Swinging flies for winter steelhead is no different, really, than casting dries to picky browns: if you cast a dry in 179 of the 180 angles available to you, you won’t raise the brown. The trout won’t take because the dry doesn’t look real or the line spooks him or [insert your own wild theory]. Cast your Intruder in 179 of the 180 angles available, and that steelhead won’t move either. But nobody has any good argument as to why. That’s part of the essential awesome-ness that is swinging flies for steelhead.
Learning to spot the perfect casting angle for any given lie is your reward for a 1000 fishless days on the water. Hence there’s always a measure of satisfaction in any day spent swinging flies; you’re always coming home with new information, and a more finely-tuned angling intuition.
Eventually, you find yourself standing on a nondescript pinnacle of rock in a nondescript stretch of river throwing not to a whole run but to a two foot glare of water, and you know that of the six times you’ve made this presentation in the last two weeks, on four of them a steelhead has taken hold a half-breath after the cast lands.
You feel the rod flex into you fingertips, sense that load circle around your shoulder, and watch as that familiar green dart flies high once again…