Often, when you think of swinging for steelhead you think of heavy sink tips, big leeches, and intruder style patterns. When the water is right, that is definitely the deal, but during the times when you’re faced with low river levels many of the people will give up on the swing and grab the indicators and egg patterns and take to the rivers looking for seams to dead drift flies. This can be a very productive way to go, however, you will probably run into a lot of other like minded people in these areas. If you’re into getting away from the crowds and finding far less pressured and more aggressive fish, then grab your double hander and get out there. Fish will tend to hold up tight to structure when the rivers drop so look for log jams, boulders, long deep runs, and tailouts. These are the areas I like to swing smaller, sparse patterns on shorter switch rods. Swinging flies allows you to cover a lot of water searching for aggressive fish, some of which have never seen a fly before and the takes can be incredibly savage. It also lets you get away from people and enjoy the beauty and solitude of the river. Some of the patterns I tie for these situations are…
A small and sparse, leechy spey fly that has been productive for myself and a few guide buddies during gin clear water conditions. Here’s a bright winter fish on the black/blue, “Dream Leech,” fresh off the tide, one of three that day!
This is a small egg stealing smolt streamer that has proven itself to always have a space in the box. Tied in either this olive color or a black version, both have fished very well for steelhead and cutthroat. Fished on the strip or twitched while being swung, both ways have worked great! Here’s a beautiful sea-run cutthroat swung up on a black version of the S.T.!
Below is a low water steelie on the Alaskan peninsula that just couldn’t stand that little olive devil swimming around under that log jam! It came out of that pool and chased this fly for 20 feet before she hammered it! Sight fishing is fun!
The String Thing is a small string leech pattern that has been very productive for steelheaad and kings in low water. I mainly tie them in olive/copper, black/blue, black/purple and sometimes orange/white. When fished deep, this fly is almost hard to beat and sometimes gets it done when nothing else is getting any love. Here’s a nice fall run Klamath fish that just couldn’t resist the olive/copper leech…
Here’s a bright chrome Chinook that took the Black/Blue version in clear water on a cloudy fall morning. Swung along a cut-bank and under a downed tree, this fish grabbed on three back to back casts before I stuck him. It was crazy! I’m so glad the line finally came tight and the fun began!
These three patterns, in a variety of colors, will set you up perfectly for low, clear water. The rod and reel I would use for fishing these conditions would be a Redington Dually switch in weights from 4-7, depending on the situation. I personally pair my rod with a Cheeky Ambush for the smaller rods, and Mojo for the larger. For salmon fishing I use the 11’3” 7 wt switch with a Mojo, armed with a 525 Rio Skagit max short. I can throw a heavy tip and get down where those fish like to hang out. Swinging for kings is all about keeping your fly deep for as long as possible. Get yourself a set of medium and heavy I-MOW tips and you’ll be in business. Rio Skagit max short heads from 225-525 grains are going handle the heavy tips quite nicely. The Rio switch chucker line is a good choice for the lighter tip and light rods. Here’s the 11’3” dually 7 weight and the Cheeky Mojo, Rio switch chucker line doing work on this solid coastal buck. This fish took the Black/Blue “Dream Leech” in a slow cut-bank run with a bunch of nuggets on the bottom.
Even low water situations still produce on the swing, it’s just a matter of scaling it down and most importantly, having confidence. So the next time the rivers are low and clear, get out there and get after it. Just enjoy what you’re doing, the fish are merely a bonus that make up for the time spent not catching them!
By Mike Ball
If your interested in getting any of these patterns email me at email@example.com. Thanks and tight lines!
Long awaited by some, despised by many, the Tricos represent the pinnacle of technical dry fly fishing. There is not much in the fishing world that rivals watching large brown trout, sitting side by side, mere inches below the surface film, gingerly nosing, yet gorging themselves as if drunk on the tiny, dead insects; all while plainly ignoring your “perfect” imitation. The Tricorythodes emergence on the Gunpowder River is without a doubt, the finest match the hatch, dry-fly fishing opportunity available in Maryland. The devotees of the event wait eagerly for the mayflies all summer long. While other rivers boast heavy Trico spinner falls in July or even late-June, ours does not begin in earnest until about late-August, thus leaving us Trico-romantics with nothing to do but fish ants and dream of September.
