What do steelhead eat, Skwala Hatch, New Simms Guide Jacket

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What Do Steelhead Eat?
The Skwala Hatch
Skwala Hatch Flies
New Simms Guide Jacket

Winter Steelhead Schools


What Do Steelhead Eat?

Josh & Marcy with a hatchery steelhead Marcy caught last Wednesday.

This steelhead was killed and dressed for dinner. A stomach autopsy was performed.

The stomach contained an earth worm, a small partly digested fish and part of a dyed prawn.
Do steelhead feed after they return to fresh water? It appears that some do. This steelhead was obviously a capitalistic feeder, grabbing a wide variety of food items. The worm had probably been dislodged by our recent flood. Who knows whether the little fish was alive and swimming or dead and drifting when it got eaten. The piece of prawn tail had been dyed bright pink and was probably drifting in the river. Hard to say if it was impaled on a hook when it was eaten. In the end this fish fell for a black and blue intruder fly that Josh tied.

Get Prepared For The Skwala Hatch  
By: Rick Hafele.

Large morsels like brown willow fly adults catch the interest of some nice trout.
Early Spring
Remember how the hatches on the lower Deschutes were early last year? In fact, during a fishing trip to the Deschutes River the first week of February, the bug activity looked more like mid-March. Blue-winged olives popped off the water, brown willow flies crawled on shoreline grasses, and small saddle-case caddis (family: Glossosomatidae  genus: Glossosoma) ran around in hordes looking for mates. And this was only the 4th of February! This was due to a new water mixing gizmo that PGE installed in the Pelton Dam complex. It had warmed the water up, and the hatches were early. In a typical year these spring stoneflies donít come into play until early or even mid-March, and continue until mid to late April. There is no guarantee that the same thing will happen this year with the same timing, because water flows are bound to be higher because of the heavy snow pack in the Cascades. However, earlier than normal hatches are something to contemplate and be prepared for. The Skwala Hatch is something to be on the outlook for.

While females have normal functional wings, they are still reluctant to fly, so even when Skwala adults are abundant you will see very few in the air.  This doesnít mean fish arenít seeing them however. The adults stay near shore and frequently fall in, plus females often run out onto the water to lay their eggs.

Early Brown Stones Will Be On The Water Soon

There are two species of brown willow flies: Skwala americana and Skwala curvata. The genus Skwala is just one genus of the stonefly family Perlodidae. With 31 genera and over 120 species, the family Perlodidae is one of the most diverse of all stonefly families. The family is divided into two major sub-families, Perlodinae and Isoperlinae, which can often be distinguished by size; most Perlodinae are three quarters to a little over one inch long, while most Isoperlinae run about a half inch long or less. Skwala falls into the large-sized Perlodinae sub-family along with two other important genera to the angler, Megarcys and Isogenoides. Though the family Perlodidae is widely distributed with different species spread across all of North America, the genus Skwala, or "Brown Willow Flies", occur only in western streams from the Rocky Mountains to the coastal mountains along the Pacific Ocean.

The nymphs of brown willow flies can be easily confused with golden stone nymphs. Skwala nymphs, however, lack gills at the base of the their legs, while golden stone nymphs have thick bushy gill filaments where each leg joins the thorax.
Skwala Nymphs
Skwala nymphs are predators and crawl actively along rocky bottoms in search of prey like small mayfly nymphs and midge larvae. Their preferred habitat is quick choppy riffles with a substrate of large gravel and cobble. They tend to be most abundant in large low elevation rivers and moderate sized mountain streams. Because of the nymphís predacious nature and active hunting style, nymphs end up in stream drift where trout have a chance to see them, so when these nymphs are present and abundant they can be well worth imitating.
At first glance Skwala nymphs look a lot like golden stone nymphs (family: Perlidae & species: Hesperoperla pacifica and Calineuria californica). However, Skwala nymphs have no gills on their thoracic segments and only two small finger-like gills under the head. Golden stone nymphs in contrast have thick bushy gill filaments at the base of each leg. In addition Skwala nymphs are light yellow to tan in color with dark markings on their head, thorax, and abdomen, while most golden stone nymphs are darker in color.

