Fly of the Month

Two sizes of the Steelhead Muddler

Two sizes of the Steelhead Muddler

 

This collection of the Steelhead Muddler  were tied on assignment over the winter. I like this pattern.  I might try one as the trailer fly replacing the G.R. Hare’s Ear in my Carpetbagger and Hare’s Ear Rogue River tadem fly setup. It will get down deep in the cold water. As Dec Hogan mentions, with the red gills it qualifies as a minnow…not a grasshopper. Further the steelhead are suppose to “hammer it.” I’ll give it a try.

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March first cast

John fishes the River X

John fishes the River X

 

The rain spiked the Rogue River, but it didn’t spike all the adjoining waters. I was tempted and drawn to flyfish a tributary with a guest and friend. We should have stayed home. Low water on this particular river usually equates with crummy flyfishing. Even during the latter part of March. Add some water flow at least above 250 CFS and it is a whole different story. If the water flow remains low, like it is going to do this year through the end of March, your better off fishing the slow, deep, holding pools with a garden hackle (nightcrawler) and a bit of split shot.

The mainstream Rogue River is a different story. The water flow shot up (rose really high) and now has come down to decent levels.  Yesterday on my first revisit to the Rogue, I caught a steelhead on my very first cast. The chrome, bright streaker really put on a good show. With that high water flow these fish can really move. I felt my drag-fingers burn a bit on that first wild run. Later during the fight, I caught this first glimpse of chrome side.

Bit of chrome comes up from the depths

Bit of chrome comes up from the depths

At this point I could tell which fly the fish took. The Orange Beadhead Carpetbagger was very visible about 20 inches above the fish. She had taken that trailing Beadhead G.R. Hare’s Ear nymph.

Putting a bend to the rod

Putting a bend to the rod

Sideways pressure with the flyrod helps keep the fish near the shore and away from the heavy current. The strength of an 11 foot switch rod is more than enough.

Near time to land one

Near time to land one

Sideways pressure keeps the fish moving to the shore. After a couple attempts to flounder the fish near the bank you are usually able to acomplish that task. Gradually the fish becomes prime for the landing near shore. This one is tailed and shows that winning G.R. Hare’s Ear nymph embedded in the corner of the mouth.

Upper Rogue River winter steelhead

Upper Rogue River winter steelhead

Mid March Rain

Warmer rain and at the right time. Now conditions will bring the fish up. The river will have to drop a bit after this spike in flow. The steelhead will migrate with gusto come mid-March. The rain is predicted to taper off tonight and early tomorrow. Let’s hope the river drops fairly quick from these present levels.

http://waterdata.usgs.gov/or/nwis/uv/?site_no=14339000&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060

Rogue River flows low and slow

Mt Mcloughlin with early March snow

Mt Mcloughlin with early March snow

 

With a wintery Mt. Mcloughlin looking down on us, Teri and I flyfished for steelhead on the 10th. The Rogue’s water flow is low and cold. Even thought the sun was out, we bundled up for the cold and wind.

Teri flyfishing for steelhead

Teri flyfishing for steelhead

 

We brought along a good selection of rods. Our arsenal consisted of one plug rod for steelhead, a couple flyrods set up for steelhead and a trout rod for dry fly action.

Steelhead and trout rods for a day on the river.

Steelhead and trout rods for a day on the river.

 

I stayed warm by rowing and taking an occasional hot drink from the warm thermos. Steelhead action, as it has been for weeks, remains light. Today the trout were not even biting. I believe I caught one, and remember one other bite.  We fished my Carpetbagger flies and G.R. Hare’s Ears. I ran a dark, flashy  Michael Jackson plug on the Shimano rod. The steelhead do not seem to be around.

Neil enjoying a warm mug

Neil enjoying a warm mug

 

So where are the steelhead? They are still moving up. The current conditions are keeping them wide and scattered. Some would even say, they remain well hidden. As an example of how the Rogue’s steelhead distribute I’ll show you one I spotted yesterday. There’s a little creek that flow through the southern Rogue Valley called Bear Creek. Right now it is a very small creek with minimal water flowing. From an urban bridge Teri and I spotted this nice winter steelehead. I judge it to be about an 8-10 pound hen. We were even privileged to observe this gal gulping at a hatch of small emerging nymphs!

Lone steelhead laying in a tailout

Lone steelhead laying in a tailout

 

There can you see her now?

There can you see her now?

 

About a 28 to 30 inch hen steelhead waiting for higher water!

About a 28 to 30 inch hen steelhead waiting for higher water!

March Arrives

March has arrived with more blustery winter weather. YesterdayTeri and I made our first float of the year. The weather was a heck of a lot better and we enjoyed a good time flyfishing on the Rogue. Additionally, we were able to stop by the local State Marine Board and get the driftboat inspected for all the required safety equipment. The drifter passed with flying colors.

On the river we flyfished for trout and winter steelhead. The water still runs cold at around 41°F. We did note some dry fly hatch activity and fished accordingly to a number of shakers.

Teri on the Rogue River

Teri on the Rogue River

 The trout that were active were rising to something that was really small. We knew that we could fool them with a very small G.R. Hare’s Ear fished on the swing. And so we did.

Teri enjoys casting her Sage rod.

Teri enjoys casting her Sage rod.

Teri leans into the forward cast and shoots line.

Teri leans into the forward cast and shoots line.

Still wanting to catch that first upper river winter steelhead I suggested that we change gear to heavier flies. Teri, who pretty much always makes up her own mind, bypassed my suggestions and opted for a recently tied Freight Train. For when I would get a chance to fish, I chose a heavier Carpetbagger and Beadhead G.R. Hare’s Ear nymphs.

Teri's Freight Train steelhead fly.

Teri's Freight Train steelhead fly.

Actually I chose for my rod, the big Orange Beadhead Brown Bagger nymph. That’s simply a Carpetbagger tied with Copper/Black chenille and a huge orange bead. I’d lost a nice steelhead early in the week on the same pattern. Lost not just the steelhead and fly, but a whole flyline! That steelhead was hooked pretty straight downstream of my position, and when the backing left the reel and came under some tension, it parted.

A bit more of bad luck from early in the week. While wading some deep water, my Canon camera got just a little bit wet. I’ve dried it out pretty well, but as the rest of the photo’s will show, it still has issues. Tough camera though. I’ve nursed it through the Canon E-18 error issue and now this.  I think with a little more drying time the A-60 will be back in good shape.

On yesterdays float, Teri succeeded in showing me that the Freight Train pattern tempts not only steelhead , but also the Rogue’s cutthroat trout.

Teri battles a fiesty cutthroat trout

Teri battles a fiesty cutthroat trout

Definitely the trout of the day. Teri played the cutty to the cheers of some spectators on shore. When the time was appropriate I assisted with the Drifter’s net.

A quick release from the fish friendly net

A quick release from the fish friendly net

Teri's good choice of fly pattern

Teri's good choice of fly pattern

A Hare’s Ear nymph accounted for one other notable good sized trout. I believe I observed a steelhead create a rise on the surface. A good sized fish. If it was a cutthroat then it was a grandpa cutty. Many cast to the area produced nothing. The river runs higher yet cold and clear, and the bite is yet to come during March.