Wednesday, February 17, 2016

HUNTING LATE WINTER ALPHAS- IT'S ALL IN THE AGGRESSIVE/ACTIVE MINDSET

Even though the waters are still in the low 33-34F water temps, and some smaller tribs still shaking off ice over/shelves, even without the warm-up coming, the big boys and girls are moving steadily towards their target of gravel and spawning. Daylight hours are increasing which is kicking the big steelhead pineal endocrine and hormonal glands into overdrive.

Alphas are slowly leaving the deep guts of pools/sucker water and taking up 'strategic' ,highly policed and patrolled key dominant lies below larger areas of gravel. They are nowhere near gravel ready yet with water temps so low- except for a few Skamania summer runs that almost ignore the temp driven preference like winter run steelhead.Basically still in deeper runs and pockets, but with much higher flows and moving water than a month ago. 
(Skeena sized alpha from the Muskegon in late February/Early March)


LATE WINTER TACTICS

* Make slight adjustments from the water you have been fishing and just slide your targeted 'bucket slots' up from the deep guts , and also down from the deep guts towards the tail outs. The alphas now are looking at structure/escape routes more than ever- wooded debris/obstructions. Combine a gut/cover/gravel and 'BINGO' , you have the perfect alpha waters.



* Fly Selection- SWINGING-Think hot pink/red/orange and black fusion for swinging intruders/leeches etc. The sex driven hormonal optic nerves and the fact that they have been in the river for sometimes , studies have concluded the eyesight triggered preference of migratory fish tends towards the red/black/orange spectrum...blue and green on fresh run steelhead and salmon.
(This massive mid 20 lb Babine B.C. Alpha buck hammered the electric cane just as our G.L. winter runs love the schlappen movement- tying them articulated or intruder style works very well also- Babine salt steel are so brutal they will bend heavy 2/0 Bartleet hooks like needles!)


( my Electric Candy cane- red, is a perfect color scheme for this time of year)
( The Hangtime leech from my 'Selectivity' book is an excellent swung fly for late winter Alphas- also more 'flash' is coming into the picture- more so than deep of winter naturals)
(as late winter arrives more flash is better- waters will again become frigid and off color with melting snow and ice)

*Egg/nymph 'kitchen sink' approach- Pre- spawn alphas love egg patterns in the Cerise/hot/baby pink range



(What truly amazed me over the years is as alphas become more hormonally driven, they will take huge clown eggs in ultra clear winter waters, when just a few weeks ago they were totally geared towards smaller/opaque/translucent otter eggs/beads and very sparse nuke eggs- the A/A aggression is the new drive!)

*The power of the Bio -Drift nuisance and intrusion- Once the alphas are closer to their objective, the bio drift of naturals- salmon sac fry, stones, hexes all are irritants and will get snapped at quickly- especially the salmon sac parr!- If I had one single fly to irritate big alphas it would be swung salmon sac fry- even on Erie tribs that dont see a ton of salmon!
(ultimate sac fry)
(deadly wiggle stone)
(Simple Merlino Hex)

* The power of the dusk bite- Large alphas hang low all day and get very aggressive and antsy at dusk- boiling on the surface, moving from top to bottom of pool guys are all part of the last light drama- trophy hunters know the gig all too well!

*Drive-by's- If a jet or drift boat spooks your pool?- even a dumb ass wading angler?....well let's just say that is a good thing- 'the beast is awakened, and unlike skittish trout, this often yields a punishable strike response- seen it happen time and time again.

* Gender Particulars- Large alpha females will hang in the very slow, deep gut pools as long as they can due to their heavier load of eggs and much needed energy conservation for the long 'gravel digging energy haul' ahead of them- concentrate on the deeper runs and pools for larger females


Hope this helps and may your trophy become a reality this spring. Hope to see you on the river- better yet spend a day with you trophy hunting at the Gray Drake Outfitters,,,cheers! - na zdrowie
Matt Supinski