Rise to the Occasion (Skating For Steel)

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation releases additional flows to stop Klamath-Trinity River fish kills. Current Trinity River flows will remain 900 cfs. through Sept 14…check out T.R. current river conditions or call 530-623-6757 for additional info…

Mark N Trinity

Greased Line owner mark Noble skating a prime tailout

Fall Steeleading

Jeff Noyes scoring mid-day shadow success.

Late summer and fall in the northwest are seasons of change, beauty, opportunity and intensity. Days are shorter and cooler, triggering a sense of restlessness that fills the air while local landscapes slowly transition into a colorful collage of ever changing bursting beauty. Opportunity and intensity in that early season freshets, low flows, optimum air- water temperatures, late season aquatic hatches and returning cycles of eager fresh- run salmon-steelhead formulate a highlight of some of the most anticipated and exciting dry fly fishing any steelheader may wish to encounter.

To many, skating dry flies for steelhead is the ultimate challenge and accomplishment. The excitement of targeting and fishing surface waters and visually witnessing the explosive rise of a fresh run steelhead is simply mind boggling and becomes deeply embedded, a forever lasting memory. Just ask anyone who commits and skates—a few caught on skaters generally satisfies most for the entire steelhead season. Skeptical or feel that skating dries for steelhead is odd, rare, non- productive, requires special skills or is difficult to learn, read on.

Chad Sayre

Half-pounders are recklessly aggressive and love to crunch on top-Chad Sayre one of several.

Believe it or not, the single most difficult step when skating flies for steelhead is to believe and commit. To some, steelhead are too far and few between to step out of the box and devote precious time trying something new. However, for those willing to satisfy new temptations, accept the skating challenge, there is no better or more predictable time of year than late summer-fall. Don’t go half-ass, totally commit. Give yourself and your quarry a sincere shot; not just a few minutes or fish a single run, devote several hours, a day, several days, so you can tune in, hone your skills, recognize and better understand productive skating water compositions and most importantly cultivate self-confidence. Enjoy the learning curve and the pleasures of casting, dissecting surface waters, high anticipation level, becoming mesmerized by your fly dancing/ skating/waking through primary waters. Time on the water is well spent and no better way to learn; if you believe and commit they will come.

Trinity River native and hatchery late summer-fall steelhead stocks are prime candidates for skating dries. Early arrivals are fresh-bright, far from sexual maturity, aggressive and exposed, for months, to rich and fertile waters, teeming with aquatics (Isonychia-Baetis-Trico mayflies,Dicosmoecus fall caddis, hoppers, water boatman). It is just a matter of time before they roll the eyes and crunch. Head to tail, there is quality skating waters throughout the entire Trinity system; target gradual tapering riffles, thick velocity glides and tailouts supporting two to six ft. water depths. Early and late are generally the best times of the day to skate; once the sun rises overhead, bleaching out primary waters and warming temps, run for the shadows. Overcast rainy days are all but magical, inspiring fish rotation/movement and hold strong promise for skating success all day long.

Skating fly selections should include a variety of styles, colors and sizes to compliment water compositions and conditions; low, clear, smooth surface waters use smaller, sparse patterns; high, broken, colored waters go dark, big-bulky or go home. Selections should also include patterns that ride high, to compliment sensitive waters (tailouts-glides) as well as patterns designed to wake, disrupt surface waters (riffles) and create havoc. Bight day, go light, dark day, go dark, is pretty much the long and short of color preference. (See Trinity Fly Shop favorites). Generally, leaders should be 9-12 ft. tipping 2-3X, letting current conditions dictate lengths/tippits: low h20- go long/light-high h20-stay short/heavy. 6/7 wt. single hand and switch rods compliment most water compositions and match up well with the size of steelhead pulsing through. Lighter outfits such as 3/4 wt. pee-wee sticks are a blast for half-pounders but can also become fun trouble if an adult decides to get in on the action. Like pushing the limits and feel’n lucky?

Kit-Chucky-Joe's- It

Kit-Chucky-Joe’s- It

Greased Liner

Greased Liner

Rusty Bomber

Rusty Bomber

Palm Skater

Palm Skater

To fish a skater, cast slightly downstream, above and across primary waters and payout a small amount of line. Keeping rod high, similar to the high sticking position, allow the line to belly and slowly accept the river current, engaging the swing of the fly. Speed of the skate can be controlled by the amount of line paid out and raising and lowering the rod tip. Raising the tip accelerates the skate; lowering slows the skate. Water compositions and velocities also factor into achieving an effective presentation; it simply takes time to cultivate a feel for varied waters. Another popular method, referred to as chugging, is simply quartering a bulky waking pattern (Bomber etc.) down and across and as the fly begins to swing, incorporate tugs/pulls on the line making the pattern pop and chug on the surface and in the film. Depending upon the fly pattern and water applied, it may be necessary to incorporate a “riffle hitch” (two half hitches tied behind the head or eye of the hook; opposite the direction fished). The riffle hitch helps to offset the pattern, slightly sideways, to achieve optimum lift and skate; especially when targeting choppy riffles and waters affected by conflicting seams. However it is not always needed; always start without the hitch.

Skating dries is not difficult and can be effectively achieved by most anyone who has patience, maintains a positive attitude and is willing to commit. Sure there are many other productive steelheading techniques but this old mule can assure you, after 44 years of steelheading love, cussing, devotion and commitment there is nothing, zero (0), nada, that even comes close to the rush of witnessing the aggressions of a bolting steelhead erupting from the depths in an effort to crush your skater. Desiring full impact, looking to get rattled-believe, commit skate!

Non-descript waters

Non-descript, thick velocity glides are personal favorite skate waters that are often overlooked, not by Kit