Spring has sprung. Which means the best time of the year is almost upon us, summer run time. If in your summer forays you can get a steelhead to come up multiple times, you’ll have found what many steelheaders call....a ”player”. What can you do to turn a riser into a player?
Try, Try Again--But Not Too Hard
The first thing to do is to make the same cast again. Sometimes this will do the trick. If not, try working a little above the rise, a different angle, or a little below the rise. Don’t move too far below the original rise point or you may line the fish and put it down for good--especially in unbroken, glassy water.
Switch it Up
The next thing to try is changing flies. This serves two purposes. First and foremost, it gives the fish a different look that may spark some interest. Secondly, the fish gets rested a little while you tie on a different pattern. I remember a fish that took a run at my buddy’s fly a couple seasons ago. The fish wouldn’t solidly take any of his other offerings. He even went back to his tried and true pattern a couple times with no luck. We carried on down river and as we passed the same run on the way out he dropped the original pattern over the fish and it hammered it on the first cast. The calamity that followed happened so quick that we didn’t get the camera set up in time. The fish screamed through the tailout and ran the rapids below to the next pool. In response to the line pouring off his reel during the fish’s long sustained run, my buddy leaped off the greasy log jam into chest deep water to try and follow but the fish eventually unbuttoned him in the pool below. The moral of this story seemed to be that resting the fish was key. It’s often worth a try. At times you can just stop and have a sandwich before trying the fish again. The fish may take immediately after it has been given a little rest.
When you do change fly patterns, the pattern you tie on should be another one you have confidence in. Smaller, darker, and more drably colored are all good suggestions made by many past writers. If you don’t have many patterns that you’ve had success with, fish a fly that others have confidence in and act like it should work until one does. Every fly that catches somebody a steelhead caught that person their first steelhead at some point.
Work the run the same way you did earlier with this new fly. Again, avoid spooking the fish by moving too far downstream. In the video, I worked the run for almost three minutes before the fish rose again. It eventually rose a second time and shut down a second time. When I switched to a third fly, the fish took solidly on the second cast. In the end, this fish didn’t make it to hand but if you learn how to play these players, some otherwise missed fish surely will.
The warm infinity pools of Disneyland are no match for the frigid yet picturesque waters of BC rivers. When your daughter's dance troupe is invited to perform at "the happiest place on earth", you can keep the budget reasonable by volunteering to stay back home and go to your own "happy place". This was the start of our 2012 steelheading season and the end is yet to come. Happy festivus!