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.

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.