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Timely tips on fly fishing for steelhead

Chris Owens holds a steelhead caught and released in a British Columbia river during the filming of
Chris Owens holds a steelhead caught and released in a British Columbia river during the filming of "Metalhead." An edited version of the film will be featured in the Fly Fishing Film Tour in Spokane on Feb. 8. Courtesy of Mayfly Media (Courtesy of Mayfly Media)

FLY FISHING --Red's Fly Shop near Ellensberg offers these Wade Fishing Tips for Steelhead:

Step downstream. Not only is this good etiquette but it is good steelheading. Most trout fisheries are best approached hiking upstream, most steelhead deliveries are best made downstream whether you are swinging a fly or nymphing. Take a step down after each cast. Start a little higher in the run than you think you need to and fish a little further down than you think you need to.

Tippet choice. You only need a few rolls of tippet. For swinging flies use 8 or 10 pound Maxima Ultragreen depending on water clarity. For nymph fishing use Rio Fluoroflex Plus 1X for your biggest flies, 2X for all others including egg patterns. For extremely clear water you can use 3X but be prepared to lose a few flies and fish! Start with a Tapered Steelhead/Salmon Leader.

Fly Selection. You don't need 87 different fly patterns to successfully fish for steelhead. You need about 4-6 that you are confident in and know their behavior so that you can steer and control them like a familiar vehicle. Make sure you have flies that possess the following attributes. You need a dark heavy fly, dark lightweight fly, light colored heavy, light colored lightweight, and a few in between. If you nymph fish, a few big dark stoneflies and a few middle of the road flies, and get a handful of #12 Holo Prince Nymphs.

Don't overthink it! If you have done some trout fishing then you are already fishing well enough to catch a steelhead. Don't spend too much time changing flies, depths, tippets, or sinking rates on your line. Keep your
fly fishing smooth, clean, and in a way that will ambush a steelhead. Keep your fly in the water.

Twice fast is better than once slow. Fishing a run twice fast or even three times is better than fishing it once slow. If the fish doesn't take the first presentation then it wasn't "ambushed". Better to step downstream,
finish the run, change flies or depths and start again at the top. If the fish chased, but was not hooked, or was simply ignoring the fly then give the fish a short break. Constant harassment doesn't produce very many fish. One good fresh presentation does.

Look for shade. Steelhead love shadows, even if it is just a small piece of shade. Also, try to fish runs that hang onto the shade longest in the morning and get shady earliest in the afternoon. These fish will be
typically be more aggressive than fish holding in direct sunlight.

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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