This is my first post other than my introduction post. I'm finally back into fishing for the first time in 4 years and I've decided to jump in with both feet by going fly. The inspiration? A trek into "Steelhead Alley".
I got home and bought a fly rod. The issue I guess is that it's one of those beginner sets from Wal-Mart. So I have a question regarding my set-up. I intend on targeting steelhead, brown and the incidental salmon. Here's what I have....
Rod: Shakespeare 8'0" 5/6 wt
Reel: Shakespeare 1094
Line: Unsure but it is Level line
Leader: P Line Fluorocarbon 2X (10 lb breakage) 7.5 ft
Tippet: P Line Flurocarbon (6 lb breakage) 2.5 ft
I read an article regarding steelhead and it said to place a swivel between tippet and leader and place a split here. As it stands I'll be fly-fishing streams and creeks not large open bodies of water.
It's grrrrr8 you've taken up the fly rod, you should have a blast. Hopefully someone will chime in that knows more about the waters you fish that can give you better advice, but the first thing to do would be to check the regs. on fishing the tribs- there may be some that REQUIRE a swivel above any weight (to prevent snagging) and there may be some regs that limit the length of tippet you can use after a weight (to prevent "lining" a fish).
If you use a small swivel, and it's not a bad idea, use a black one, as opposed to a shiney metal one, and I'd rig it up leaving a 3-5" tag end of tippet hanging from the swivel. Tie a couple overhand knots at the end of the tag end, and pinch your split shot onto the tag end above the over hand knots. The knots will help keep the shot from flying off when you cast, but MAY slip off if they get hung on the bottom, saving your fly. Pinching the split shot onto the tag end will also avoid weakening the tippet for when you hook a fish. You should have enough weight to occasionally tick bottom. Casting can be a bit difficult, and you may end up chucking and ducking (if legal) rather than "fly casting".
Your outfit, as a 5/6, is a little light for lake run fish like steelhead, lake run browns and salmon where many folks would probably opt for a 7 or 8 and even larger especially if targeting big chinook. The 5/6 would be more of a non-lake run trout, and small bass weight outfit and so you may be a bit undergunned especially on big water and roaring rivers. But on smaller streams and creeks you definitely have a shot. Just get ready to chase one when you hook it, and give some thought about your safety--- it's real easy to step into holes, lose your footing etc. Depending on the streams, Korkers (heavy duty cleated soles you wear over your wading boots), and a wading staff are often a very good idea, and keep a dry warm change of clothes in the truck for when (not if) you get dunked, especially if you're going to do the winter steel thing.
As far as your specific outfit goes, your reel will probably have about 50 yds of 20lb backing, and the drag may be a little iffy for strong fish, especially in current and big water, which is one of the reasons to stick to smaller water if you can, at least to start. Normally, you'd probably want a weight forward for easier casting than a level line, but if you decide to chuck and duck, it won't matter, and if you stick to smaller water, you probably won't have to cast too far anyway.
I would buy some extra tippet spools in addition to the 6lb test you already have in 8 and 10lb, and use it when you can to give you a bit better odds. If the water is low and clear you may have to use the 6lb.
Hopefully some other folks will chime in that know more about the fishing up your way and can give you more specific advice.
alex, i think it's great to hear you're getting back into fishing, and especially to pursue flyfishing under your circumstances. i wish the best for you.
but i think, in my opinion of course, you're starting off on the wrong foot. pursuing steelhead is a great venture, but you should do some research about your area. find a fly specific shop, even if it's a local sporting goods store with a mall fly section or even a local club. if i were you, i would take the walmart rig back and start off with some gear suggested and sold by a real fly-centric shop. build a relationship with them, make friends, and most importantly, establish a good knowledge base for your pursuit which will undoubtedly continue.
you can get by with what you have, but like perigrines said, that 5/6 is a bit undergunned for some of the fishing you outlined. and there's so much more growth opportunity for you if you had a standard weight forward (WF) or even double taper (DT) fly line.
good luck and welcome. ask away. i may not be the smartest or most experienced (especially for your area) but there are plenty here and we're all willing to help.
I appreciate the input that you guys have given me thus far and I have started learning already. The one thing that I have decided to do is to go out and purchase a WF 6 fly line. As ezamora said the "growth opportunity" using a WF line would be beneficial. I can cast the level line but I find that there is no distance with it. LOL..oh well! It was a starting off point. The only problem with fly tackle around here is that there is no fly shops around here. Fly gear really is few and far between.
