Friday, December 21, 2012

Turd Wrangler

You guys can thank Aaron Ostoj for the name of this tube fly.  It cracked me up as soon as he posted his comment in a reply on Facebook.  He thought it would look good for a sculpin species that he and his friends affectionally call "Turd Wranglers."

My thought process behind this fly was to tie something that has a good amount of movement, is not too big and not too small, and could possibly look like a scuplin or maybe even a crayfish.  I also wanted to have a nice balance of natural materials and synthetic materials that would complement each other and work together well.

If you like quality fly tying materials for high end flies such as married wing salmon flies and classic spey and dee flies, stop by his site.  I'm sure you'll find something you like!

Monday, December 10, 2012

HP Crayfish

This pattern has accounted for the majority of Steelhead that I have caught since I started swinging flies for Salmon River, NY Steelhead.  I'm not sure how often the Steelhead see crayfish out in the lake or if they remember the crayfish trying to kill them when they were young, but I do know that they like to grab these under various conditions.

I like to fish other flies as well, but like you, I have some I keep coming back to year after year.  This is one of them and I have been told that they work well in Maine for Smallmouth and have accounted for some above average Brown Trout in Montana.

I fish this like most of my swinging flies......down and across.......and HANG ON!!

There is some more to it than that, but I bet this fly will put you in a good mood too.


Tube: 1 1/4" long tube - diameter of 1/8" or smaller
Hook: Blackbird Sabretooth - size 4
Thread: 8/0 black
Antennae: GP tail fibers and Peacock Sword fibers
Ribbing: Small gold or copper wire
First body: Brown dubbing
Antennae/Feelers: Whiting Bird Fur - Coachman Brown
Claws: Hen Pheasant feathers
Mid-body joint: Peacock sword or Peacock herl
Hackle: Hen Pheasant marabou
Ribbing: Small Gold or Copper wire
Second Body: Tan Dubbing
Carapace: 2 Hen Pheasant feathers

(Recently I have been adding a small conehead to the front of the tube and also using orange colored junction tubing in the rear.)

Step 1: Attach the thread to the tube, wrap back to the junction tubing and apply some super glue to the thread wraps.

Step 2: Strip off about 5-8 fibers from a Golden Pheasant tail. Tie them on top of the tube right at the junction tubing.

Step 3: Strip of about 4-6 fibers from a Peacock Sword and tie them on top of the GP tail fibers.

Step 4: Snip of a 3"-4" piece of small gold wire and attach it to the far side of the tube.

Step 5: Spin some brown dubbing onto your thread and wrap the first body. Stop just shy of the midpoint.

Step 6: Rib the body with the small gold wire. Tie off and trim excess.

Step 7: Pick out 2 small to medium sized feathers from a Whiting Bird Fur neck. Don't strip off any fibers and tie them onto the sides of the tube. The fluffier filoplume should extend to the tip of the Pea**** Sword but not any further.

Step 8: Select two, nicely mottled, Hen Pheasant feathers and tie them onto the sides of the tube right where the bird fur is tied. These will be the claws and they should extend just past the Pea**** Sword fibers. Tie everything on good and tight, then trim the excess.

Step 9: Select a few fibers from a Pea**** Sword or use a few Pea**** herls instead. Tie them in at the mid-body point and wrap them to make a small joint between body sections. Tie off and trim excess.

Step 10: Select a fluffy marabou like feather from a Hen Pheasant. The stem should be long enough to make 3-4 turns. Strip off the fibers on the lower half and tie the feather in by the butt.

Step 11: Snip of a 3"-4" piece of small gold wire and attach it to the far side of the hook shank.

Step 12: Spin some tan dubbing onto your thread and wrap the second body.

Step 13: Rib the second body with 3-4 turns of gold wire. Tie off and trim excess.

Step 14: Wrap the Hen Pheasant marabou feather forward, keeping each turn on the rear edge of the wire. Tie off and trim excess.

Step 15: Trim off the hackles on top of the tube where the carapace will be located.

Step 16: Select 2 Hen pheasant feathers for the carapace. One should be lightly colored and mottled, the other should be dark and mottled. Strip off the fibers from the base of the stem so the lightly colored feather extends to the base of the antennae. The darker feather should be slightly shorter.