Tricos are my favorite mayfly; mostly because of when and how the emergence occurs. The males will hatch over-night, fly up to the trees and molt. It is up in the trees where they will wait for the females to hatch and come to meet them. The females can hatch any time of the morning, from right after the males, to well into day light; rewarding early-bird anglers a chance at very neat fishing. After the females emerge they meet the males in the trees and molt. Now both sexes are fully mature and ready for action. However, the mating rituals will not start until the sun warms the top of the trees to about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The timing of the spinner fall will change as the days get shorter and the temperature gets cooler in the morning. I have seen spinner falls at 1:30 in the afternoon! River systems with later hatches, like the Gunpowder, could have steady Trico hatches into November. Once the bugs start mating, they cluster up in massive balls, many times numbering in the tens of thousands. Once they mate, the females leave the cluster, and return to the trees to push out their eggs sacks, this takes about thirty minutes, so do not leave after the males fall spent to the water and you catch a bunch of fish! When the males fall to the river, they will literally bring the best fish up to surface to feed, once the fish sink back down, wait, the females will bring them back up.
For years I had only heard of the spinner falls, seeing a few Tricos stuck in spider webs up and down the river. But, having never bothered to learn the hatching behavior of the insects, I did not understand when and how it all worked. Then it happened. I was fishing a favorite stretch of water with the day off and nowhere to be but a trout river. My friend and I were just sitting, looking around and watching for rising fish. When the sun hit the water, a huge ball of Tricos devolved over the run, and began their mating and dying. As the bugs began their ritual, we began disturbing said ritual. That morning, between my friend and me, we took 22 trout between 8 and 16 inches long; all of this within the span of about an hour. And there may or may not have been bigger trout rising which we couldn’t fool.
That was two years ago. Within that span, I have literally stuffed my brain full of anything I could find vaguely relating to the tiny insect. My fly rods have gotten longer and longer; going from 7’6” Fenwick glass rods to 9′ 3 weight graphite ones took me for a fun ride. That ride eventually led me to the wide world of Tenkara.
Now before you stop reading, thinking that there is no way an angler can fish to ultra-selective fish without being able to pay line in or out during the drift, thus limiting your fishing. To be honest, I have fished many Trico days this year with a Tenkara rod, and I can say that it is as limiting as one can get. In fact, it is so limiting, it will open up new doors to you as a fisherman. Yes, it is true you cannot feed line like one does it with a reeled-rod; but a Tenkara angler must only lift their rod tip up or down to lengthen line or keep slack up off the water. What I mean by Tenkara limiting us to the point of rediscovery is that by restricting your effective range, the angler must work a piece of water that is only maybe fifteen to twenty feet long. This, above all else, teaches us patience. Having to be a more patient angler will improve your over-all performance as a fisherman; whether it be for trout or tarpon. While fishing to some of our favorite picky trout at our favorite pool, my friend, Coach, who had just made his first few casts with his 12′ Tenkara, turned to me and said, “I feel like my drifts are longer, but in reality, they are only better”. What Coach said is the reason why you should try Tenkara. When a fisherperson has limited themselves to a small bit of water at a time, the river will look different. The angler will often notice small, subtle currents they missed before. Finding new holding spots within your favorite run, now that is way cool! As a guide and fly fishing instructor, I must consistently instruct my students not to fish too far away. Remember, most trout an angler catches will be within fifteen to twenty feet, not seventy. One of the worst things a fisherman can do is strip off all of their fly line and slap it across the pool. This will scare the fish if they are not rising; and if they are rising, especially to Tricos, and you slap the water, you will not see the fish for the rest of the day. The spinner fall only lasts about an hour or so, better not mess it up. Remember, go slow to go fast.
Taking your time and thinking more about what you are doing with your fly seems to me as one of the most important pillars that support the practice of Tenkara. Observation is often left behind for the “run and gun” style of fishing. Very rarely does a modern fly angler sit down and watch the river for longer than a few minutes. To fish a Trico spinner fall, the fisherman must be patient; both while waiting and fishing.
This brings me back to Tenkara fishing for trout during the Tricos. The match the hatch style of fly fishing may seem to fly in the face of Tenkara practice. The over the top, complexity often associated with match the hatch style seems to define the obsessive angler, and what many Tenkara fishers call “western” fly fishing. I believe the defining feature of “western” fly fishing culture is consumerism, not complexity. For many non-fly fishers, the perceived idea that an angler must know the “Latin” names of every insect and be able pick the right fly all the time, is scary. Learning about the aquatic insects, may be complex and involved, but will lead you towards a more thorough understanding of the ecosystems you have come to love. Always remember, love of the natural world is another major pillar of Tenkara, as it is in “western” fly fishing culture. I have heard many folks compare fly fishing to bow hunting, saying that both practices bring you closer to center by challenging yourself. If that is the case, Tenkara is the traditional bow hunting of the fishing world. Simplicity rules; and that is the defining feature of Tenkara. With less going on, you have more to pay attention too. Not necessarily paying more attention to your gear or self, but to everything else that is happening around you.
