Due to a very long winter, and extremely late spring we were left with less that adequate water conditions thus far in our fishing season. This turned our attention to find other things to do than fishing. Somewhat of a daunting task considering our appetite for fly fishing. However, left with little choice we tried.
Someone told us that our new lodge on the Morice River was smack in the middle of some of the best morel mushroom picking in the province and we decided to give it a try.
Armed with our jet boat, waders, polarized glasses we immediately saw a huge connection to our world of fly fishing. These mushrooms grow in last years forest fires. Walking around the black, singed, apocalyptic aftermath of a massive forest fire is surreal. These mushrooms are extremely camouflaged in the soot, and take a keen eye to spot, like finding a steelhead in a bouldery tail out.
Mushroom picking is all about knowing what to look for, which is exactly how you become successful in sight casting to steelhead. With all this in mind we decided to write this blog on sight casting for steelhead.
Much of our steelhead fishing on the Morice is sight casting in gin clear water. There is without a doubt a certain kind of ‘behaviour’ that you have to adopt if you want to catch fish or find morels.
Often a steelhead can be detected not so much by looking for the fish itself, but by looking for the dark fish-shaped shadow it casts below its body. With steelhead there are relatively few fish. Obviously, this means a lot of barren water to blind fish if you are thinking of covering every available inch. However, they often lie out in shallow water, well away from covered banks and trees, preferring the camouflage of rippled water and dappled stones. Polarized fishing glasses to minimize glare are key.
Spotting takes a practiced eye and the eyes of a veteran guide are invaluable. The advantage of clear water which we normally have on the Morice, makes spotting a possibility, and if you can stay composed enough to make some casts you have a great shot of hooking it.
Careful wading is another key to improved success. By moving behind or slightly to the side of a spotted steelhead, and taking care not to make unnecessary noise or movement, it is possible to get within thirty to forty feet of most of them. Steelies which at first seem unapproachable, let alone catchable, are actually suckers for a good first cast. Your success rate will sky-rocket if you force yourself to drop that first cast ahead of the fish.
Stalking steelhead is a practical and expedient way to fish water because these runs are relatively small populations of undisturbed large steelhead. It works best on bright sunny days on smaller streams with brush or high bank backgrounds. It regularly produces the maximum result from a minimum of water. It requires patience and skill, but it is a truly fascinating and fun way to fish.