Step 17: Hold the feathers one on top of the other and tie them in at the same time, on top of the hook shank. Trim off excess and finish the head.

Side View

Top View

Monday, November 5, 2012

Salmon River Trip Report - October into November


After Allen, Chauncey and myself got back to Rochester, I packed my gear up and headed over to Pulaski.  It was going to be an interesting weekend since hurricane Sandy was on her way up the coast.  I was also unsure of when my Dad and our buddies were going to arrive since they were going to play it by year with the hurricane. 

Due to hurricane Sandy, a few poeple decided to stay home so they cancelled their trip with my friend and guide, Paul Conklin.  Considering the predicitions of what was to come along the coast, I'm sure we would have cancelled the trip too, if we were in their shoes.

Paul and I decided to take advantage of his free time so we hit river and floated from Pineville to 2A bridge.  Boy what a difference a few days makes!!  When I was at Oak Orchard we were fishing in T-shirts, now I had on a few extra layers to stay warm.  Honestly it was still a bit balmy for Pulaski this time of year so we weren't complaining.

It was a slow morning at the first area we stopped at although we could see some steelhead splash every now and then. Paul was the first to hook up and all I heard was his old hardy screaming.  I look downstream and see a pretty hefty steelhead going nuts as it jumped a few times.

I hustled down to him and got my camera out to take a few pics.  This steelhead was truly ticked off and did not want to play nice at all.  Paul would gain a little line to work him upstream, but the steelhead would turn around and take another run.  Paul did his best but the steelhead won when the fly pulled loose.

Paul took a little break so I went back to were I was and tried to get back in the groove of using a 13ft spey rod.  My timing was a bit off but it was nice to lay out some line and feel the tension of the swing in my fingers.  Paul took a few cool pics as well!!

Things started to warm up a bit from the morning, but the steelhead just didn't want to cooperate.  We could see them as we floated over them and even saw a bunch run by at one area, but I guess the raise in water flow had their minds on migrating and moving upstream while they had the chance.

Since things were slow Paul gave me his gopro camera and I put it on the end of a telescopic pole he had brought along.  I was holding it down close to the water as we went over some small rollers and then sort of scanned the camera around while we floated.

At one point, I almost got caught on camera going overboard head first!!  Hey!! Where did that rock come from.....jack!!  Even though the fishing wasn't hot, it was one of the best days I've had on the Salmon River in a long time.  I hope we get to do it again soon Paul!!

Monday 29, 2012 & Tuesday 30, 2012
Nothing good happened for any of us on these two days although we did enjoy our time all day long.  As usual we had brought our little grill and a hot plate to cook lunch and dinner.  We also had plenty of laughs each night and made the most of our trip.

Wednesday 31, 2012
 In the AM all of us went to the 2A Bridge area and decided to split up. It didn't amount to much so we all came back to the vehicles and headed to the room for an early lunch.

After lunch my Dad and Dave decided to head up to Pineville and Joey went to the Sportsmens hole.  Joe and I did a little walking to get away from the crowd and I set him up in a nice run that he had yet to swing flies through.  A fish boiled as soon as we got there so that got Joe's attention right away.  He rigged up a new fly and I hiked upstream about a 1/2 mile to get to some water I like.

Upon arriving at the area I chose to fish, I found out that there was a guide in a drift boat with clients at the top of the run.  No big deal, there was plenty of room below them in the next stretch.  I figured I might as well put on a fresh piece of tippet as well as a different fly to swing.  I selected a slinky dink in black and blue with an irridescent blue peacock feather wrapped as the collar. As I rigged up one of the guys hooked up with a nice bright chromer, but lost it after a short battle.

I had began working some line out and covering the water in close to shore before stripping more line out.  Nothing happened so I worked my way downstream after a few casts and got into a rhythm.  I was almost down to the tailout when I got hammered.  Oh boy!!  This feels like a pretty good one!! Then nothing at the end of the line. Damn!!  Oh well at least I got a tug on a pattern I haven't used before.

