Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Learning about steelhead flies.

As I get deeper into this steelhead obsession I am learning more about constructing steelhead flies. The internet is full of information, most of it pretty good about steelhead flies. One of the points most sites have made is that more steelhead are caught on a hook covered with a piece of yarn than just about anything else and so when it comes to flies steelhead are not too picky. Presentation and getting the fly in front of the fish are the most important factors.

(I am not the best macro photographer in the world. A tripod would likely help.)

But when it comes to flies for steelhead:

1: Use the right material for the current. Stiffer less likely to collapse materials for heavy current and softer materials for soft slow currents. So kip tail, spun hair, stiffer hackles and such for the fast water and marabou and bunny strips for the soft water.

2: Have the sharpest hook possible. I read a few bits on filing a hook with a mill file, watched a couple of online demos and broke out the file. Tapering the hook point so that is a long gradual transition makes a hook that will better penetrate a steelhead's mouth. Though modern hooks are fairly sharp increasing the transition length so that the transition is "smoother" with a file (at least in my no scientific tests) does make the hook penetrate easier. I will start carrying a file with me. This also allows for on stream hook repairs.

3: Hook eye. For steelhead on the swing and dead drifted it seem a straight eye is probably best. With the hooks I am using for my shank flies I am tying a type of "egg keeper" knot. Basically I run the line through the eye, make a loop and pinch it with my finger and then whip four - five time around the shank. This way the line come straight off of the shank and through the eye, inline with the shank and is not actually tied to the eye. When I run out of these hooks I will get some straight eye hooks. Another trick is to cut off the eye and tie in an eye with mono or somesuch.

Orange fast water fly.

4:Color. Many guides say fish any color that you like....... as long as it is purple. I am still playing with lots of colors, but am tying some purple. I also am playing with orange as it is supposed to work well. My tying supplies are somewhat limited, but white hackles and sharpies can create a range of colors. All the hackles on these flies have been colored with a sharpie.

Purple fly with stiff materials for heavy water.

I am tying more flies for heavier water. This is due to the fact that I find myself fishing the tops and bottoms of rapids more than anything when I am on the Salmon. "Resting water", due to the fact that the "holding" water has been shoulder to shoulder spinning guys...... not very easy to fish with the crowds on a fly rod, so I head for the uncrowded spots.

These flies are tied:
Orange fly has some flash behind the tail collar.
Dry hackle collar tail.
Floss body
Chenille Body
Light silver wire over body
Colored turkey flat under wing (the stiff hackles not the webby part)
Large dry fly hackle collar
Hen hackle topping wing
Hen hackle collar
The purple one also has some peacock herls in front of the hen hackle collar.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Last Steelhead trip of the Season?

I have decided that I really like tying steelhead flies. Even though I am not very quick at it. Each fly takes me over 20 minutes and so I do good to get 2-3 out a night.

Flies I tied for this trip.

I have been following Mike D's blog and he had a post about tying on waddington shanks. They looked pretty nifty but no one in my area carried them and they were pricey. A bit of internet searching revealed that some people tie shank flies by making their own shanks out of cotter pins. So I bought 100 each of 1/16 X 1" and 1/16 X 1.5" steel cotter pins. I built a "mandrel" out of a piece of wood and a finishing nail and made my own shanks. The flies turned out pretty nice. I attached the Gamakatsu hooks using some small yellow silicone tubing purchased at a small engine repair shop. I am thrifty. ;)

I am now contemplating making some Christmas ornaments out of steelhead flies put into clear acrylic balls.

Home made shanks and mandrel

I tied about a dozen flies in preparation of my last trip up to Salmon. I awoke at just before 5:00 am and drove up. The weather has turned colder and water temps have dropped about 10 degrees or there abouts. Now I am not a steelhead expert but I think the cooler water equates into less active fish. I fished for about 8 hours and had one on for a few seconds but it was slower than my last rip where I had 3 on and I didn't even catch a sucker fish. The skunk is on me. As the temps continue to drop I think I am done till spring (steelheading that is, I will still be out on the river casting midges and nymphs on the SF)....... Unless some one can convince me otherwise.

Two shank flies on the 1.5" shanks

Another perspective

Still the country up there is gorgeous and I enjoyed the trip. I will head up again (hopefully somewhere between Challis and Stanley) when the ice starts to melt.

