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Why Steelhead Eat Flies
When Pacific steelhead return to fresh water rivers they have "nearly" stopped feeding. Rivers flowing from the Pacific rim do not provide enough food to sustain the metabolism of growing steelhead. Steelhead in fresh water become masters at conserving energy. They can go for months without eating.
| However steelhead can ingest and digest food
throughout all stages of their lives. They feed only
when the capture of food expends less energy than the energy
consumed by the capture. All animals feed this way or
starve to death.
In the Ocean, steelhead can easily obtain food in big nutrient rich bights of shrimp, krill and squid. This is high octane stuff. Ocean prey provides enough energy to be worth large expenditures of stored energy for capture. In the Ocean, steelhead are able to collect enough nutrients to store surplus energy as body mass. They grow very quickly. The larger the fish, the larger the prey. The larger the prey the more energy surplus. Growth continues as long as the fish feeds systematically.
Then some hormonal exchange happens and the "feeding mechanism" begins to take a back seat to the "go home and procreate mechanism". Steelhead reproduction can only happen in flowing oxygenated fresh water. Fresh water food organisms are much smaller than salt water food organisms. Can you imagine how many Baetis May Fly nymphs it would take to sustain a ten pound steelhead. The answer is: more than it could ever catch. It would take more energy to capture the nymphs than the energy they contain in food nutrients. The fish would be going in the hole with every pursuit. It is better to ignore them all together and concentrate on conserving energy.
However, if something the size of a squid or even a krill (or even your fly) came within easy striking distance, then the energy expenditure could be on the positive side and worth a go. When the prey is analyzed and the expenditure meter registers a plus flow the decision is instantaneous. A synapse fires in the pencil eraser size brain and the attack is made. This is because your fly has turned on the memory of something this fish was feeding on out in the Ocean. This memory is called a search image. This memory fades as the fish remains in fresh water. Eventually it is replaced with a fresh water search image. Some steelhead that remain in fresh water for a long period of time can start to feed like rainbow trout.
The acquisition of food
isn't the only reason that steelhead will take a
|Top Spot Skater, Green Butt Skunk is an outstanding searching pattern any tine the water is between 50 and 60 degrees. The "spot" of white deer hair forming the top of the head and front of the wing is tipped up for maximum visibility to the angler. this makes the fly easy to track and to control swing speed. The tightly spun head is clipped to an angle that provides lift.|
|01145-04||Top Spot Skater, Green Butt Skunk||4||3 for $5.95|
|Top Spot Skater, Fall Caddis is a unique pattern that fishes most of the spring, summer and fall seasons, but is at its best when the big orange caddis are in flight during the fall. This is a jazzed up version of Bill Bakke's Dragon Fly that has been around since the 1960's, but you will find that the "Top Spot Skater" wakes in a wider variety of waters.|
|01146-04||Top Spot Skater, Fall Caddis||4||3 for $5.95|
|The Bulkley Mouse is an outstanding searching pattern any tine the water is between 50 and 60 degrees. Originating in British Columbia on the world famous Bulkley River, the "mouse" has migrated south. Several very astute anglers have been using it as their searching fly on such divers waters as the Kalama, Deschutes, John Day and Imnaha.||
|99701-06||Bulkley Mouse Waking Fly||6||3 for $5.95|
|For serious steelheaders, we offer your choice of the three best spiked sole wading shoes on the market. All have been extensively tested by our staff. You may order on-line or phone and ask us for comparisons. To Top|
The last fading warmth of the sun
illuminated the top third of the shear face of the towering basalt cliff
on the opposite shore. This same gigantic stone bulwark would keep the
Deschutes in the shade until noon tomorrow morning. Now the shade from
the lower canyon wall to the east made me rush through the dry grass to
the smooth ledge studded tailout above camp. I had left Brad and Al in
the camp riffle water where they had been moving Steelhead all
afternoon. They didn't need my help or criticism.
|Trout have been looking up on the Deschutes. Dry fly fishing has been very good. If you have trouble seeing your elk hair caddis, try a Twilight Elk Hair Caddis. To Top|
|When a really large steelhead is hooked up, the piece of gear that most often determines the out come of the battle is the reel. Check out these comparisons of reels used for spey rod fishing.|
|As you fish the upper Sandy basin waters you will notice that the area has been signed by local volunteers in an attempt to explain the fishing regulations to the fishing public. This took a lot of work by some people dedicated to making the restoration of our wild fishery come to life. We at the Shop would like to say, "Thank You for this Community Service".|
|If you would like to read past "Insiders", click Archives|
|Your commentary is always welcome. Drop us a line: flyfish@flyfishUSA.com|
The Fly Fishing Shop, Welches, OR