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Dry Fly Steelhead

By Lani Waller

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The “down and across” wet fly for steelhead is technically more difficult than a dry fly presentation, but nothing surpasses the excitement of a steelhead rising to and through the surface film to take a floating pattern. There are a few determining factors which must be taken seriously if and when you decide to fish the surface with a dry fly.

In the first place, summer run steelhead are more willing to rise to the surface. Winter fish can be taken that way, as can spring run fish, but day in and day out, the more “trout-like psychology” of summer steelhead are your best bet. The fish which return to the rivers of their birth in July through October are usually more aggressive, and more curious than other kinds of steelhead.

Warmer water temperatures and greater clarity account for some of this, but not all of it. I also know that lumping steelhead which return in summer and fall months into one “class” or “strain”, may not be scientifically correct, but that doesn’t matter to me. It is their behavior I care about, and if they are in the river anytime from say late June through October, and they rise aggressively to skating dry flies, they are summer run fish to me.