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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Put some Swing in your Thing!

The title of this article may suggest a Big Band song. But if you like bent rods and Steelhead then read on. Fly Fishing is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable that’s why the sport can be so addicting. Fall fishing in the Great Lakes region for Steelhead is my most favorite time of the year for swinging flies. The weather isn’t too cold and the fall colors, sights and smells stir the senses of the soul. The fish are HOT this time of the year and are willing to chase the fly down and absolutely crush it. For those of you that have not ever tried catching a Steelhead on the swing you’re missing out. Fall is just around the corner, it's time.

The sport of swinging flies in the Great Lakes region has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years. There is no end in sight for its growth right now. Our friends on the West Coast have taught else well. If you’re a beginner I highly recommend you seek at out your local fly shop for help on rod and line selection. Every rod is going to take and swing best with certain lines and grain weights. Not to mention even the rivers you fish will dictate what rod and reel set up you need. Buying your stuff online or from big box stores is not recommended. Most fly shops offer casting lessons too; this can be so helpful in the beginning stages.
I personally love switch rods for smaller rivers, but you may find you like a two handed rod better on a larger river. The switch rod here in the Great Lakes is very popular because it’s so versatile. I love an eleven and a half foot, seven weight rod. It’s the perfect tool to handle a lot of different water and situations. You could write a book on equipment and line choices alone. Do yourself a favor and get started off on the right foot. Support your local fly shop you will be glad you did.

Locating Good Water
Depending on what river I’m fishing I look for water that is at least three to six feet deep with the right current speed. The current speed I look for is that of a walk. If you find good water you will find the fish. It’s just that simple. Don’t be afraid to fish parts of the river you have never tried. The river changes every year. Ice dams, logs, rain, run off can equal high water. When this happens things shift and move around the river thus new holes are carved out. Sometimes a new log causes a new current break creating a resting lye for steelhead as they make their way up river. So sometimes the fish aren’t where they were last year. Hence why you must cover ground to locate fish.
Steelhead often will be holding in the transition zones of the river. Where two current speeds meet from fast to slow water. Sometimes the fish are spread out across the river where boulders create a resting place for them in the current. I have found fish in areas that I would not have guessed would hold fish but found them by searching with my fly.

Fly Presentation
Locate these pockets and areas and get that fly to swing down and across in front of that fish’s nose on a 45 degree angle downstream. Slow your roll on the swing by mending your line upstream. As it swings let the fly swing down until it has stopped below you. Hopefully it’s hanging in the G money spot of the run for a downstream grab. When your fly and line reach this point and the fly has stopped. We call this on the dangle. This is when strikes can happen. Often time’s steelhead will follow the fly and just look at it for a few seconds. Then just crush it or they may pluck at the fly and then take it and run. Hence why you must let the fish take the fly and load the rod, then set the hook. You’re basically letting the fish hook itself.
Most of us immediately set the hook and end up missing the fish. I find this is the hardest habit to break with most anglers. All is not lost sometimes you can let it dangle there again and get bit. Or you can swing the fly through the run again and get bit again by the same fish. After several casts and you feel you have covered the section of water. Take a couple of steps and then cast again. Until you have covered all the water in the run. Once you have a steelhead crush that fly while the rod is in your hands you be hooked for life.

Fish responsibly my friends and have your Steelhead Speyed!


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  1. Great article thanks for sharing. I have always wanted to get into spey fishing for steelies. Can you recommend a set up for me?

  2. Absolutely awesome and a very good article. Well written. Hope I get to chase steelhead one day!

  3. Anonymous thanks for stopping by. My advice would be to find your local fly shop and get outfitted correctly. Depending on the rivers you fish you might want a switch rod. By getting set up correctly you will enjoy your time on the water rather struggle and be more successful. Tight lines.

  4. Atlas thanks for your kind words and glad you stop by. Please visit often and fish on bro.