Posts tagged “Steelhead

The Streamer Salesman

In my latest readings of the book by Jason Randall, titled Trout Sense, a work that is subtitled “A Fly fisher’s guide to What Trout SEE, HEAR, & SMELL” the author draws an extremely interesting comparison.  He compares fly fishermen in a sense to door to door salesmen – putting the entire act of chasing trout on the fly into an entirely new perspective.  He writes:

We are marketing our wares to a skeptical consumer, one that is often not quite convinced it wants what we are selling.  To help us make the sale, we need the equivalent of market analysis.  A good salesman considers two things: the target audience and how the product appeals to the target audience.

Simply put, what can we do as anglers to cause an “EAT” reaction, instead of “DON’T EAT” response?  With streamer fishing we are knocking on a lot of doors throughout the day – there are a extreme multitude of factors that play into enticing an “EAT” response that we must consider.


Size, shape, and color of the streamer often times plays an extremely important role in triggering a desirable response.  Does the pattern that we are presenting to our ‘customers’ match or resemble what they want to ‘buy’?  Also, action of the streamer plays an enormous role – does the pattern move or act like potential prey?  Does the fly act like a fleeing or injured food item, making it an easy target?


The product that we are selling is ENORMOUSLY important – as any salesman will tell you, if you don’t have a good product that is marketable, it makes selling it much more difficult.  However, I’d argue that at the very least equally important to the product – probably even more important – is the number of doors we are knocking on.  In many sales type roles, it becomes a numbers game, streamer fishing is not any different.  Simply put, the more doors you knock on the better your chances to make a sale.  Even if your product is not the perfect offering, if you present it to enough fish the odds tip in your favor.

Get your bugs in the water and pull them around…..the more times the better.  Don’t waste time making several false casts, don’t get caught up with frequent bug changes, and don’t waste time doing other things that prevent your flies from being in the water.

Steelhead vs. Big Brown Trout

We are fortunate in Michigan that we have the ability to target so many different fish in varying types of water on the fly.  The opportunities here are seemingly endless in regards to the species we can catch and the type of water we can catch them in.  In my opinion, the 2 greatest sport fish we have available are Steelhead and Large Brown Trout.  I have, over the years, waivered back and forth as to my answer to the question: “if you could only pick one fish to fish for, what would it be?”  So, I thought I’d weigh out many of the deciding factors that go into it for me.  These attributes are just my opinion on the matters – would love to hear what everyone else has to say about it though!

steel v brown

STEELHEAD BROWN TROUT                           REASONING


It’s reasonable to expect that you would be able to find a brown trout pretty much all 12 months out of the year.  Great Lakes steelhead are typically only available from October through April (sometimes May).  Edge Brown Trout


Photogenic qualities This is a really tough one for me – giant slabs of buttery goodness are not exactly a dime a dozen, but steelhead go through several unique transformations of coloration and composure once they enter the rivers.  In a close call, I’ve got to say Edge Steelhead
Watersheds found in


Most of the rivers that steelhead can be found in will also hold a population of large brown trout.  However, there are several areas that browns are found in that steelhead don’t have access to, including some of the most beautiful/pristine stretches of river this state has to offer.  Edge Brown Trout
The take


As the saying goes, the tug is the drug when it comes to steelhead.  While I will admit that the ‘jolt’ a steelhead on a swung fly is exciting, for me the visual experience of catching a big brown on a pulled streamer or on a dry fly can’t be matched.  Watching a buttery brown propel itself towards the boat at Mach5, and open its mouth to inhale a streamer makes me weak in the knees.  Edge Brown Trout
Tactics they are targeted with


Swing and bobber fishing for Steelhead vs. Pulling streamers and dry fly fishing for Browns.  I’m an extremely visual person and watching a bobber all day while visual, is far less interactive than pulling a streamer or manipulating your line for a drag free drift of a dry.   Edge Brown Trout


The Fight This one isn’t even close.  Rarely, in my experience will a brown put up nearly the fight or require the amount of skill to land once hooked that a steelhead requires.  Edge Steelhead


Uggggghhhhh…..steelhead brings people out of the woodwork, people come from all over the country to experience the great fishery we have.  Many people you encounter will be utilizing questionable tactics as well.  You’ll often times spend as much time searching for a spot to actually fish than you will fishing.  Edge Brown Trout


Success Rates Steelhead, when they are available are for the most part more easily caught than large brown trout.  Steelhead success rates are measured in #’s, browns are measured in inches.  Being that steelhead are typically easier to encounter – Edge Steelhead
Tying the Bugs


Steelhead fly tying, whether it is for swinging or nymphing gets very monotonous, it feels like full on production mode.  Tying streamers for trout allows me to flex the minimal creativity that I possess, and I enjoy it.  Not to mention you only need a few streamers and a few dries and you’re all set.  Edge Brown Trout

(2015) Jan/Feb Recap

January got off to a good start – steelhead fishing with Dan.


