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Steelhead Swingers: Don't fear the Nymph Angler (for He Leaves Fish Behind)

A dead-drifted egg and nymph doesn't catch every aggressive steelie in the hole.

Steelhead Swingers: Don't fear the Nymph Angler (for He Leaves Fish Behind)

A disturbance on the surface can make an unresponsive fish suddenly responsive.

Recently I found myself fishing with my buddy Bomber for late arriving summer runs. Given the cold water temps–the nights have been near freezing–I chose to fish a favorite wet fly of mine, which the day before was the ticket. Bomber, however, refused to believe that these fish would deny a skated dry fly. So there we were, working our way down the river, me fishing the wet fly, then him coming through with the dry.

Above us, the ridges remained shrouded in heavy fog and occasional geese could be heard through the mist but never seen. At one point I turned to the shore and saw wet tracks on the cobbles. After finishing with the run, I walked back up and found a place where a bear had come down to do some fishing of his own before dragging his catch up into the high grass. There, in the still green leaves, was the perfect imprint of the bear, which had probably been there only a few hours before.

And that's about when things got interesting.

Up head, I saw two other anglers approaching, a rare sight in these parts. Both were carrying rods with indicator set-ups, and they spoke of the three fish they'd landed between them. From our shoreside chat, I got the sense they knew the river and they knew how catch steelhead on egg patterns. After they left, Bomber and I considered moving to a new section of river--who wants to swing flies behind two accomplished nymphers? But alas, we continued on to fish the runs they'd just left.

Since I'd gifted Bomber first water that morning and he'd gotten a fish, it was my turn to go first. I swung two pools and a long run with my wet, but tempted nothing. Then as Bomber worked his way through, he rose a fish quickly, then another, and another, and another–that's right–and finally one more. He landed two of these fish. And after that I was finally convinced to switch to a dry. (I'm a slow learner, I guess.) I was only three casts into the first pool when I rose one myself.

steelhead in water

I learned somethings yesterday; two assumptions were overturned.

Assumption one: nymph anglers catch any eager fish that sees their offerings. These nymphers had just fished these very pockets, and they'd fished them well, and yet they had left behind at least five and maybe six eager fish. New assumption: maybe a dead-drifted egg and nymph don't catch every aggressive steelie in the hole.

Assumption two: a wet fly during cold water conditions is more likely to provoke a strike than a dry. Bomber and I fished the same pools, and yet my wet didn't budge a fish all day, though it was the magic fly the day before. Meanwhile his dries rose a half-dozen fish during the day. New assumption: maybe a distrubance on the surface can make an unresponsive fish suddenly responsive.

Only one thing for a guy to do: go back and test these theories!

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