Every year, sometime near the end of fall, I make a wish. I wish for a normal winter. It never comes true. Being in the "banana belt" we are thrown curve balls every winter steelhead season. Flooding to ultra low water and everything in between. We've seen it all this year. And with each changing condition you must adjust and adapt, follow your instincts, your gut.
Stick with your gut. It's usually right.
While the season hasn't been normal, it has been a productive one. I am a stubborn, hard headed and loyal steelheader. I don't stray from the rivers I love. Throughout all the changing conditions, I stay and see them through it. By staying with these rivers and not chasing reports of good fishing elsewhere, I see all the different moods of the river and ultimetly the steelhead that live there.
Through trial, error and a lot of exploring you will begin to know a river and it's steelhead. "Knowing" a river is an over-statement, rivers hold secrets securely and don't give them up easily. Every day on the river is valued and something is learned if you pay attention, no matter the condition.
There are about a dozen steelhead in the pool, to the un-trained eye there may only be one obvious one. Pardon my french near the end of the video but, I was just taken by the sight of these fish. Yes, one of them took my fly.
In the winter conditions change dramatically from day to day and sometimes by the minutes. And over time on a river you can get a sense for the mood of the fish, this is when fly choice becomes key. Mostly between large gawdy intruders to smaller buggier ones. But more importantly presentation and depth.
My wish has not come true, it never does. I like it that way.
As lame as it sounds, "keep your fly in the water", pay attention to it though.
In the time it took me to drink a quarter of this beer, I watched a hen fish move up the riffle below into this tailout. Something was different with her. She moved around as if she knew the place for a good half hour, untill she started testing the gravels, she was home. Being the begining of March, this is the time our coastal fish start spawning in full force(They can start as early as January, late Feb., March is the start for more inland rivers). They've come along way to prolong their survival, and deserve our upmost respect. For all that an adult steelhead goes through to come back to spawn, privacy they truly deserve.
To a true steelheader, kelts don't count.