Swing the Fly Issue 2.4 Spring 2015 - Page 38

In any given year an angler in the Great Lakes region has a wide choice of rivers in which to chase steelhead and other migratory species. From the region’s plentiful small intimate rivers or streams with flows under or barely exceeding 100 cubic feet per second to the raging thoroughfares that act as connecting waterways between the chain of lakes with flows exceeding 100,000 cubic feet per second. And there is everything in between in terms of size, depth, and gradient. Whether taking advantage of local fisheries or traveling throughout the Great Lakes, being able to meet all the challenges that exist in region will often be dependent on having a properly rigged system to effectively cover the water.

Some of the fly tackle that I use in the Great Lakes transfers well to my favorite Pacific coast rivers. However, it is the extra tip wallet that I carry for my home rivers that sets things apart. Short, light tips or even tapered sinking leaders do very well to cover the smaller tributaries that dot the perimeter of all the lakes. While my preference has always been for larger water, lighter switch rods have clearly changed the way I view swinging fly opportunities on small intimate flows.

Water temperatures will always have an impact on steelhead behavior wherever they swim. Reduced temperatures, especially a dramatic decrease, affect a fish’s willingness to move up for a fly. And pressured steelhead tend to relate closely to structure for security decreasing the chance of moving far to intercept an offering. Since temperature and fishing pressure are factors that any angler swinging a fly in the Great Lakes will encounter, presenting the fly in manner that is easily accessible to a steelhead is important to success.

Many of the region’s smaller rivers and streams are picturesque waters meandering aimlessly through woods, gorges, and pastures. Those with fairly gentle flows require a minimal sink rate tip to cover small pools and broad tail outs. Tapered sinking leaders in lengths of seven to ten feet with sink rates of three to six inches per second is all that is required on most of the smaller waters

that I fish. The Rio Spey Versileader, Airflo PolyLeader or Orvis PolyLeader are examples of this style of product. Sinking leaders are low in diameter and can be cast with a wide range of line types. While a Skagit head will deliver a sinking leader effortlessly, I enjoy using a head with a lighter feel and smooth transition for delicate casts. I may also use a slightly weighted fly to allow it to sink at the same rate as the tip. In small water the swing is short so getting the fly to the proper depth quickly is important.