Sunday, December 16, 2012

FALL OF 2012....WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT STEELHEAD BEHAVIOR

"CAPT. DUGGER from Key West-swing freak!"
  SO SORRY!......for the long delay in posting this fall!. We had one of the busiest falls in 18 years in which we are grateful to all our wonderful clients and guests from around the world...THANK YOU ALL!. Between guiding and doing 12 hour days doing text and image edits with my publisher on my "SELECTIVITY" BOOK, I have been swamped and up to my ass in alligators- an understatement! 
The fall was a weird one to say the least!. No water...no water...and finally a trickle more water...it started at 890 cfs...went 1100 forever and finally shot up to 1900....now after rain...it went down again to 1700 cfs...KEY WORD IS "WENT DOWN AGAIN AFTER RAIN!...THOUGHT ITS SUPPOSED TO COME UP! I and hundreds of anglers/guides can't figure out what Consumers' Power are doing with tail water releases at Croton dam...IT MAKES NO SENSE!..We've made calls to the DNR person in charge of regulating the flows and we get "bullshit answers "that make no sense.After a "super drought year", with our subterranean aquifers completely deleted, pumping millions of gallons of water out of the underground caverns of the Muskegon near Evart by Nestle/Perrier is not helping the severe low flows and drought rehab. Also, the"'hyper extreme clarity "of the water also made the steelhead very wary. Add the mix  of "legalized chumming with eggs" again , and you have some very twisted and distorted behaviors of the fish- but very interesting behavioral variables by the steelhead which "I personally" found very fascinating.
99 % of all my fall trips were done swinging flies on Skagit lines/long belly floaters with T-8-to 20 heads of varies lengths. Most of my trips were instructional which I love to do and also makes me a better caster as I analyze all the integral parts of the cast and apply modifications to the pupil.As I'm editing the text for 'SELECTIVITY" , my phases are constantly on my mind:aggressive, selective and passive, and I apply it to every interaction trout, steelhead and salmon- my subject - have on the way I view everything .
" Tom Terry Chi Town steel magnet"
 I looked at steelhead behavior this fall through my three selectivity windows every time I went in search of them with clients and " a whole new world " of seeing their behavior unfold was a major epiphany!. The Aggressive/active fish that chose the "big turkey ' flash, were usually males in shallow tail outs with steep gradients, also in rocky/boulder pocket water with just the right current on the 'hang time" pump- often we would hit fish that targeted and bumped the fly up to three times before they took as we hung the fly behind the boat for up to several minutes with longer lighter t- sections of sink tip. These were the aggressive fish that just came up from the lake that still had the bait fish "kill artist' instinct in them!.
"pink turkey tube"
 
Then there were the fish that had contact with eggs- either by chumming or finding the remaining salmon females. These fish have already been"tainted", spoiled from their primal hunting instincts of 'attck and destroy" behavior which is natural. They became 'Pavlov dogs' and waited and salivated for round objects-eggs. On the advise of the most famous fly fishing guide/ expert 'Hank Patterson" from "YOU TUBE" fame, I employed the famous-"HOPPER/DROPPER" concept to all my swinging. In Michigan where "everything is legal"- just about!- we are allowed to fish two flies- no harm done imho. Th Salmon River in NY went to one fly to curtail the massive snagging problem they had there.
"hopper /dropper"
By incorporating the "CHICKEN AND EGG CONCEPT"....not really new , but when combined with the various color hues and translucency of Otter Eggs, I used an Otter egg a foot below the "flash' religiously and it really tweaked both the "AGGRESSIVE AND SELECTIVE" behaviors of the steelhead. Often the flash would draw the fish in , only to take the egg at last minute, as the fish made a "Selective decision". The results were very interesting Males would go for the "flash" 90% of the time, females would go for the egg-80% of the time.
Things changed dramatically by December. With angling/guide pressure diminishing, no salmon left- maybe a few lake run browns here and there, the egg dropper became obsolete!. As water temps. dropped into the low 40'sF, and waters cleared as gin and clearer, flash became less and less, duller hues started to kick in to s 'selective" steelhead's mind, and passive behavior of seeking warmer spring seeps near shore became more pronounced. Now the steelhead was confronted with a new"hunting ground".....Bait fish!
Now as winter approaches and the hunt for thermal comfort either in deep pools or near springs, the encounters with the tremendous bait fish the rivers have will come into the Selective mind set of the steelhead- amongst other stream biological drift...WINTER!...is the must exciting time of the year fro a "WINTER STRAIN STEELHEAD!
 
" Funky cold Medina Ice Man minnow"
ALSO, THE EVENING DUSK BITE BECOMES THE CRUCIAL 'HOUR OF POWER!
 

" KC with the last cast at dusk bite!)
"Keithley with the dusk bite'
 
CHEERS AND ENJOY YOUR TIME ON THE WATER REGARDLESS OF HOW'S THE FISHING!....ALWAYS SOMETHING TO LEARN!
 
AND YES....ITS FINALLY COMING!......... THERE WILL BE LIMITED EDITION NICE HARD COPIES ALSO!