The Autumn months have always been my favorite season. Chasing summer and late-summer run steelhead in the Trinity & Klamath River systems has been the pinnacle of fly fishing for me. But, in the past couple of years, all of that has changed.
I’m drawn more and more to winter steelheading every season. Swinging flies for hot, chrome fish in the rugged, emerald green waters of the North Coast and southern Oregon, is becoming more and more my focus.
I’ve been lucky enough to spend the first week of 2013 on the North Coast, chasing winter steelhead with friends. Here, hook-ups are rare, and landing a fish is even more rare. When I told a friend of mine, who guides these coastal rivers, our plans for the week, he simply said, “you won’t land anything.” He wasn’t being rude, he was simply stating something that very closely resembles a fact.
Winter fish don’t move far to a swung fly in many cases. Figure that in, combined with the depths that they’re typically holding at, the speed of the current and the multitude of boats fishing bait, jigs and plugs, and the numbers are greatly stacked against you.
But, swinging flies for winter steelhead isn’t really fishing, it’s hunting. You can’t go to the coast expecting anything, except to fish good holding and resting water to the best of your ability. Having confidence in your fly pattern and knowing that your presentation is at the depth where a steelhead will commit, is the key. You cast to that far seam that you know holds fish, throw a big mend in and let that T-14 tip and weighted fly sink, sink, and sink some more. When the tip, Skagit head and running line all straighten out and the fly begins to swim through that lie, you know it’s time for winter steelhead.
It’s all about time spent on the water. The more you commit, the more they will too.