Brown willow fly and golden stone adults also get confused with each other. Brown willow fly adults however, hatch about month or two earlier than golden stones, have dark chocolate to burnt-orange colored bodies rather than golden brown, and though large, are not as large as golden stone adults (size 10ís and 8ís vs. 8ís and 6ís).

Grass covered or willow covered banks are the perfect spot to fish your dry patterns of brown willow flies.  Many times you donít even need to be in the water, as some of the best trout will be with in a foot or two of shore waiting for adults to fall off the bank.
Like other stoneflies, prior to adult emergence Skwala nymphs migrate to the banks where they crawl out of the water when ready to become adults. These migrations create the perfect time to fish nymph patterns. Fish your flies dead-drift,  close to the bottom in riffles and the tailouts below them. As your fly drifts downstream let it swing close to the bank and hang near shore where fish might be holding. From my experience fancy nymph patterns arenít needed. One of my favorites is a beadhead red fox squirrel nymph on a size 10-3XL hook. You can also use a relatively small size-10, golden stone nymph. Even when adult Skwala are out, trout uninterested in surface food will often gladly accept a well-presented nymph.
One thing you will generally not see during a good hatch of brown willow flies is the adults flying out over the water. This means you will need to look carefully for adults on shoreline grasses, shrubs and trees to determine if they are present and abundant. Why not in the air? If you look closely at the adults crawling around on the banks youíll see why; many of the adults will have wings only about half as long as their abdomens and too small to be of use. These are males, and what they lack in flight ability they make up for in crawling speed. Females have normally developed wings and can fly, but they too generally prefer crawling quickly along the shore in grasses and willows rather than taking to the air. After mating on shore, gravid females often run out onto the water rather than fly out over it to lay their eggs. What this means to you is that it is important to fish adult patterns close to the banks where adults are crawling or falling in. Interestingly, adult stoneflies with short non-functional wings, a condition known as brachyptery, occur in a wide variety of stonefly species.

Male brown willow fly adults have short non-functional wings. While they canít fly they can crawl quite fast.
While there are specific Skwala adult patterns available, I find a size-10 stimulator with a dark brown body and dark wing generally works quite well. In fact a variety of stonefly adult patterns will work as long as they have a dark brown body on about a size-10 or 8 hook. The real key is location and presentation. First, look for good bank water. Banks with some depth and structure for fish and with overhanging grasses or willows for the stoneflies are ideal. Next make a good drag-free drift close to the bank. Try to imagine a brown willow fly adult that just fell out of the willows and plopped onto the water. If you get a good drift over a trout you will often be rewarded with a swirl and disappearing fly.
Brown willow flies will be found in good numbers on many of the best trout streams throughout the Northwest.  Besides the Deschutes, you will find them on the Yakima, Owyhee, Willamette, McKenzie, and many more. Mild weather with low snowpack and the resulting low winter streamflows can produce the perfect storm for excellent brown willow fly action. And donít wait, these stoneflies could be at a river near you now!
Deschutes River Trout Fly Fishing School
Fishing The West's Best Hatches

Skwala Hatch Matching Flies
Skwala Hatch Matching Flies
Anto-May Nymph #10
Jimmy Legs Nymph #12
Bead Head Stone Nymph, Golden  #8 & #10

King Stone Nymph, Golden  #8
FFS Stone Fly Nymph, Golden #8 & #10
Little Golden Stone #10
Gold Rib Hare's Ear Nymph #10
FFS Golden Stone #10

Skwala Dry #8
Peacock Stimulator #8
Little Olive Stone Dry #12
Sodom & Nemora #12

Skwala Stone Dry
Skwala season is some of the best fishing of the year with hungry trout and minimal crowds on the river. This fly has natural colors of a Skwala stone and is very visible, which is important when fishing the flat light of March and Aprilís cloudy days. The egg sack and rubber legs trigger strikes. 

Skwala Stone Dry

Item Description Size Price To Top
  TFS-0065 Skwala Stone Dry 8 3 for $5.95

Stimulator, Peacock Body
This is the deadly pattern, which has been kept top secret by some sneaky early season trout guides for nearly two decades. Show this fly to early season bank-feeders for explosive success.

