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!!
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.
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.
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.