By this time the boat had drifted down stream out of site so I checked my tippet for nicks and made sure the hook was still sharp and not damaged in any way.  Since it was open up top, that's where I went and figured out a way to fish the water since casting room was at a minimum.  Even though there were other people fishing the water a little while ago, I felt confident since they were drifting flies and egg sacs, and I was going to show them a meal on the move.  I also made sure to let the water rest for a bit, instead of hopping in right away.

I sat down and slide off the bank as quietly as possible since there was some good water very close to shore.  I snuck upstream about 10 yrds to tuck in against a fallen tree that was right where the riffle started. I also looked around to see how much casting room there was and where there would be a clear rod path during the cast.  Since I only had the poly leader and a foot or two of line outside the rod tip, I could do a reverse single play.  I was having fun with the switch rod, and this particular spot really showed me the value of a shorter rod.  A 13ft rod would have never been able to work in this location.

I made three casts and swung through the pocket closest to shore, then i stripped out a few more feet of line to cover more water and the rest of the seam that was downstream of me.  On the second cast after stripping more line out, the line came tight and a hot steelhead was going nuts.  While this fish was raising heck, I was watching the tip of my rod and dodging tree branches.  At the same time I was looking for a little open slot to land this fish.  Lucklily the steelhead stayed close and didn't head into the little log jam below me.  After alot of thrashing around at my feet which sprayed water all over me, the steelhead calmed down and I was able two get two quick pictures of her.  Thank you sweetheart!!  You are the nicest one of the year so far!!

There was about an hour and a half of sunlight left so I started back down the trail to see how Joe made out and if he got his first steelhead on the swing yet.  I was about 150 yds away and I happened to look up at the same time Joe set the hook and raised the rod.  I could see the rod tip dancing so I ran down the trail to help Joe land his prize.

I made it to Joe just when he needed a hand and we landed a nice little steelhead.  I thought it might have been his first steelhead on the swing, but when I asked him he said, "THIS IS MY SECOND ONE CHIPPER!!"  We took a break on the bank and Joe told me everything from beginning to end.  It was great to hear about his success and how everything came together for him.  Welcome to the club Joe!!  There is no turning back now!!!


Thursday 1, 2012
We fished mid river in the morning and explored a few areas but there wasn't much to report.  Even the other anglers in the area we were fishing didn't have much luck either.  We gave it our best shot and covered plenty of water, but we all had a growling stomach and were ready to head back to the room and enjoy lunch.
After lunch Joe and I decided to go back to the area we were the previous afternoon.  I'm pretty sure we both hoped to have a little success like yesterday. Joe stayed in the area he liked and hiked upstream.

Upon arriving at the area I wanted to fish, I found out that there were two other guys at the top of the run.  No big deal, there was plenty of room below them in the next stretch.  I figured I might as well put on a fresh piece of tippet as well as a different fly to swing.  I selected a slinky dink in brown and orange with two small orange glass beads on the trailing wire. As I rigged up one of the guys hooked up with a nice bright chromer, but lost it after a short battle.

I slid off the bank and ducked under a small tree limb to get into casting position.  I literally had just the polyleader out of the rod tip and a foot of fly line.  On the second cast the fly hit the water and swung about two feet, then all of a sudden my line comes tight and it starts getting peeled off my reel by a steelhead running downstream as fast as he could.  I am enjoying the show when he turns around and starts coming right back upstream as fast as he went downstream.  Reel, reel, reel, reel........come on keep the line tight I kept telling myself.  He then turned right at me and came right to me feet and I lost all tension in the line.  Game over.  Wow....well that happened fast.

The other guys had left so I went back upstream where I landed the steelhead yesterday.  I did the exact same thing as yesterday except the fly was the brown and orange slinky dink.  It was almost like deja vu except the ending didn't work out in my favor.  On about the fifth cast I get hammered in the exact same spot as the day before.  The steely came up an rolled and for some dumb reason I set the hook again, which really turned into me pulling the fly out of the steelheads mouth.  Doh!! You dummy!!  Oh well, having two fish take on the swing isn't too bad for one afternoon.  At least they are approving the fly of choice.

