I had not fished for steelhead very long but had caught a few.
I was talking to a friend who asked if I had ever fished for steelhead with a dry fly. No, I never had. I did not know that a steelhead would come up to the surface for a dry fly.
I thought a lot about that conversation and decided to try it. I tied a Muddler Minnow on a size No. 4 dry fly hook.
Early one morning I went to the Clearwater River where the old rodeo grounds had been. I had caught fish there before, so I felt it was as good a place as any.
I tied the Steelhead Muddler on my tippet and greased it with some fly floatant. I started casting the fly into the run without a great deal of confidence, but I just had to give this new fly a try. “If it works for other fishermen, maybe it will work for me,” I thought.
I watched the muddler skate through the run. I thought to myself that any self-respecting fish would never come up and take a fly that is leaving a wake in the water. I went through the entire run with no success, and I was disappointed to say the least. I decided to go back to the head of the run and go through one more time.
Cast, mend the line, strip the fly in and cast again. I had just taken a step downstream and made the cast. I mended the line and watched the fly wake through the water. Suddenly it looked like someone flushed a toilet. There was a hole that appeared in the water, and my fly was gone. I watched with surprise as my fly line was moving upstream at a great rate of speed.
“Set the hook dummy,” I said to myself. It was a long fight, but I landed that first steelhead on a dry fly. It was a wild male, and as I held the fish by the tail to revive him, I was still in a state of shock. The fish regained his strength, and I watched him swim away. What a thrill: a steelhead off of a dry fly. Since that first fish on a dry fly, I have caught several more. I have used many dry fly patterns, but my favorite is the Steelhead Muddler.
In low water, I always switch to a smaller fly. I have taken many steelhead on a size No. 8 Dry Muddler. I know that many fly fishermen use much larger flies than that, but I have been satisfied with the sizes I tie and use.
I don’t always always use dry flies. I always try to take the water temperature before I start casting. If the water is very cold, I will use the standard steelhead flies and leave the muddlers in my fly box. But it is always a thrill to see one of those large fish come up and take a dry fly.
So if you want a real adrenalin rush, put on a Steelhead Muddler the next time you go steelhead fishing. They don’t always work, but when they do it will give you a feeling you’ve never felt before.
“ I now believe that fishing is far more important than the fish.”
— Arnold Gingrich
LeRoy Hyatt is an avid fly tier and angler who lives in Lewiston.