Keep the hook side down (or up)

Some flies are designed to let the hook ride point down. Others want it riding point up. Regardless of the preference, there are a couple of ways to make sure the fly rides true on the swing. This is important with your fly, we don’t want spinning or a hook riding sideways. We only get a few shots at winter fish on a swung fly, so every detail counts.

  • Tie dumbbell eyes on the side of the hook you want pointing down. When the fly hits the water, the heavy eyes go down first and determine the position of everything else.
  • Tie directly onto a large hook (Alec Jackson steelhead hooks) They might be considered the old-school way to keep a fly upright, but Harry Lemire caught steelhead long before people were blogging about it. There’s a fine line between the right amount of wing to do the job and so much material that the fly doesn’t sink. Experiment with different amounts to find that balance, and you can always buy a pattern and inspect it to get a feel for proportion.
  • Throw a wing on it. Yup, put some material opposite of weight and desired hook direction and give her a keel! (see the video of Mr. Berry’s fly swimming true).

Build swinging flies with the right profile


When building flies to swing for steelhead, keep in mind how big in the water you want the fly to be.

For big profile flies, wrap a ball of chenille or dubbing behind your hackle to help the fibers stand up against the current. You want enough material that the fly doesn’t compress. Streamlined flies don’t need the support. Tie up both varieties to use in different conditions.

Regardless of the profile you’re tying at the moment, use less material than you think you need. You want your fly very sparse so it can sink through the water column. Too much material and it’ll never get down, and the movement of your oh-so-fancy natural materials will be limited with overdressing!

6 ways to better manage your tube flies

Tube flies are a bit of a different animal when it comes to rigging and organizing. Try these six tips for keeping your tubes in order and ready to go.

Use a compartment box

Find a clear plastic compartment boxes — a narrow one like the Tuff Tainer for your tube flies and rigging. They’re cheap, you can see what’s inside, and they hold more than just flies. DSC_1143

Save a cork – everyone loves a good Oregon Pinot

When you’re done enjoying a bottle of wine, keep the cork. Stick your hooks in it and keep it in the compartment box. The cork holds the hooks from falling around and helps the points stay sharp.DSC_1135

Simplify your hooks

Speaking of hooks, settle on one that you like for simplicity. We’re fans of the Owner SSW, Gamakatsu B10S & Octopus, and Matzuo Sickle hooks.

Rig up removable weight (more info to follow)

Tying unweighted flies and adding weight on the water gives you the most flexibility. Bullet-style worm weights are great for sliding on your leader ahead of tubes when you need to go HEAVY. But we carry tungsten beads in 7/32 and 3/16 sizes, too. Their lighter weight and smaller size work better in most situations. Mount them on HMH micro tubing, with ends melted so they slide easily, and stow all this in your compartment box. If you choose not to add the liner tube, watch out, they’ll fray and weaken your leader. No one wants to loose the one fish for the day because of their gear.

Add some junction tubing

Toss some extra junction tubing in your box. You’re bound to lose the pieces on your flies and without it, your hooks will sag. Nobody wants that.

Two hands not required – single hand rods for winter steelhead


Hatchery brat landed on a 10′ single hand 7wt

With the Alsea and other coastal creeks and rivers on the rise, steelhead will be moving upriver. When these fish get in the upper reaches of our coastal rivers, the need for spey and switch rods goes down and the good ol’ single hand 7/8/9 weight comes out. These are our tool of choice for fishing small, pocket water systems. Here is a breakdown of the rods we use.

Redington Path – 9′ 6″ 8wt $129.95- Fantastic rod for the price, responsive and powerful enough for even the biggest brutes without breaking the bank.

Echo Ion – 10′ 7 or 8wt $189.95- Although this rod is on the heavy side of things, the added length of this rod makes mending and line control a breeze. Add the durability Echo rods are known for and you can’t lose.

Echo 3 9’6″ 8wt $349.99- Echo has made a great effort to provide the money-conscious angler with rods that perform extremely well. This rod is making its name as a great all around steelhead rod. Plenty of backbone with a fast action, yet sensitive enough to feel those lethargic takes.With the Rajeff name behind the rod design, how can you go wrong?

Sage Response 9’6″ 8wt $395-  The beauty of Sage is that they are made in the USA on Bainbridge Island. We feel Sage has hit the nail on the head with this fast-action fishing machine. This is for the angler that doesn’t want to drop big bucks on the ONE or Method, but appreciates the value in buying a rod made stateside.

Sage ONE 9’6″ 8wt $785 – One of the lightest 8wt rods on the market, with enough backbone to turn the 10+ lb. fish, we’re really into this stick. With Sage’s newest blank technology, it tracks well enough to use out on the flats, even with an extra 6″ on it. Not in the budget for all, but a killer big fish rod.

Something we like to do…This is not for everyone, but this is something we have found to make single hand indicator/sink-tip fishing a lot easier – UP your line weight.

Conventional wisdom would tell me that I should put an 8wt salmon/steelhead taper on my 8wt rod and a 7wt line for my 7wt. The problem is, those lines are not the easiest to roll cast tungsten putty and a weighted egg pattern or jig style fly, and I personally hate being challenged by not only the river and weather conditions but also my gear.

The solution is to simply overload your rod by two line weights or more. This gives the line enough mass to carry a heavy rig and TURN IT OVER. It also makes it easier to load your single-hander deeply into the cork on a roll cast. We have even gone as far as to load single handers with regular switch and switch chucker lines 1-2 line weights lighter than your rod – i.e. 6/7 weight switch line on a single hand 8 weight (depending on the rod and casting preference).

Remember, this is not trout fishing, it is steelhead fishing. There is a reason a spinning rods with bobber and jig regularly out fish us… they are in the water and fishing more throughout the day than we are.