Little did I know that the steelhead had some more action in store for me.  I moved downstream to where I started and had hooked and lost the first steelhead, figuring I would let the water above rest for a bit.  Nothing happened on the first couple of swings in close, so I started working out some more line to cover more water. Maybe 15 minutes had passed and I was letting the fly hang on the dangle while I was watching some hawks fly by.  WHAM!!  What the!? I am landing this one!!  Luckily it was a small one and came in rather quickly since I horsed him to shore. 

I checked the watch I had hanging on my bag and I had to make a decision of whether or not to stay and fish or head back down to where Joe was fishing.  After the quick action I had been getting, I decided to stay.  No need to find fish if they are already in front of me.

I retied a new piece of 12lb tippet on to the end of my polyleader and tied the same fly back on the end of the line.  I didn't make my way that far downstream so I walked upstream a few feet and started over again.  Nothing happened on the shorter casts so I worked out plenty of line to cover as much water as possible.  I got to where I had just landed the previous steelhead and the fly is just about to swing through a small little seam about 45 degrees down below me and I start getting that feeling that something is going to happen.  The fly swung into the seam and held there for a second, then it swung out of the seam and     KA-PLOW!! This lady was hot and put on one heck of a show.  I think she was out of the water just as much as she was in water, and if she wasn't jumping she was thrashing and rolling around near the surface.  It was one of funnest fights I've ever had the priviledge to be a part of even though I was just holding on, trying to keep up with her moves.  Even at the end of the fight she was so hot that she beached herself, got the hook out on her own, and released herself all in one motion!!  I was laughing and just shaking my head in amazement. 

I had about 20 minutes left now, so once again I put a new piece of 12lb tippet on along with the same fly and started where I did before.  Still smiling from ear to ear I began to work the line out again and proceeded to cover the water.  I checked my watch....10 more minutes before I need to head down the trail. I made another cast, the fly landed and moved about 2 ft when I felt I light bump on the line so I set the hook.  HOLY CRAP!!  It's another this really happening?!?! This one decided not to jump and only thrashed on the surface a few times.  The rest of the fight was spent pulling hard against one another.  This steelhead looked to be about the same size as the one before, but felt like it had more weight.  This one was a bear to land because every time it came close to shore it would motor back out in the current and sulk.  Finally I got her into the soft current and took a quick pick and let her on her way.

Wow!! What an afternoon on the mighty Salmon River.  That was 5 steelhead on the end of the line in less than 2 hours.  Even though I didn't land them all it was an incredible experience in such a short time. 

Friday 2, 2012
Since the morning didn't produce any takers, Joe and I decided to head back to where we were the day before to see if we could have a repeat performance.  I hiked up to where I wanted to fish and put the slinky dink with the orange beads back on the end of my line again.  I also had a new piece of 12lb tippet tied on so I was ready go!!

There were a decent amount of guys around and a few boats came thru as well, but nobody was hooking up.  It was pretty raw outside and I'm sure the extra fishing pressure during the morning hours had something to do with the fish not wanting to "play."  There was a few more hours of daylight left and there had to be a few fish around, so I kept working my way down the run.

I fished through the area I had did so well in yesterday and didn't have a take so I kept on going.  I was getting down to a little area where the run gets a little shallow then drops off into a deeper cut before the next hole begins.

The fly hits just above the tip of the island in the shallow water, then starts to swing down through the deeper cut.  I hold on to my loop and keep focused on the swing and the speed of fly.  Doink.....drop the loop and nothing came tight.  I take two little strips of line to get a little loop back and WHAM!!  The line goes shooting out of my fingers and then the drag starts spinning.  A nice steelhead comes up to the surface and puts on a little show and then heads downstream some more. I slowly make my way down past some fallen timber and navaigate my way into a safe landing area.  The steelhead played rather nice and came right over to the shore in the slack water.  I had gotten my camera out during the fight so as soon as he calmed down I took a picture, popped the hook out and let him back on his way!!

Not a bad way to end a trip!!  See you after Thanksgiving Mr. and Mrs. Steelhead.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Swinging Flies for Salmon River Steelhead - Introduction

I got into swinging flies to get away from fishing the bottom so I haven't used any extremely heavy tips or  T-material. I feel that if i do my job, the player Steelhead that wants my fly will come and smash it, no need to take it down to their nose. That being said I'm not just hucking it out there and hoping for the best. I know the odds are against me with this approach, but it's the way I choose to play the game.  Seems right to me since I am going to release them anyway. Flounder fishing, now that's another story!!