Streamer Fishing in January can’t work – can it?

1.17.2 1.17.1 1.24.1 1.24.2 1.24.3 1.24.5

I tied a few Bugs8 1 2

2014 Photo Wrap Up

2014 was a great year spent in the outdoors.  Here are a few pics wrapping up the year that was:

3.1 - Copy 4.1 - Copy 4.2 - Copy 4.3 - Copy5.1 - Copy 4.4 - Copy 4.5 - Copy  5.2 - Copy 5.3 - Copy 5.4 - Copy5.5 - Copy

10.1 5.6 - Copy - Copy

5.8 - Copy 6.1  6.27.1 8.1  8.3

Transition Water (TR Follow up)

The water during Saturday’s trip was still brutally cold, still sporting abnormally low temperatures this close to spring.  After my initial assessment of the water temps, I made the conscious decision to focus all of my efforts on the slower water that is typically associated with winter type fishing.  I determined that even though we are nearing what is in a typical year the peak of the spawning activity, because of the lower temps fish would be less likely to have moved into their traditional transition type water.

While we were able to find several fish in water that was walking speed or less, near the end of the day Joe and Jeff decided to spend some time running bugs through quicker staging areas, pockets, and dumps.  Their decision to concentrate efforts on that type of water paid off immensely as a number of fish were hooked and landed in this transitional water.

3- 15 8

I know that I have been told several times by folks much more knowledgeable than myself that water temperatures are only 1 part of the equation in regards to fish behavior – but I neglected to heed that advice, and most likely missed out on several opportunities to encounter steelhead during the day as a result.


Gink and Gasoline has a fantastic article over at their blogsite that I encourage everyone to check out.  The article simplifies and gives a great overview of proper mending and controlling line during a drift to achieve a natural presentation.

This skill is something that took awhile for myself (and I’m sure others) to fully understand and master.  However, once some common misconceptions (mentioned in the G&G article) were overcome, it all became much easier.

One of the biggest things that helped me is to over-exaggerate the mend, and don’t be afraid to move the indicator back up the stream – it allows the bugs to drop in under the indicator and be properly positioned for the downstream drift.

Here’s a good video of proper mending

Steelhead Mentality

Through my years I have learned that there are people that fish for Steelhead, and then there are Steelhead Fishermen.  Although at first glance it appears that both groups of people are one in the same – but they are vastly different.  People that simply fish for Steelhead seek out the more favorable and comfortable situations, 50 degrees with sunny blue bird spring skies  – sight fishing to spawning fish in less than 2′ of water, likely taking the path of least resistance.

Avid Steelhead fisherman are an extremely different breed of people.   A true Steelhead fisherman firmly believes the the most favorable conditions usually involve an absolute miserable mixture of intermittent driving rain showers, that only stop because it starts snowing so hard you can see only a mere inches in front of your face.


Steelhead Fisherman are typically easy to spot for their complete and utter lack of caution and common sense when venturing into the water, wading to get just the right angle to properly present their bug through a run – their own safety is a only a mere afterthought.

Steelhead Fisherman will usually have limited sense of feeling in their fingertips from frequent near frost bite encounters.  They will be sporting wind burned faces with cracked lips.  Most will openly exhibit any number of personal vices – addiction to Fireball, tobacco, etc., as they need a crutch to deal with the insane madness caused by chasing winter fish.

Next time you see a Steelhead Fisherman, wish him well because his lifestyle suggests he probably isn’t long for this world.

Almost Time

An exceptionally long and brutal winter that has gripped the Great Lakes region for the longest continuous stint I can remember, appears to finally be coming to an end.  Soon the rivers and streams won’t be dominated by shelf and anchor ice.  This is the time of year that dark and grey skies that spit a rainy/snowy mix that would deter any normal human being from going outside, leave me searching for ways to cut out of work early.

The banks of the river will be littered with tiny black winter stoneflys, and soft inside edges will be filled with the recently hatched offspring of last fall’s annual salmon spawning ritual.  The quiet calmness of winter will still grip the forest encompassing the river.  This calmness is only temporary though, because chaos can erupt at any time – all silence will be broken by the sound of a screaming reel and a steelhead propelling his perfectly rocket shaped body through the surface of the water, and then splashing back home.


The time is drawing near, and I’m already monitoring the time of day it stays light enough to be able to see an indicator, the 5 day forecast has become more important for me to research than anything I ever studied in college, and an assessment on my “brownie point” bank account has been discussed.

After the longest lapse in between fishing excursions I have ever had to suffer through, I can’t wait.

Steelhead Bugger


Steelhead Bugger (Popularized by Ray Schmidt)

This a great bug for me in any and all water conditions.

  1. Hook: 2x Long, 2x Strong Size 8
  2. Tail: Black Marabou & Crystal Flash
  3. Hackle: Brown Saddle
  4. Underbody: Turns of lead wire
  5. Body: 5-6 strands of peacock herl

A pretty simple and quick tie.