If there is one thing I have been able to figure out about Tenkara, is that it is still fly fishing; possessing all of the same appeal that “western” fly fishing has. But, I can see that Tenkara is going the same way that “western” fly fishing has been for years. Anglers seem to be forcing constraints upon themselves. As in only fishing in one fashion because someone told you that is how you do it. This locks us inside some little box, thinking there is only one way of doing things. I believe this limits us as anglers, stifles creativity, and creates division between us. Expand yourself. Think for yourself. And please do not judge others for doing something differently or having a different way of thinking, in fly fishing and otherwise. So, instead of only using your Tenkara rod for small, mountainous trout streams, try bringing the wiggly, telescoping rod down a little further off the mountain and give it a try on some selective, “smart” fish. After all, the fact your drifts are perfect won’t change with the elevation.
By Rob Lepczyk – www.greatfeathers.com
This weekend, Jon Zukowski experienced the most exhilarating day of Landlocked Salmon he could have ever dreamed of. After landing numerous fish alongside his father, he hooked into an absolute beast of a hen. Jon commented, “I ran downstream as it tore line off my real, I fell on very slippery rocks, and the fish was tailed 20 minutes later.” One of our followers noted, “So big it looks like a full-blown Atlantic!” The fish is extraordinarily beautiful and we have included an album of photos below for your viewing pleasure.
By Austin Green
That time of year is upon us again; greens turn to yellows, reds, oranges and eventually browns. Each morning will bring birds and the frost line further south. Deer push out their winter coats as we pull out wool sweaters, jeans and rubber boots.
Our streams fill with colorful leaves, keeping our flies from reaching the now colorful fish. Hormones are beginning to flow through the fish like the water in the rivers, hook-jaws are devolving and bellies are getting fat with roe.
As brown trout get frisky and excited, so do we. Though, unlike the fish, we are not in the mood for continuing our race, but seem to be more interested in slapping wooley buggers up against a half submerged log jam; taking advantage of the trouts instinct to scare off and intimidate any perceived competition or threat.
For many trout fisherman, this is the most exciting time of the year. The fish, preoccupied by spawning, seem to loose all concern with threats from either the terrestrial or aquatic world. This gives us as anglers the opportunity to pursue the largest of trout.
Of course you can target the big boys and girls all year long, but in the Fall the fish are a little more open to the idea of biting your fly in the daylight hours. During the summer time, you have to night fish to fool any of the biggums; this is because they are actually feeding at that time of year. Now, all they want to do is make love, and chase away your big yellow and brown streamers fly.
Essentially what I am trying to say is that it is time to break out the six weights, sink tip and five inch streamers that could knock an infant unconscious. As the water cools, the fish will become more and more comfortable in slower, deeper pools and undercuts. So get dressed in those wool sweaters and jeans and get out there and hang a hog!
Originally posted on the Great Feathers blog as “It’s Here…”
Rising Water Angling – Spey fishing coastal northern California steelhead – DATES STILL AVAILABLE – $25 off when you mention The Uncommon Angler!
Nov thru March.
Available dates Jan 4-23 Feb 1-20 march is open and weather dependent.
Half day walk and wade trips $300
Full day walk and wade trips $450
Full day float trips $500
Full days will consist of 8-10 hours of fishing.
Rivers we may fish depending on the current runs and conditions: Smith, Klamath, Mad, Van Dusen, Eel, Matole.
Mikeb904@gmail.com or on Facebook at RISING WATER ANGLERS
Get your gear at proguidedirect.com
Check out the new face of www.theuncommonangler.com – We have “The Blog” and “The Films” pages up and running… “The Gear” and “The Guides” are coming soon! Yes that’s right! We are working to begin offering hats, t-shirts, stickers, and more! The Uncommon Angler is also preparing to offer endorsed guide services in the Mid-Atlantic region on the Gunpowder River and beyond (Yes…carp trips!). Our New Hampshire guide will be up and running in the coming months and Colorado is in our near future! –www.theuncommonangler.com – All photos shown here are available as custom prints through The Uncommon Angler and Austin Green Photography! A big thanks to Robby L, Jim F, Jon Z, Ruby M, Mike T, Jaybo Art, and George Hill Art for showing interest in my work thus far!