A waking fly cuts a Vee across the surface of the Deschutes River in Oregon.

Surface fishing for steelhead is exciting and can be very productive during certain water conditions. These conditions happen on most rivers during the summer months when water temperatures and flows are moderate. Rivers, which contain a high percentage of wild steelhead from June through October, are the best bet. Wild steelhead seem more prone to rise to the surface than do hatchery fish. More about waking flies.



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Berrys Euphoric Muddler Berrys Euphoric Muddler
Price: $3.95
Availability: In Stock
Item #: 37-0 -

Bruce Berry has this to say about his Euphoric Muddler: Inspiration for flies comes from many different sources. My Euphoric Muddler came directly from Rick Anderson’s Euphoria from Montana Fly Company. Rick is a fly designer and runs Fly Fishing Specialties down in Sacramento, CA. Euphoria is basically a sparsely tied soft-hackle in steelhead colors on a steelhead hook. It is a great mix of materials for movement, offers an explosion of color, is easy to cast, and is one of my personal...

Bretts Klamath Skater Klamath Skater
Price: $3.75
Availability: In Stock
Item #: 161-5 -

Bretts Obie Skater Bretts Obie Skater
Price: $3.75
Availability: In Stock
Item #: 161- -

Brett Jensen, fly designer, has this to say about his Obie Skater: The performance of the Obie Skater clearly comes from the 2mm foam lip tied right behind the eye of the hook. The hair wing adds support and helps to strengthen the fly's stability. I tie this pattern both with a short and a long body. Both patterns fish well. However, I find the short body pattern is best suited for traditional tail outs or holding water that is soft, slow and smooth. The long body version of this fly fishes...

Geraths Curb Feeler Geraths Curb Feeler
Price: $3.95
Availability: In Stock
Item #: 3 -

Grease Liner Grease Liner
Price: $3.75
Availability: In Stock
Item #: FLYFISO08 -

The 1960 to 1980 era will probably be considered the Golden Age of waking fly development in the Pacific Northwest. One of the early pioneers is Harry Lemire of Black Diamond, Washington. He is credited with the development of a fly he named the Grease Liner. Many Pacific Northwest and British Columbia steelhead have been taken with it. It was tied with a black dubbed body, sparse grizzly hackle, and chestnut colored deer hair wing and tail. Other tyers copied Harry's fly and added their own...

Mercers October Caddis Skater Steelhead Fly
Price: $5.75
Availability: In Stock
Item #: 11622 -

Mercer's October Caddis Skater Steelhead Fly Three of these flies just magically showed up in my "waker box." I can't remember who gave them to me, but it was probably the Umpqua Feather Merchants rep; I get samples from fly reps all of the time. In August of 2013, I decided to try one while fishing the Deschutes for steelhead. It took about ten casts to prove its worth with a fish to my hand. More fish followed in short order, and this little foam-headed thing became my go-to fly. It took...

POM  Skater, Nightshade Morrishs Pom  Skater
Price: $3.95
Availability: In Stock
Item #: SIG1888 -

This may be one of the most adaptable waking flies ever devised. The main part of the body is constructed from sealed cell foam, which makes the fly virtually unsinkable unless weight is added. There is no need for a riffle hitch. This fly wakes best when attached with a small non-tightening loop knot. Kenny Morrish says about his POM Skater: The number one reason that steelheaders don’t catch steelhead on dries is that they fail to tie them on in the first place. The second reason they fail...

POM Skater, October Caddis Pom Skater October Caddis
Price: $3.95
Availability: In Stock
Item #: SIG0081 -

This fly looks like the giant fall caddis from a steelhead's perspective. It can be deadly during the fall but it can also look like a stonefly during the spring and summer months. This fly wakes best when attached with a small non-tightening loop knot. Kenny Morrish says about his POM Skater: The number one reason that steelheaders don’t catch steelhead on dries is that they fail to tie them on in the first place. The second reason they fail is that when they do tie them on, they lack the...

Black Ska-opper fly, side view
Price: $3.95
Availability: In Stock
Item #: ST255 -

SKA-OPPER “The Steelhead Popper” By: Scott Howell The Ska-opper is a skating/popping pattern that, probably more than any other fly, defines who I am as a steelhead fisherman. Firstly, I grew up on the Rogue River where at one time, twitching flies from the front of a drift boat was synonymous with summer steelhead fishing. The “Rogue River Twitch” was just something ingrained in me as a boy. When you combine that, with the fact that as a teenager I was certain I was destined for the Bass...

Twitcher Steelhead Waking Fly
Price: $3.25
Availability: In Stock
Item #: ST31506 -

This little fly was designed to be riffle-hitched, and is often twitched across the surface by raising and lowering the rod tip. On rivers such as the Deschutes, this technique will often raise steelhead that ignore other flies and presentations.

This steelhead was caught on an Obie Skater from the Klamath River, in California.

About Waking Flies

In steelhead vernacular, “dry” flies are fished up-stream and dead drifted, much like fishing for trout. Some steelhead have been taken by this method. However, flies which are fished down-stream under tension from the line and current, have proven more productive under most conditions. All the flies listed here can be fished as true "dry flies."

A “damp” fly rides in the surface film. It is often cast slightly upstream and then led across the current under light tension downstream of the angler. This method is called "Greased Line Fishing." Flies that are best suited for this approach incorporate semi-buoyant materials in their dressing. Greased Liners lend themselves well to this presentation.

A “waking” fly is usually presented downstream so that it will make a V-shaped disturbance in the surface film. Waking flies are often “riffle hitched.” A riffle hitch is a series of knots, which changes the attitude of the fly/leader connection so that the fly pulls at an angle to the current. In this way, the fly will always seek the path of least resistance, which is the surface. The most commonly used riffle hitch is made when the fly is tied on in the conventional manner and then two half hitches are added behind the eye of the hook. However, these half hitches can be placed behind the head of the fly or even behind the wing to change the angle. In this manner, even very slender flies can be riffled if you have fast smooth water and can cast a very straight line. Flies, which are constructed from buoyant materials and shaped to resist the flow of the water are easiest to use where the surface is textured. These flies tend to ride higher. Often the entire fly is visible above the surface. All the flies listed in this section are commonly riffle hitched. The shape of the fly will determine which is best suited for a particular water type. You should carry a complete selection.

Pay close attention to the "POM Skater" as it can be fished with or without a riffle hitch and will wake on many different current speeds. They are flies that fish a wide variety of conditions very well.