Well folks fall is upon us and so is steelhead season. Before anyone rolls there eyes in mock (or actual) disgust with an “Oh no, here he goes again on another rant about crowds and combat fishing” That is not what this is about! I promise. I took two days up on steelhead Alley on the PA side and had a total blast with a few buddies. We had a bit of rain and a reasonable push of fish considering how early we are in the season. With the relatively low water, the areas that hold fish were most definitely fewer than when the rain starts to dump hard as the season pushes on.
Did we catch fish? You bet we did. While it wasn’t prolific like years gone by, there were plenty of hook ups and some feisty fish landed. Nothing of any tremendous size for those of you that gauge things that way but some really beautiful fish.
So what is your point Lee? My point is this. Fishing for steelhead in the large slow moving pool adjacent to the parking lot is far from your best bet…. for several reasons. The first of which is crowds. Bet your lucky fishing hat that this will be the most crowded spot on the river. Most people are lazy by nature and will plunk their line down in the first piece of water they see. Slow pools don’t require you to find fish and read water. It is pretty basic and typically you can see the fish. Ironically, they are typically the least interested in feeding of almost any set of fish on the river as well. The steelhead in these pools are also the most pestered, gun shy, beat up fish in the water and I don’t think I need to explain why.
So if I want a better fishing experience, what should I do? The advice below applies to almost any species in any situation but is particularly true for steelhead due to the crowds they draw on a limited stretch of river.
Look for Moving Water!
Runs, riffles, pocket water…. the list goes on. Steelhead are still trout and even though they are anadramous they still feed in similar ways. No fish wants to chase food if food can come to it. In addition no fish will want to waste energy fighting current and wasting energy either. Look for seams, depressions, eddy’s, rocks, logs, etc…. Remember, foam is home! Fish in these areas are your best shot at finding feeding fish. In addition, since the food is moving more quickly at them, they have less time to inspect and possibly deny your offering. I can’t see the fish you say? This is not a bad thing because maybe they don’t see you either! If you learn to read water well, you will learn where the fish will likely be and that is all the vision you will need.
The other advantage of fishing these types of areas is that often you will have long stretches of river completely to yourself! I love catching fish but I also love being out in nature and enjoying some solitude and the clean air filling my lungs.
Would you rather be staring at this?
The old adage is true…. you don’t leave fish to find fish. I for one however have been guilty of the other extreme which is beating a piece of water to death almost willing a fish to show up. If you work a likely spot with no success, changed flies, changed depth, etc… with no fish… MOVE! Yes, the fish are often on the move to so it is a dance but you will learn more of a river and unlock many of its best kept secrets if you cover ground. The other fantastic byproduct is that you will get some exercise in the process. If you go to a creek and you only know two spots and they are both packed with fly fishers who got up earlier than you what next? Don’t be a one or two trick pony.
Pay if Forward for Good Karma!
Whether you believe in fate, or any other higher power is everyones personal view of the world. I do believe that somehow how we behave on the river, just like in life, tends to come back to you in either direction. Be friendly, courteous, and unselfish and the chances are better than average that those kinds of things will be revisited upon you down the road. My buddy Bob always carries extra flies with him to give to a friendly face that just asked him what he has been using to light them up. Crowded run? Ask politely if you might work in a few drifts. It sounds like common sense but for some reason when things get hot on the river it becomes all to uncommon. Not only might you make a friend or two along the way but it will help you leave the river smiling about your day regardless of how many fish you caught.
If are a newbie, give us a call at the store or stop on in and we would be happy to help you get started. A bit of good information, the right gear, and a great attitude goes a long way towards getting on the right track quickly.
Tight Lines and Loose Pants,