I understand that with this approach, I won't be able to target all the different types of water on the Salmon River and that's ok with me. I don't view all of the water as "swinging water" anyway. Is it possible to try and cover all the water....sure. Is it the best use of your time while on the water? I don't think so when it comes to spey fishing and swinging flies in the Salmon River. That is just my opinion since I view the spey rod as a specific tool.

Personally, if I did want to fish deeper I would switch to a mono leader and a weighted fly. That might be a metal tube of some sort, maybe a conehead streamer type fly, or a shank style fly with the shank wrapped with tungsten sheeting or non-lead wire. The casts may not be that pretty, but it will get the job done.  Controlling the presentation and the positioning of the fly with a mono leader has it's advantages too. If you haven't tried it, even during winter, you might be pleasantly surprised.

One of the first things to understand about swinging flies in the Salmon River is that the speed of the fly or speed of the swing is critical. If the fly is swinging too fast most steelhead won't make an effort to chase it down since it will take too much energy. Too slow and the fly probably won't look enticing enough to get the "smash and grab" reaction. Obviously there are a number of factors that dictate what the perfect speed of the swing would be. Time of year, water temp, water flow, water clarity, and many other things come into play and keep this game interesting.

In order to control the speed of the fly we must understand the area we are fishing, and especially where the fish are holding. Once we have an idea of these two things it is then possible to make the cast to a specific area. Once the cast is made, upstream mends or downstream mends will need to be employed. Don't get in the habit of making the cast on the same angle and making the same mend over and over again. Think of yourself as the fly on the end of your line, and remember, you're also the puppeteer. Bringing this fly to "life" and making it look "alive" is the goal. This takes some time to learn and the best way to learn is spending time on the water.

Going to a local stream with a single hand rod and a good sized, bright streamer is a good way to visually learn what the fly is doing, and what it will do in different current types. Don't worry about catching fish, focus on making short casts at various angles and apply different mends to the line and watch how the fly "swims." When you have a good grasp on what is happening in close, you will have a better understanding of what your fly is doing when it is 30ft-60ft away. Then you will be able to focus on other things, and the various mends that need to be applied will start to become second nature.

Presentation of the fly is also one of the main factors for success when swinging flies for Salmon River Steelhead. The fly is important as well, but if it isn't presented the way the Steelhead would like, it doesn't matter what the fly is or who tied it. Learn to "listen" to what the Salmon River tells you. This past season the water was low for most of the year so there wasn't as much flow or push. The standard down and across swing wasn't working that good and needed to be tweaked. The fly was moving too slow, so employing a downstream mend helped speed up the fly. It also presented the fly broadside to the Steelhead rather than tail first. Higher, faster water can often require the opposite actions. Pay attention to the river and adjust accordingly. Don't be afraid to experiment a little as well. Just because it worked last season doesn't mean it's going to work the same way next season. Heck, just because it worked yesterday doesn't mean it's going to work tomorrow.

Fly selection is also a factor when swinging flies for Salmon River Steelhead. The nice thing about fly selection is that it can be very personal and it can lead to confidence if things aren't working out the way we would like. This doesn't mean that your favorite fly is going to catch a fish every time you put it on the end of your line though. What it does mean is that if you don't know what to use or nothing seems to be working, put on your favorite fly and present it as best as you can. Over thinking and second guessing yourself will only make things more frustrating.

One of the best ways to figure out what flies to use or to have with you while fishing is to take a look at what Steelhead could possibly be eating while they spend their time in Lake Ontario and while they are in the Salmon River. There are numerous types of baitfish in Lake Ontario such as Alewife, Rainbow Smelt, Three Spined Sticklebacks, Gobies, and many others. Steelhead will also feed on invertebrates while in Lake Ontario. While in the Salmon River they can feed on various minnows such as Sculpins, Shiners, and Dace. They can also feed on various nymphs and Crayfish, as well as eggs from spawning Chinooks, Coho's, and Brown Trout. 

