For many of us chrome-addicts, summer is the off-season. Sure we love to skate flies to eager fish, and who doesn't enjoy a evening session in short-sleeves, but when push comes to shove, we're out there biding our time until the real game starts: swinging flies for bright winter steelhead.
Part of the attraction is the fish: bigger, stronger, and less predictable than their summer cousins. And part of the attraction is the rivers: greener, wilder, and more plentiful. But for me, a big part of the attraction is adding a third dimension to the swing. Instead of controlling a swing on or near the surface, now you have to get your fly down to the fish before the swing starts.
Ten years ago, the prospect of casting weighted flies on winter rivers was intimidating. But now, thanks to Skagit heads and sustained-anchor casting techniques, weighted flies can be cast with the ease of a dry fly. The first step, then, to gearing up for winter steelhead is learning to Skagit cast. And if you already know how, your first step is learning to cast beefier flies in tighter quarters.
Luckily we have help in the form of an excellently produced DVD called, Skagit Master with Ed Ward. Check out the trailer at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2w-3cteRoY
The film can be found at your local fly shop, or at Skagitmaster.com. Highest recommendations.
In the film, you'll see Ed Ward casting both on a river and on grass. My two cents: skip the grass practice and so straight to your local pond or river. If you've been Skagit casting a year or more, charge out to waist deep under some overhanging branches--real winter fishing conditions--and become comfortable placing your fly, accelerating through the D-loop, and launching those Intruders. Practice now, hook fish later.
In the coming weeks, expect to see more posts in our "Gearing up for Winter" series. The fish are coming, and so are we.