Stimulator, Peacock Body

Item Description Size Price To Top
  01114-08 Stimulator, Peacock Body 8 3 for $5.95

Silvey's Little Olive Stone Dry
Brian Silvey: When you walk into Brian's tying room you can't help but notice the piles of materials, dozens of rods, reels, scattered fly lines and what fly is in the vise. Brian ties hundreds of patterns before he fine tunes the fly to the one version that works the best. Then, that fly makes the cut to be in the exclusive company of his box. I steal them from him constantly. Why?

They work. Really well. Spend enough time with Silvey and you realize he's obsessed with figuring out exactly what fish want to eat. His ingenious approach, fish-contagious talent, and tying aptitude have contributed to his success. When he guides, proven patterns are on your line. When he plays, every fly is an experiment to find the next great pattern. Thankfully, his creations are available for us not so brilliant tiers, to have these patterns join the exclusive company of our fly box too!óMarty Sheppard
Little Creek Outfitters

Silvey's Little Olive Stone Dry

Item Description Size Price To Top
SIG-0237 Silvey's Little Olive Stone Dry 12 3 for $5.95

Karnopp's Sodom & Nemora Dry
Justin Karnopp says, "I grew up fishing the Nemora hatch on the Middle Deschutes and found that the fish there tended to selectively feed on the larger, egg-laying females. Trout also seemed to key in on the fluttering action of the wings. None of the local shops offered any winter stone patterns that were very good, in my opinion, and most of them were very difficult to see in the flat light of that particular canyon. With the lack of an effective pattern to fish I started working on my own design. Iíve fished some variation of this pattern during Nemora hatches for 15 years and have tweaked it a number of times to arrive at the present tie." He goes on to explain,
"I feel this fly has all the triggers that trout key on for Nemoras. The egg sack is a key, as are the rubber legs which give the fly some action. The parachute with strands of flashabou inter-mixed make the fly easy to see during those dark days in March and April when Nemoras hatch. This fly is deadly during Nemora hatches and makes a great dropper on a two-fly rig behind a Skwala. In Western MT, this pattern also doubles as an ant/beetle and makes a good general attractor.   Itís a good one to have in your box and will fish all season long.

Karnopp's Sodom & Nemora Dry 

Item Description Size Price To Top
SIG-1380 Karnopp's Sodom and Nemora Dry 12 3 for $5.95

Anato-May Nymph
Smaller
black beads are incorporated into this pattern to maintain more realistic coloration and
 sink rate. Heavy wire hooks donít straighten under the weight of significant fish. These flies are counter-shaded like natural insects. They are heavy and extremely durable.
Ken Morrish, who perfected this fly says, "Even though this is my go-to mayfly pattern, in the larger sizes, 10ís and 8ís, the Anato-may is your sleeper stonefly nymph.  I say sleeper because its name narrows the scope of the pattern.  However, the silhouette and colorations of the olive version make the perfect Skwala nymph." 

Anto-May Nymph

Item Description Size Price To Top
SIG-0094 Anto-May Nymph 10 3 for $5.95

Jimmy Legs Nymph
This pattern was spawned from the guides in Idaho and Montana taking an existing pattern called the Rubberlegs (Stonefly imitation) and retrofitting it for better fishing results.
 They would take the Rubberlegs and bend the hook to give it a more realistic nymph/stonefly profile. Then they would take their forceps and knot all of the legs. Idylwilde was just looking out for these hard working guides by putting the pattern on a factory bent hook and knotting the legs for them. The Jimmy Legs have been a semi-well kept secret of the guides for a few years. This is your chance to get something that can level the playing field for you.

Jimmy Legs Nymph

Item Description Size Price To Top
NSF-0101 Jimmy Legs Nymph 10 3 for $5.95

FFS Stone Fly Nymph, Golden
Like all other insects stoneflies must shed their exoskeletons in order to grow. Some species of stoneflies turn from dappled brown shades to gold color for a period after this process.  This brightly colored nymph pattern is very effective during high water periods when newly transformed nymphs are being washed from the gravel.  Heavy weighted.
FFS Stone Fly Nymph, Golden
Item Description Size Price To Top
11500-06 FFS Stone Fly Nymph, Golden 6 3 for $5.85
11500-08 FFS Stone Fly Nymph, Golden 8 3 for $5.85
11500-10 FFS Stone Fly Nymph, Golden 10 3 for $5.85