Now that we have a basic idea of what Salmon River Steelhead could be feeding on we can start to put a selection of flies together. Personally, I like to have some minnow imitations and I always have a few Crayfish type patterns in my box. These don't have to be anatomically correct imitations, but they should be tied with materials that move well in the water and help suggest life. Some should be tied with natural colors and others should be tied with bright, attractor colors. I like my minnows and Crayfish to be in the 2"-3" range so they are not too big and not too small. Just a nice sized mouthful. Sometimes I will add an egg to the pattern for an attractor, similar to how an egg is incorporated into and Egg Sucking Leech.

I don't carry any single eggs or the standard nymphs with me while swinging. Typically, these food items are dead drifting in the current and don't have any or much power to swim against the current. Swinging them would look un-natural to Salmon River Steelhead, similar to how a bowl of plastic apples looks fake to us.  Can you put on a mono leader and add a strike indicator/line indicator to fish eggs and nymphs with a spey rod? Sure you can do it, but it's alot more fun to have a 10lb plus steelhead completely smash your fly and literally rip the line out of your hand!!

Classic flies such as Spey Flies, Dee Flies, and Married Wing Salmon Flies will also get the attention of Salmon River Steelhead.  Although they may be tougher to tie and take more time to tie than most of the "standard" swinging flies, they are well worth the effort. Spey patterns such as the Lady Caroline and Grey Heron have gained some popularity due to their success on the Salmon River.  I haven't heard too much about Dee Flies from other anglers, but from my own personal experience, the Balmoral Dee has earned a spot in my box. 

Not many spey fishers are trying Married Wing Salmon Flies either.  I can understand why since they are very tough to tie and many people view them as "works of art" rather than "working flies." However, they do work and they do not have to be works of art to be good working flies.  Exotic materials do not have to be used either.  This past season, the Married Wing fly below(picture taken after it had been fished) did just as good as my other flies, and on one afternoon, it did much better than I thought.

Hopefully this little write up gives you a basic understanding of my thought process when it comes to swinging flies for steelhead in the Salmon River, NY.  Obviously there is more than one way to skin a cat or in this case, more than one way to swing up a Steelhead, so do your research and pick a method that will give you confidence while on the water. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Balmoral Dee Fly Video

Here is the Balmoral Dee Fly and this is my first stab at making my own tying video.  As for now it's basic but I plan on playing around with the editing software and will include a test tank video for future flies.  Enjoy!!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Killarny and Tay, Sir Richard and .........

Here are some flies that I am trading with a friend from the west that I met through the internet.  He suggested we trade a few flies and so that's what we are doing.  I have already received his flies and I like them very much. I plan on fishing two of the them and will keep the blind eye in a special place.

There were two patterns I felt like tying and I decided to "freestyle" two others. The latter are based patterns that already exist so they aren't really true "freestyle" flies in my opinion.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Spey Nation V - Wheatley Box

It's getting closer.......can you feel it?  It's like working your way down a sweet run with a good friend and you know one of you is going to hookup any minute!!  That's how I feel about Spey Nation and I am looking forward to this year's gathering since I wasn't able to make it last year.

Every year, other than the fly swap for the first year, I have been donating a Wheatley box with plenty of flies to entice our favorite Salmon River species.  This year there is 80 flies in the box at this point and I plan on adding a few more as the time gets closer to this great event.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How I Started Spey Fishing for Salmon River Steelhead

I'm really not sure why I got into spey fishing for Steelhead other than it seemed like it would be an interesting challenge and another method to add to my set of fishing skills.  The first time I saw a spey rod being used was at the Sportsman's Hole in 1993.  My next trip to Salmon River didn't happen again until September 1999 and the "spey rod" wasn't on my mind.  I had forgot about it.

Eggs, nymphs, comets, splitshot, and "hooking up" were at the top of the list.  I landed my first Salmon River Chinook Salmon and Salmon River Steelhead during that trip in 1999.  It was all downhill after that.  I was hungry for any information that was Salmon and Steelhead related.  Especially the various types of flies that were used on the West Coast and East Coast.

