One of the most common questions I get about Lake Erie steelhead fishing is “what do I use?” The answer depends on a lot of factors, so lets look at a few of them. Honestly there are a lot of good flies out there, the white wooley bugger, frenchies, steelie omelet, rosetta stone, and intruders are some of my favorites. Those flies make up my confidence flies and you can usually find one or three of those on my line at any given time (yes I do enjoy losing 7 bucks worth of flies when I catch on the bottom) mostly I just fish a simple tandem rig.
Let us start with the most important rules of fly fishing: The O4P’s: Observation, Positioning, Presentation, Presentation, Presentation! Once you have a handle on those concepts you will realize flies are only a part of the puzzle. Much more of your success depends on observation and positioning. The successful angler has a good grasp of the elements of the pursuit and how they work together. Here is a start.
Egg patterns can be used in various types of water but I have my most succes with them in medium to slower water. Eggs bounce along the bottom so fish these patterns deep. Often it is very productive to trail an egg off the end of a heavy streamer. This tactic gets the flies deep and can double your chances. Vary the color and size of your eggs depending on conditions. Veiled eggs and blood-dots can be very productive.
Nymphs work like eggs but might be slighty more effective in faster runs because many patterns are designed to get deep quick. As with eggs, nymphs come in a wide variety of sizes, profiles and colors. Determining which nymph to use should follow that same order.
Start with size, base your size on type of water and clarity. A deep fast run will require a large, fast sinking fly with a well defined profile. This allows the fish to quickly identify the fly as food and make the descion to take or not.
Profile becomes more critical as water clears. Flies like the rosetta stonefly featured above are great in cloudy conditions but as the water clears they are too bold and flashy.
Finally color becomes important for some of the same reasons as profile. As water conditions clear fly color must adjust to the light.
Some flies have UV sensitive materials which react to Ultraviolet light and therefore draw a lot of attention to the fly. This may work well in most conditions but may hurt in clear conditions.
Fly colors that are too bold in clear conditons may be perfect for cloudy conditions. While flies that are perfect for clear conditons may be too subtle for dark water.
Streamers for steelhead can cause anglers a lot of grief. There are many types of streamers and several ways to fish them. My favorite is the white wooly bugger. Fish this tried and true pattern dead drift like a nymph deep in a fast run. As the fly approaches the end of the drift stop the rod and let the fly swing up from the bottom of the stream to the surface and hold on! This is one of the most productive ways to prospect for steel and is a load of fun because it keeps you moving.
You can also swing this fly through evenly flowing water to prospect a large area for moving fish. This is a great tactic and keeps you in the game as you move from run to run.
Remember the O4P’s of fly fishing.
stream conditions, weather, light, time of day…, etc. These factors will determine the next step:
This applies not only to your position but the position of the fish. Taking your observations and letting them determine your position will help you start on the right foot. It also is the foundation for the last steps:
Presentation Presentation Presentation!–
You will have your best presentation when you are in the best position to deliver you offering based on your observations. This is where it all comes together. Remember to choose your fly first based on size, then profile and color.
Good luck out there, remember, we’re all in this together.
To quote my father: “Plan your work, work your plan”.