Steelhead During The Heat of Summer
It is stacking up to be quite an interesting summer, with very warm weather and lower than average water flows. Many rivers also have lower than average fish runs. However, not everything is doom and gloom for fly fishers that can get up early. Angling pressure will also be lighter. Remember that most rivers in Oregon are under "Hoot Owl Regulations" which means you can't fish after 2:00p.m. There are always advantages for true capitalists.
1. When fishing traditional wet fly swing methods, be on the water very early. Be at your fishing spot before daylight. Plan to be off the water by 9:00 a.m. OR: If you want to fish after the sun is on the water, plan on nymph fishing with heavy flies, split-shot or fast sinking tips on Skagit heads. Wear polarized glasses. Do your scouting after the sun is on the water, but before the raft traffic starts. Plan your next morning by searching the water when the sunlight gives you the best advantages. look for fish and structures that are likely to hold fish.
2. Be stealthy. Pretend you are hunting elk with a bow. Move slowly. Dress to blend in. Stay low. Wear Earth tones. Fish off your knees when necessary. Hide behind any cover possible. Keep casting strokes to a minimum. Waving a rod around can spook fish. All fish are more prone to bite if they don't know anyone is around.
3. Fish small gear. Gravel bars will be wide, offering lots of back cast room. Single-hand, Switch and short Spey rods offer better accuracy than full size Spey rods. They also are stealthier. Four, five, and six weight rods can give advantages. Smaller fly lines are harder for fish to see and create less disturbance on the water. Remember, you are hunting wild animals. You can sill use 10-12 pound test tippet. If the water is warm, play any fish you hook aggressively. Keep you rod handle 45-degrees to the fish. with a shallow angle you will play the fish with the lower, larger diameter part of the rod rather than the skinny tip. Using this fighting method you can land a 10-pound steelhead with a 4-weight Spey rod in less than 10-minutes. The shorter the fight time the higher the survival rate.
4. Fish fast water. Steelhead are going to be where the highest concentration of oxygen is. Head ends of pools and bubble curtains become holding places for steelhead during warm water periods. If the fish in your river are particularly spooky fish clear, camo lines or long leaders. The bright fly line pictured above may be perfect for some rivers, but not for others. Bright lines are more appropriate for darker times of the day, or for larger rivers.
5. Smaller flies can be the answer for clear water. The big (hatchery) buck pictured above came to larger flies several times, but only slapped at them. The fly he ate was a size-10 caddis pupa. Persistence is often the key. Little shooters often become big shots if they just keep shooting.