Chasing winter steelhead can be more than a challenge as anglers fight changing water levels, punishing rain, and low returns of wild fish. A little hope can go a long way when it comes to the pursuit. Wherever you can find a glimmer of confidence swinging a fly, anglers grab at it. Tying beautiful flies in unique color patterns not only inspire confidence, but also help to enhance the experience. Decompressing from a day out in the elements in the cabin, sipping on an aged reserve, while chatter fills the small space is a perfect opportunity to tie something special. So, pack along your vise and materials for your next adventure into the wild as the days are short and the nights long.
The really cool part about being on a fishing trip is that you can settle into the rhythm of the water. You get a sense of how heavy a fly needs to be in order to really swim the zone, or if the fish are sitting in heavy water, your fly needs a larger profile to get noticed instead of flattening in the strong currents. Then there is color selection and blending options based on the following; is the water glacial or clear, are you fishing under clear skies or grey, how much pressure have the fish seen, are they fresh or stagnant, what colors are in your known producer confidence category, what have your buddies gotten them on? All of these factors help to build the best mousetrap possible, and if you want to get all crazy and really overthink things, check out this video about how color changes at depth and dirty water. When you have your fly tying kit with you, its easy to create a fly that you fish with maximum confidence. It also is very inspiring to take turns playing at the vise with your buddies, learning new techniques and bringing fresh influences to your patterns.
Personally, I like to tie flies destined for a specific run. Often times this happens first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee sitting next to me in a quiet cabin. Most nights when I go to sleep obsessing about a first light spot and have a specific fly in mind for that very piece of water, I begin to craft a fly that is tailor made for how I want to fish that run to a potential fish. Hot off the vise in the morning, I tie it onto the end of my tippet, and dash towards the destination.
At the end of the day, you need to feel like you fished the water as effectively as possible with the most confidence. If you have done that, then your odds of catching a fish go up dramatically. Winter steelheading is about moments, not numbers, and these moments get amplified and live on through the flies we fish. A good friend and mentor once told me after tying on a gaudy bin fly – “tie on something you would be proud to catch a wild steelhead on.” From that day forward, the flies were as important as any other piece of equipment that I go out with.
Make sure to check out Fishpond’s amazing travel fly tying cases the Road Trip and the larger version called the Tomahawk. You will find out that they will be a great system and kit to transport all the fly tying gear you need for the road.
Wild steelhead needs your help. There are far too many rivers that are in decline or missing escapement – support organizations that are fighting to keep these iconic fish returning in fishable numbers. Follow the Wild Steelhead Coalition – Wild Steelheaders United – Native Fish Society and help ensure that the next generation can experience steelhead.
Article written by Russell Miller and courtesy from Fishpond USA
Russell Miller is the Director of Marketing for Fishpond and is passionate about the sport of fly fishing as well as the preservation of the resources needed to support future generations of anglers. We all need to be river steward and provide a voice for our waters.