Swinging steelhead continued

I will be fishing tomorrow, and then taking a few days off to get some work on the house done.  Had a slow day the other day swinging and then Yesterday we managed to hook two spring Chinook on gear and loose them both.  I saw a bunch come in the river the other day, maybe I will spend some mornings bank fishing and try to find them.

Continued from May 11

“O.K”. you say, “but I have caught a lot of steelhead on the swing, and a lot of the time they just SLAM IT”.

First, and this is something I talk with my friends on the river about all the time, its about “pushing a rope”  Lets make it real simple, lay a rope across your yard and have a friend hold one end .  Now go way out to the other end, lift it up and move it three feet to the right.  Of course your friend will feel nothing, nor will he feel anything if you move it left or straight at him.  He will only feel the pull if you pull the rope away from him far enough to get all the slack out.  “Wait”, you say, “the fly line is in the current, so pulling on the end will cause pressure everywhere”  Yes, but how much and how fast?  Try this, I do this with clients a lot.  Wade out a ways in the river, 60 feet or so, maybe waste deep, and hold the end of the leader, put your hand down in the water a foot or so and have your buddy mend as if he was in the middle of a natural swing.  See how far you can move your hand without a noticeable difference at the rod tip.  It is a really long way, why should a fish carry a fly that obviously does not taste or feel right that far?

So, this is what almost every “slam”, or “giant pull” bite I have ever seen looked like from the high bank.  Fish chases and eats, shakes and rolls a bit, but because of his direction of travel or the angle of the line the angler is unaware, then often after three or four seconds of this the fish takes off running and jerks the line tight.  Because you never felt anything before the jerk, you assume the jerk was the bite.
Now, if you are still reading, and I will assume you are, it may be dawning on you that you have just read about two pages of text that really just said “they don’t bite as hard as you think”  The next few posts will deal with finding ways to hook more light biters.

Jim Kerr



Posted in Salmon Fishing, Winter Steelhead Fly Fishing Report | Tagged | 5 Comments

5 Responses to Swinging steelhead continued

  1. Mike Sturza says:

    HI Jim, Mike Sturza here from the Cowlitz river. Enjoy your posts! Here’s some thing I have seen in the years that i have been spey fishing.
    Some of the takes i have got you can feel them mouthing the fly before they pull on it, and some of the takes they hit so hard when i landed them the hook has completty percied the corner of there jaw. What makes them take so hard and then the next fish just plays with it?

    • raincoastguides says:

      Mike, Thanks for the note.
      So obviously a lot of different stuff can happen down there. I know what you are talking about. Long answer; I always thought of it as “fumbling the fly” the little tugs and gentle pulls that come before a hook up. Often I think this is caused by a fish that has taken the fly and moved up towards you a little, pushing slack into the line. He is shaking his head pretty vigorously but for a while you can’t really feel it. I mentioned the fish following the fly “magnetically” I have watched fish follow the fly through its arc only inches away from it for 10 feet or more, then after they take and begin to lightly shake there head continue on the arc of the swing without pulling the line tight for another ten or more feet. I watched a huge summer buck do this one time, the guy holding the rod was sure it was a cutthroat or smolt pecking at the fly, in reality the fish had hooked himself but was just swimming with the line, wiggling his head to shake the fly free.
      Short answer, Sometimes they get hooked and swim away fast, sometimes they get hooked and swim towards you slow.
      At some point I want to write something here about stripping the fly for steelhead, it changes the hook up results a lot.

      • Jeff says:

        Hey Jim,

        I was just re-reading your posts on how steelhead bites are often not detected. After sightfishing for steelhead this winter and watching two steelhead eat my partners fly, and him seeing one eat my fly, all without either of us knowing we were just eaten, I am interested in what you might have to say about stripping while swinging, or any other way to increase hookup efficiency. Both on the swing as well as nymphing would be cool! I need some instruction, as I clearly suck at this!

        Thanks Jim!

  2. Jessie says:

    I’m looking forward to what you have to say about stripping flies, Jim. I’ve often wondered about it. If the bite style varies, why shouldn’t the trigger vary as well?

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