Peregrines I never thought about stuff like tippet and swivels would be in the regs. I checked the regs for the bodies of water that I fish and incidentally there are none. I suppose that makes things a tad easier. I do have to get a few more things but it's a work in progress. Like waders for example. I've seen some hip waders but I think that I should wait until payday and get chest waders. I figure that it's wise to get the proper equipment the first time instead on spending unnecessary money. LOL...where I fish waders thus far haven't been totally necessary...but in my pursuit of fish I have managed to get a couple of soakers. Nothing like water over the boots. I'm surprised with the warmth of the water temps. I guess as I sit here and type this I sound like a reallllll amateur. I guess that's why I'm here though. To get help.
I'm not surprised about the information that you guys have given me. Regarding my stuff being too light for what I'm currently pursuing. I can see me purchasing another rod/reel in the future as I already love this method of fishing. I'll keep the 5/6 for lighter fishing but I will invest in a 7 wt at least. Getting back to waders I saw some in Erie, PA that looked like they had foam or felt on the bottom. Is that for traction? I know amateur question.
Well guess i should go for now. We finally got some rain, and overcast weather so I'm thinking of going for a drive to the nearest creek and try for some finned friends. Bronte is about 1 hr from here. The water levels may be up so I might be fishing more than the 2-3 feet of water as usual. In this system you get the occasional 6-8 foot pool with the prevalent undercut banks. Here goes nothing and again thanks.
Keep asking questions as they come up. There are no stupid questions, only stupid answers
As far as regs go, there are for example regs in NY and other states that have restrictions for GL tribs on tippet length, hook gape, and at least there used to be in NY for example a law that required weight to be above a swivel (to prevent "unintentional" snagging) as well as specific refuge and eagle nesting areas that were off limits to fishing-- some of them can be pretty confusing if you're a first timer, or not familiar with an area and don't know your way around.
As far as waders- you're probably best off with chest waders rather than hippers for most water, and especially if you'll be doing steelheading in cold weather.
You have a bunch of choices in waders in terms of material (rubber vs neoprene vs breathable) and boot foot vs stocking foot.
Rubber- least expensive, in boot foot only. Can be very hot in warm weather and very cold in cold weather and are heavy and more difficult to move around in.
Neoprene- good insulation in cold weather, but you can roast in warm weather. Available in boot foot or stocking foot. They also seem to take a beating better than breathables and be fairly easily patched most times with some sealant if they do spring a leak. That said it's hard to stay completley dry in them, because you'll sweat and they trap the moisture inside.
Breathables- light weight for traveling with on trips, and easy to walk around in, and good for both warm and cold weather (with layers of synthetic clothing capilene/fleece underneath in winter). If you go this route buy a decent pair with a lifetime guarantee (or from a store that guarantees all it's products) so they can be replaced if they spring a leak.
Stocking foot waders also require wading boots, so they're more expensive than boot foot waders, at least at first. They offer better support for walking and wading and are a lot better for rock hopping and hiking in to places to fish and offer much more secure footing because of the wading boots which will either lace up or velcro around your foot.
Boot foot waders can be a real PITA if you walk long distances in them. They are easier to put on, especially in freezing cold weather, but won't offer the same amount of ankle support for rocky streams. They are good though for fishing sandy beaches since wading shoes on stocking foot waders tend to pick up a lot of it.
Felt soles help give traction on slippery rocks- BUT there is a growing move to ban them on a lot of water to prevent the spread of invasive species (like didymo/rock snot). Simms and a few other companies are working on some kind of gummy sole to provide traction and it's likely that felt will be a thing of the past fairly soon. Carbide cleated soles also offer good traction, and felt picks up a gazilion pounds of snow after it's wet when walking along stream banks
FWIW, I use bootfoot breathables for SW fishing sandy beaches around here in LI, but use breathable stocking foot plus wading shoes with a combination of felt and carbide cleat soles for everything else.)
As far as casting goes, you'll probably be able to throw a decent weight forward 6 weight line a bit easier than a level line, BUT the main thing is to work on your casting mechanics. Your best bet would be to poke around and try and find a local FF club or TU chapter. It'll take years off your learning curve and you can get some casting help, recommendations on gear, rigging, tactics and places to go. and local knowledge. In the meantime, google "tight lines fly casting Part One" for a 3 part series of casting vids on you tube.
Again I would offer a ton of thanks for all of your information. When it comes to waders it looks like a have a serious decision to make. Based on what you've said hippers are not the way to go. Especially, in the event where I start fly-fishing the Upper Niagara River for steelies and so on. The chest waders are the way to go for sure. It also sounds like the breathables might be the choice as well..I want a good all around set of waders of course without breaking the bank. I saw a pair for on sale the other day for $89 that were boot foot. I think the boots were around $80.
