Salmon And Steelhead Flies (9 of 11)
The flies used for salmon and steelhead are often unique. Many of the patterns are impressionistic. They don't try to imitate a specific food source. That's because salmon and steelhead don't feed much once they come into fresh water on the journey to spawning grounds. So, why do they strike a fly? There's a lot of speculation and conjecture about this point. Many believe that fish react to protect or defend their territory. Others believe they strike or take flies because they're feeding instinctively; even though they're not hungry when in spawning mode.
Either way, fly tiers have developed many unique flies to trigger strikes, and get takes. Some of these patterns are quite beautiful, and artistic, while others can be garish and wild. I'd recommend patterns to you, but there are just so many, and they're so specific to species and location, there's just not enough time to address them all. Just do some basic research on what you need, based on these criteria, and you'll find you get the patterns you need.
The only exception to this rule is steelhead, especially in the Great Lakes region. They will eat on their spawning run, and may pick up salmon eggs, other steelhead's eggs, nymphs or even small bait fish. So egg patterns, nymphs and streamers will work for these steelhead.
There are a lot of theories about why salmon and steelhead take a fly. They feed little, if any, when they come in from salt water into fresh water. They do take flies, so Gil, why do you think steelhead take flies?
Gil: Steelhead take flies purely out of instinct. They snap at things as young juvenile smolts, in back channels, small streams, creeks, tributaries to the Skeena, and that's purely out of survival. As they progress, and they get older, they still have to continue to feed. They move down to the ocean, and as they're in the ocean, they're feeding on many different creatures out there. As they come back to their native rivers as adults, putting a fly in front of them, we're trying to duplicate and replicate the things that they eat in the ocean, such as the lamprey pattern or the smolts, or these dry flies, some of these things, these different patterns that we use, they are simulating a lot of the things that they've seen throughout their entire lives, in all these creeks and streams in the Skeena drainage.
Speaker 1: So, it's memory and reflex.
Gil: A lot of it, yup. And they're a very aggressive fish. They're a predator, and I believe that in most situations, if they're there, they'll bite.
Speaker 1: Great.