water conditions. Flies can also vary - I have gone mostly to tubes in the winter with flies ranging in length from 1.5" to 6" and also varying in weight - some with bar bell eyes and some on plastic or aluminum tubes with no eyes.

I also agree that bumping the bottom is not necessary and can be detrimental to getting that good inside swing.
 

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Idle curiosity

I'm just curious about the rivers in the PNW. When you guys talk about winter fish and fishing, what are the water temps? In my neck of the woods, winter water temps, with the exception of a few spring fed holes, are usually 32.00001 degrees to 35 degrees.
 

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in my opinion winter steelhead fishing is much more a mental game than a tactical one.
i don't like t-14 or lead core.. and i don't like huge weighted flies.
by far the fastest way to get a fly down is on a floating line and a dead drift presentation.. it's much faster than any sink tip. the problem is that a floating line won't keep the fly that deep during the swing. That said you can still catch fish that way as you already know.

I think therefore that the single biggest thing you can do to be successful at winter steelhead fishing is to fish at times and locations where the fish are aggressive and willing to move to a fly and that means wild fish!. Even in locations where there are wild fish it's important to fish as often as you can. It's the people who spend all winter on the river that are really successful. Everyone else just gets lucky once in a while. That's why it's a mental game not a tactical one. You just have to go out and fish hard and well and often with confidence even if your trips are unproductive. A good winter steelhead season might only be a fish or two.


. fish on wild fish
. fish often and hard
. keep your expectations in line

with all that said i fish exclusively a 15 ft type 6 with unweighted marabou patterns in 2/0
 

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JerD,

PNW conditions vary but for the most part Dec-January fishing will be in water that ranges from 35-40 degrees F. Some dam controlled rivers will be a tad warmer. The Skagit for istance is running at 43 degrees currently. The Skykomish (non-dam controlled) was around 38 yesterday. The coldest I remember fishing the Sky was 34 degrees.


Rob,

Your three points are very valid. The first is problematic though as if you are going to fish in November and December, you are fishing for hatchery fish. Sure, the odd remaining early-run wild fish can be found every so often but they are certainly a rare occurence. (I very fondly remember a bright wild winter hen I beached on Nov. 13th several years ago.) Now I know that you feel fishing for brats a waste of time but not all share that belief.

'tip
 
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I'm just curious about the rivers in the PNW. When you guys talk about winter fish and fishing, what are the water temps? In my neck of the woods, winter water temps, with the exception of a few spring fed holes, are usually 32.00001 degrees to 35 degrees.
You ought to use a thermometer. I've recorded temperatures of 29*F on the Sheboygan in Wisconsin using a very accurate darkroom thermometer. Flowing water does not necessarily freeze at 32*F. We can go weeks without getting a reading much over 32*. My experience, and that of others who spend more time on the water around here than I do, is that the Great Lakes tribs are different. Whether it's the temperatures or what, but during the teeth of winter the fly has to be within a fish's width (back to belly) of the bottom. I'm looking forward to heading to the PNW next fall to fish for fish where that's not necessary.
 

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Stew,

The best, or most effective, way to get a fly down to the stones isn't the most pleasant to cast. I think Rob is correct. I seem to reach the bottom and hang up the most often when fishing a floating line, 10' 8# test level leader, and a conehead fly. It has minimal drag and sinks like lead shot. A Spey rod makes casting these flies far more practicable than a single hand rod. My favorite way to fish deep is with a 15' sink tip (type 3, 6, or 8) and an unweighted fly. I used 15' of SA high speed Hi-D and unweighted flies from its debut in 1977 until just lately when other alternatives have become available. I've never used T-14, and at 14 gr/ft I think I'll continue to avoid it unless I find a situation where it's the best adapted alternative.

Sincerely,

Salmo g.
 

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I was being optimistic. I quit carrying a thermometer a couple of years of years ago(at least in winter). On the river I fish the most I know where I may pick up a couple of degrees in certain holes. Otherwise I know it's just plain cold(frigid) and accept the fact that I'm out just to be out and enjoy a good cast and drift.
Even though I slow down and fish a bit deeper in the winter, I don't aim to bottom out. The way the fish trickle in from the lake in the winter, be they late or early movers, the ones I do catch are usually pretty fresh and aggressive. I'm often surprised with the grab coming on the dangle, sometimes inches from the surface.
 

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My local rivers are large, run through broad valleys and the average run isnt too much deeper than about 3-4 feet. I have never caught a fish on my home river with a tip heavier than type VI and even that can be a bit much sometimes. In general I favor a VI and I will adjust the fly to get it up a little or down a little. If the water is soft and slow I'll fish an unweighted marabou so it floats up off the bottom a little. If its deeper or heavier, I'll fish a fly with lead eyes. I use my type three is shallower/slower runs, particularly those where there is nice soft water on or near the hang down but I hang up with the type VI. I also use the VIII periodically, but mostly on more confined rivers where the thalweg is a bit deeper.

Will
 

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By casting farther upstream and a large initial mend (or two) can help get your fly down. I use type 6 mostly sometimes 8, and find by doing this and also stepping down the run before the swing but after the cast is made is all I need to get the depth I need.
 

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Stew,
The best, or most effective, way to get a fly down to the stones isn't the most pleasant to cast. I think Rob is correct. I seem to reach the bottom and hang up the most often when fishing a floating line, 10' 8# test level leader, and a conehead fly. It has minimal drag and sinks like lead shot. .
Salmo, you're spot on there. I fished weighted bunny leaches on a 12-15 foot leader all fall and never had a problem getting down. I didnt hang up too much but it seemed to me the fly was getting down pretty nicely. Bunny does create a big of drag and doesnt sink the fastest so that may have had something to do with me not snagging up on the bottom. I am considering fishing the same set up on a few of my favorite smaller rivers this winter.

Will
 

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JerD,

PNW conditions vary but for the most part Dec-January fishing will be in water that ranges from 35-40 degrees F. Some dam controlled rivers will be a tad warmer. The Skagit for istance is running at 43 degrees currently. The Skykomish (non-dam controlled) was around 38 yesterday. The coldest I remember fishing the Sky was 34 degrees.


.

'tip
That would be heaven! Most of the rivers here in our wonderful state have been at 32 for at least 3 weeks:(
 
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