Saturday, July 5, 2014

Spotting and Stalking Steelhead when Fly Fishing

Steelhead I caught on the Sandy River

Spotting fish is a technique that is overlooked by many anglers. This is unfortunate because fish often hold in water that is literally right under their feet. To be effective, the angler must approach the stream with stealth, wear Polaroid glasses and clothing that blends in with the environment. Before you begin your stalk, make sure that your outfit is properly rigged and ready to go. 

Contrary to some studies, keeping a low profile will not always conceal your presence. Over the years I’ve learned that if you approach the water quietly and slowly to within a safe viewing distance, say five to ten feet, fish will not necessarily spook. After five minutes or so they tend to forget that you are there. 

As you scan the water, look for surface mirrors to spot fish and plan out your first cast. Don’t always expect to see the actual shape of a fish. Instead, look for telltale clues such as a white mouth, steel gray shape, fin movement or the slash of a fish’s side. Quite often a fish will take the fly on the first cast. If not and if he doesn’t spook, continue to make good presentations.

A typical leader setup is 5 to 6 feet in length with a split shot attached 18 to 20 inches above the fly. Once you’ve spotted a fish, cast above the area using a roll cast. As the fly swings down, follow the path of the line with the rod tip so that you are in direct contact with the line movement. Then make several mends to keep the fly moving naturally toward the fish. If the line stops, hesitates or changes direction, set the hook with a firm rod lift. Sometimes you’ll hook nothing but a ten pound rock, but more times than not your line may start moving! 

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