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  • Writer's pictureThe Drift Team

Steelhead - Early Season Preperations

Any die hard steelheader or guide will tell you that their season doesn't start in October with the first notable runs of fish.  Their season starts months prior pouring over notes from seasons past, comparing current water conditions to historical records, combing through their fly boxes and stocking up on proven patterns and a few wild cards for the upcoming year, and getting their rods matched up with the perfect line, and spending time on the water casting.  Steelhead have been given the title of 'The Fish of 1000 Casts' and these anglers and guides put the odds in their favour by putting their time in the off-season.

Two of the most frequently asked questions we field in the shop are 'where do I fish?' and 'what do I use?'.  Both are loaded questions, and we could talk someone's ear off for hours, and show them place after place with where to go and what to use. As best as we can, we describe what a run or pool looks like, its features how to approach it, but a few things are hard to convey while in the shop looking at a map on Google Earth, like exactly where a ledge or lip is, or a rock that seems to hold a fish.  We, along with the anglers and guides, described above, take the opportunity of the low & clear water and the incredible bass fishing on some of the best known steelhead rivers in Southern Ontario, not only to catch bass, but to scout water for the upcoming season.  Rivers are dynamic, they are constantly changing, and sometimes unrecognizable from one year to the next.   Just because the run or pool you fished a year or 2 years ago produced 5-10 fish during that season, that feature that held fish may not be there any more and it may not hold a single fish this year.  

Go out and learn your water!! Stop hoping for fish, and start hunting them!

So, what do smallmouth bass and steelhead have in common?  

Bass live in water that steelhead will occupy and hold in come the fall!  Grab a handful of poppers, Clouser minnows, and woolly buggers and hit the rivers!  With these blistering hot summer days, wet wade with your fly rod in one hand and wading staff in the other.  Probe all of the runs and pools you'll be fishing this fall and get to know them intimately.  Look for ledges, bouldery sections of a run, or a lone boulder in a featureless stretch, or anything that will hold a fish or many, and landmark them!  Landmark using permanent land features, or a GPS, because that rock or stick on the bank may not be there after the next major rainfall.  Don't forget spring up-wellings if you're wet wading you'll be able to feel the dramatic temperature difference.  These up-wellings will provide a consistent temperature where fish will relate to a feel comfortable all season long.  There are sections of river that are absolutely featureless in Southern Ontario, to your naked eye, the Grand River in Caledonia is a perfect example.  While polarized lenses help you discern features below the surface, nothing beats getting wet and finding those depressions where a fish will hold.  Some are small, only 2-3 feet long and only 12" deep, others are 50-60 feet  or more in length and can hide your 6' tall friend while standing on his toes.  When you head back in the fall, focus on these areas and as you find steelhead, compare them to your notes from your exploration this summer.  Start to build patterns, and focus your time on similar features.  

There is so much more to learn when it comes to steelheading in our great lakes region!

The best and most important lessons are the ones that are taught and learnt in the river and many start in a local fly shop.  

We're here to help!  If you're in need of advice on where to start, or how to start, or for advance skills and techniques, we're here for you!

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