I had found a half off, tattered copy of Trey Combs book, "Steelhead Fly Fishing" in a local outdoor store and bought it immediately.  The "Spey Rod" popped back into my mind while reading that book, and all of the flies had me wondering if "swinging flies" would work on the Salmon River.  Little did I know, it was already working for a small but growing group.

After a few years, fishing nymphs and eggs became a routine, almost monotonous, plus I was tired of fishing the river bottom.  Plenty of people were catching alot more Steelhead than me (and they still do), but I needed a change.  First it started with the flies.  I was already familiar with Streamers, but Spey flies and Dee flies were styles that I became interested in since they challenged my tying ability.  They looked very "fishy" to me as well.

I had never tied on a "spey style" hook nor had I ever used some of the materials.  Tracking down the items I was looking for was half the fun and I was meeting a lot of new people and making new friends.  The history behind the flies and how they were fished were also very interesting and kept my gears turning for anything "spey" related.  Athough most of what I read was about Atlantic Salmon, it was working for the West Coast steelheaders so it had to work in the Great Lakes right?

I purchased my first spey rod in 2004 and began practicing with it locally, and even took a summer trip to the Salmon River for more practice and to learn the river better.  When the fall season rolled around I didn't have the confidence to jump straight in with the spey rod, so I stuck with my single hand rod so I could either nymph or swing flies.  The high water at the time was an influence on my rod choice as well.

During one of our outings, after landing a few fish in the morning, I took the splitshot off my line, put on a new leader, then tied on a conehead Zonker style fly and started "swinging."  It didn't take long and I remember that first hard tug like yesterday.  The rest of the trip I stuck with swinging various streamers all day.  I didn't catch as many as the rest of the group, but I was captivated with the technique and wanted more "tugs."

The following summer (July 2006) I took a trip back to the Salmon River to continue practicing spey casting and to continue to learn the river better.  I was sticking with mono leaders and un-weighted flies, not really worried about catching anything.  One evening I decided to put on an orange Moose Turd and skate it on the surface.  What the heck, it was fun watching the little fish take pot shots at the fly.  I guess it was the right place, right time, and right fly because one of those little fish turned out to be a nice 26"-27" Steelhead.  I was walking on water.  My first Steelhead on a spey rod was also the first Steelhead I ever hooked or landed on a topwater fly!!  I guess you could say that experience sealed the deal, because after that I have been doing nothing other than swinging flies with a spey rod for Steelhead in the Salmon River.

October 2007 was when I began sticking with the spey rod to target steelhead in the Salmon River.  As stated before, I had success with a mono leader and a conehead with a single hand rod, so that is where I started with the spey rod.  It didn't cast all that pretty and definitely hinged quite a bit, but it worked and I was happy.  It was even working during the last week of November into December when the water temp was in the 30's.  My confidence was definitely built up at this point and I was looking forward to next season.

In the winter duldrums I started to play around with tube flies and figure out what I wanted to tie on them.  I had also become very interested in tying married wing flies such as the classic salmon flies that were used for Atlantic Salmon.  I had a full plate, or maybe a full vice would be more appropriate.  It was nice to switch between tying a fly for show then tie a couple for the box.  It was very frustrating at times when it came to the show flies, but I noticed my thread management was getting much better on working flies.  The tube flies were improving as well.  I had a crayfish pattern that I couldn't wait to swing.

The 2008 season was a great time.  I put the conehead flies away and stuck with various types of spey flies new and old, along with the tube flies.  I also started to use lightweight polyleaders because I didn't want to fish deep and dredge the bottom.  It was a bit different getting used to casting the polyleaders, but it wasn't long before I had some tugs on the tube flies and the spey flies.  I was basically building upon positive experiences and learning how to control the speed of the swing so the fly wasn't moving at mach one.

It has been a great ride from then up till now and I hope it continues. It has been nice to meet more like minded people on the river.  I'd list them all, but I'm pretty sure you guys and gals know who you are. I feel very privileged to share time on the water with all of you.

Spey Nation was also started during those years and it has been a tremendous success.  More and more people have been giving spey rods and switch rods a try.  I don't see it stopping any time soon, and that is good because it seems people are beginning to change the way they think about fishing the Salmon River.  Not necessarily people switching to spey rods and switch rods, but their approach to targeting the various species without snagging or lining them.