Gold Rib Hare's Ear Nymph
Quoting the venerable
Morilla, on epinions.com: If you were to ask one hundred fly fishers for their list of ten "must have" nymphs that could be used throughout the year, on virtually any water, to imitate the widest variety of hatches, and would likely get you into fish no matter the circumstances, the "Gold-Ribbed Hare's Ear" would probably be, if not the most frequently cited pattern, it would at least be in the top two or three. It is probably the most adapted, adaptable, modified, and recognizable nymph pattern in the U.S.
In the 1969 edition of Professional Fy Tying, Spinning and Tackle Making Manual and Manufacturer's Guide, the famed George Leonard Herter describes the wet fly version and states:

"The Hare's Ear and Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear both were made by fly tyer David Hemming of Redditch, England in 1832." p. 459 (He also notes on the same page that the only difference between the two patterns was the gold rib.)

Gold Rib Hare's Ear

A more complete version of the quote from Ernest Schwiebert's Nymphs (1973), would reference a work by Charles Cotton in 1676 where Schweibert states:

"...His list of flies included sixty-five patterns. Several are surprisingly nymphlike in character, as discussed earlier in this introductory chapter, and the Great Blue Dun that Cotton recommended for late February sounds like a prototype for the relatively modern Hare's Ear - the most effective hatching-nymph pattern ever dressed." (pp. 5 - 6)

In the 1978 revised and enlarged edition of Trout and Salmon Fly Index, Dick Surette posits, again in reference to the wet fly variation:

"This old pattern was in existence prior to 1839, when T. C. Hofland referred to the fur from between the ears of a hare. The originator can not be traced, but is from England..."

All we have to say is that in size ten, it's a pretty good Skwala nymph pattern and a consistant producer of trout.
Item Description Size Price To Top
  12100-10 Gold Rib Hare's Ear Nymph 10 3 for $5.95

Simms Guide Guide Jacket Up-dated for 2011

  • Industry standard jacket with 3-layer GORE-TEXģ Performance Shell protects in all conditions
  • Stowable storm hood features 3-point adjustment for total protection
  • Adjustable gathered waist
  • Storm cuff features water-tight stretch fabric inner and self-fabric over cuff
  • 2 Large bellowed front pockets and 2 patented built-in retractors
  • Large bellowed back pocket with vertical zipper
  • Integrated heater pack pocket inside hand pockets
  • Features YKKģ corrosion resistant zippers
  • Offered in 3XL and 4XL for an up-charge
Item Description Size Price To Top
OCG1099020 Simms Guide Jacket 2011, Black Olive Small $299.95
OCG1099030 Simms Guide Jacket 2011, Orange  Medium $299.95
OCG1099040 Simms Guide Jacket 2011, Black Olive Large $299.95
OCG1099050 Simms Guide Jacket 2011, Black Olive  X-Large $299.95
OCG1099060 Simms Guide Jacket 2011, Black Olive XX-Large $299.95
OCG1099070 Simms Guide Jacket 2011, Black Olive 3X-Large $349.95
OCG1099080 Simms Guide Jacket 2011, Black Olive 4X-Large $349.95
Item Description Size Price To Top
OCG1092120 Simms Guide Jacket 2011, Orange Small $299.95
OCG1092130 Simms Guide Jacket 2011, Orange  Medium $299.95
OCG1092140 Simms Guide Jacket 2011, Orange Large $299.95
OCG1092150 Simms Guide Jacket 2011, Orange  X-Large $299.95
OCG1092160 Simms Guide Jacket 2011, Orange XX-Large $299.95
OCG1092170 Simms Guide Jacket 2011, Orange 3X-Large $349.95
OCG1092180 Simms Guide Jacket 2011, Orange 4X-Large $349.95

By Popular Demand
Winter Steelhead Schools for January, February and March sold out quickly and built up a sizable waiting list. We have added more schools in March and April. These affordable schools feature a class in Spey casting followed by fishing school the next day. Classes can be taken individually or as a two day unit.  The two-day school offers a $25 discount. The two-day format has proven to be especially handy for travelling anglers.
To learn more, click the link below...
The Complete Suite of Winter Steelhead Fly Fishing Schools

The Fly Fishing Shop HOME. The Fly Fishing Shop, Welches, OR

1(800) 266-3971

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Fish long & prosper,
Mark & Patty