Steelhead Country

I switched form my 9' 8wt Rivendell rod to a 10' 8wt G Loomis glx and have liked the change. But after watching the guys with spey rods roll out 80 foot roll casts where I have to work hard for 30 feet, well I am contemplating selling all of my single hand overhead 8wt gear and getting an Echo 7 or 8wt spey set up. On the Salmon where you are often fishing with the bank right behind you back casting is impossible a majority of the time and roll casting becomes key. I was making 40-50 foot casts with back casting in a couple of spots but casting 2 heavy tungsten bead flies on my 8wt seems harder than casting a pair of much smaller nymphs on my 5wt or even a set of big dries like a salmon fly and a golden stone on my 5wt. I was using a fairly long leader to allow the flies to get some depth and dead drifting them nymph style. I don't know if the casting difficulties were my own lack of experience with the 8wt, the way the leader was constructed or what exactly but I can not cast as far with the 8wt as I can with my 5wt. Between that and the omnipresent bank at my back I am really starting to lean towards purchasing a spey outfit.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Steelheading and other things

Mid to end of October saw me out fishing the SF above Lorenzo bridge. There were some tremendous BWO hatches in the afternoon and the fish were looking up. Tons of fish for both outings but nothing huge. Lots of medium cutts with some twink browns thrown into the mix. Nice and easy access. 2 minute walk after a 5 minute drive from my house.

Went once with Jon and once with Chad. If you look close at Jon you can see him talking on his cell phone while fishing. He is never without that phone ;)

Took a quick jaunt up to Salmon the weekend before Halloween and chased some chrome. Weather was nice only rained towards the end of the day (good conditions for steelheading). The number of returning steelhead this year is huge. A new 30 year record. Needless to say the fish are back in sufficient numbers that even a complete newb like me can catch a fish. This first trip I fished a couple of miles downstream of Salmon.

These trips are lightining trips. Get up at 0 dark 30 in the morning and drive the 2.5 hours to Salmon and maybe another hour or more downstream. fish like a berzerker for 8 hours with breaks only to fuel and pee. Drive home when it is too dark to see. Watch for deer on the drive home as that stretch of hi-way between Salmon and Gilmore is full of the darn road hazards. I love the colors of the Lemhi range as the sun first lights up the valley. Wild, wild country that makes me think of the rugged men and women it took to homestead that country 130 years or so ago. Also interesting to think that the populations of places like Gilmore and Leadore were once much greater than they are now,

I fished a likely drift in the morning with no one else in it. I worked it from top to bottom, casting a few times and then taking two steps down, swinging wet flies on a sinking line. After fishing the run I got out and walked the bak back to the top to try again. As I did a drift boat with a guy, his father and father's buddy came drifting through. We bantered a bit as they went by, I expressing that I was going to be bummed if they caught fish out of the run that had produced nothing for me. They picked up 4 nice fish. ;) With a strengthened resolve I again fished the drift..... and caught a large bronze sucker fish.

River a bit downstream from salmon

Moved downstream and fished the crook of a riffle. "Resting water" instead of traditional holding water. Here I did manage to hook and land a nice steelhead. Fished for about 10 hours for 1 steelhead and 1 sucker. Still not bad for a newb steelheader on a fly rod.

Confluence of Main and MF Salmon

Picking up the sinking line with the 9' 8wt was tough so when I saw a 10' 8wt G Loomis GLX for sale used at a decent price I picked it up. Went again last weekend with Jacob. this time we drove way down all the way past the MF confluence, almost to Corn Creek as the numbers being reported by IF&G were indicating that Corn Creek and below was producing the best. The river was lined with RVs, trucks and fishermen. Being one of the few guys using a fly rod in this stretch I again headed to a less traditional spot. A slow resting pool right on top of a rapid. I had three hookups in a short period and managed to land one. A nice hen of about 25 inches. I let Jacob fish the hole after that, and then we moved up and tried a couple of more locations.

The 10" rod does make a bit of difference and I am now contemplating a 15' or so spey rod. Maybe for next year. I managed to pick up a sucker fish again so my record for the two outings is a sucker fish and a steelhead per trip. I saw the guys using tackle pick up a lot of fish. They are able to cover more water than I am, but the spey rodders seem to be able to cover the same amount of water.

I am having fun steelheading and am tying up more flies. The fish from this last trip were all on my own creations. Will try 1 -2 more time depending on the weather and kitchen passes. Hopefully as I get better at this my ratio of steelhead to sucker fish will improve.

Hard to tell, but this is a 25" fish

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Couple of More Steelhead Ties

One inspired by a pattern from Mike's Trout Tripper site. Both are on size 4 heavy wire hooks. I have very little actual steelhead fly material; floss, wire, tinsel. etc. so these flies are improvised. Tied with 6/0 thread and holographic flash + marabou and a bead.

Will be up on the Salmon soon and will blog this upcoming and the past trip after I get back.