So on Saturday I had a day where the quote "it was the best of times...it was the worst of times" was very fitting. I headed for a drive about 1hr+ to a place called Bronte Creek. It's a Lake Ontario trib if you haven't heard of it. I get to a location that I used to frequent and the Chinook, Brown, Coho and Steel run there. I pull into the driveway and the placed was closed. There was a barricade pulled across. Bummer!!!! This has never before been seen. So I'm disappointed I had the feeling that as I told my wife who was with "today is the day". So I look for my Plan B spot....couldn't find it. Soooo...I come across two guys (ironically from Niagara Falls like myself) who are getting into fly-gear. I ask them questions and a minor miracle occurs.
These two chaps inform me that there is a fly-fishing specific shop about 20 minutes from where I was. LOL..not to mention 20 minutes closer to home I might add. So they mention the shop (Grindstone Specialty Angling) and they give me directions. I head there and locate the shop...ironically there is a small creek that is running behind it called Grindstone Creek. You look at it and you sense that there just has to be Brookies in it. So I pull in the driveway and outside on dry erase boards they list a few streams and creeks with their respective flow rates. They also mentioned which flies to use as well. I walked in the door and I was in awe. I found the place that either ezamora or yourself mentioned for me to find. I spent about 2 hours in there talking and asking questions and the information that I received was almost too much.
To make a longer story short the place felt like home and they said to phone anytime regarding questions, or just go up and sit there and have a coffee with them. Sure it sucked that I didn't fish that day but...it turned out to be a more than productive day.
P.S. After I coached a hockey game yesterday I tried a few casts and I now know that level line plus casting into a harsh headwind of 50km/h is not a good fit.
I spent many, many hours fishing the west coast of Michigan as well as Northern Indiana before moving up here to Minnesota. I have a few pieces of advice -some will probably echo previous posts, but there is a pretty steep learning curve when going after steelhead with a fly rod. However, when, everything comes together, it is one of the most powerful and breathtaking experiences you can have on the water.
2. Really focus on technique. One of the most difficult aspects of steelheading is understanding that just because you pass a fly directly in front of a steelhead -there is no guarantee of a strike. It's not like a bass or pike. You can only improve your chances by getting the correct speed and depth on the fly. Once in a while the fish will be hitting everything, but days like that are very, very rare.
3. On technique: Try to keep it simple at first. Over-rigging with a float, weight, swivels, etc., is a sure-fire way to get yourself irritated from the beginning. Rigs like this are very difficult to cast, and you may just end up spending more time untangling than actually fishing. Try a simple rig of an egg-sucking leach and a few pieces of no-tox shot to start. Work on changing the speed of the drift as well as the depth.
4. As mentioned before, find a fishing buddy. There are numerous steelhead/trout organizations that get together to chat, participate in stream restoration, and yes, go fishing.
5. When I first started steelheading, I was stubborn and decided to figure it out on my own. I could have saved myself countless hours of frustration had I just made an effort to talk to people. We fly fisherman are very passionate about our sport, and most of us are happy to give advice....just don't ask us where our favorite hole is
You've gotten great advice from Jeff and Ezamora, and it sounds like you found a terrific shop in Grindstone. I checked out their website and it looks like they have a ton of good stuff (including the book Jeff mentioned) and have it dialed in on the local waters. It also looks like they have courses, and you would be very well served by looking into a beginners class or some individualized casting instruction. Once you have some casting under your belt, if you can spring for a guide, even for a 1/2 day(maybe they could pair you up with someone to split costs) you'll learn a ton. They offer both drift boat and wade trips. As far as LEARNING I would opt for a wade trip, since you'll need to learn to read water, approach it and control your drift through runs, and it will be more similar to the kind of fishing you'll do own your own. (Your chances of catching something would be better in a drift boat since you'll cover more water). The best of all worlds would be a wade/drift trip where you use the boat to cover a lot of water from spot to spot but actually get out of the boat and wade to fish, (but they may not offer that option.)
Their site also has links to orgs and local clubs, and it sounds like a real friendly bunch of very knowledgeable guys. They probably have beginner fly tying classes coming up if you really want to go nuts.
As far as specific gear goes, I would rely on the shop to steer you through a lot of the choices, including line, waders etc. It sounds like these guys are on the water a lot fishing for the same things you'll be chasing, and in the same conditions and can steer you in the right direction. It also sounds like they can give you a ton of different options to fish on local water, and in addition to asking all the questions you can think of, ask them what else you should be asking that you didn't think about. Good find!
PS Boot foot waders already have the boot built in, you just slip your feet in. If your looking at waders for 89 and boots for 80, they would be stocking foot waders, with boots you put on over the "stocking foot". Again if you go for breathables find out about the guarantee (ideally lifetime). It is not uncommon for them to leak if you get a bad pair for some reason, or you are tough on equipment (or climb over a barbwire fence).