Catch Fall Steelhead Using The Dead Drift

Catch Fall Steelhead Using The Dead Drift
Catch Fall Steelhead Using The Dead Drift

Fall steelhead anglers typically cover water with cross-stream casts until a fish hits. But Michigan flyfishing guide Tom Johnson (tomjohnsonflyguide@att.net) employs a different approach. “The fish are more aggressive now because their main goal is to stock up on food for the winter,” he says. But Johnson knows there’s a big difference between being aggressive and being catchable. So to increase his hookups, he puts the fly right in front of the fish.

Catch Fall Steelhead Using The Dead Drift

Getting Down
Pattern choice matters, but presentation is the real key. “You need to put the nymph 4 to 8 inches above bottom, as the fish aren’t inclined to dig something off the bottom,” Johnson says. That means adding weight to your line. An unweighted fly moves more naturally than a weighted one, so he uses a slinky weight attached to the leader butt (see inset above). The setup lets you easily change the weight as river conditions dictate; Johnson notes that every pool or run may require an adjustment.

Dead Drift
When water temperatures dip below 50 degrees, Johnson dead-drifts a nymph on a 91⁄2-foot (or longer) 7- or 8-weight rod with a small-diameter shooting line rather than a traditional weight-forward floating fly line. The small line allows for quieter entry of the flies on the cast (no line slap to spook fish) and offers less resistance in the water, which makes it easier to get a drag-free drift. Don’t false cast. Simply pick up the line and shoot it directly upstream. Casting with the added weight is smooth and effortless. This is a great way to work a tree-choked stream that routinely snags back casts.


Th Go-To Rig
The Go-To Rig One of Johnson’s most productive rigs consists of an 8- to 10-foot butt section that ends with a bead and barrel swivel. A slinky weight slides freely on the butt section via a snap [a]. To the swivel, he ties on a 3- to 6-foot leader, to which he knots on a green chartreuse caddis nymph [b]. He runs 17 to 24 inches of line from the eye of this fly, then attaches a stonefly nymph [c]. The long, light tippet (8-pound Maxima Ultra) offers little water resistance and sinks quickly.


Photo by Kevin Hand

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Mustad

Mustad's New Tungsten Weights

Long known as one of the world's premiere hook makers, Mustad's Reid McKinstry shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead that the company is now one of the leaders in making tungsten terminal tackle products for anglers.

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

As Pure Fishing's Andrew Upshaw explains, reel making giant Abu Garcia has done it again at ICAST 2019 with a new spinning reel geared towards finesse fishermen.

MLF Pros: What

MLF Pros: What's Your Go-To Lure?

When all else fails, here's what these pros tie on.

Berkley

Berkley's Surge Shad

Major League Fishing pro Scott Suggs has relied on the Berkley Surge Shad lure concept for years, using similar designs to capture MLF titles and a $1 million dollar FLW Forrest Cup win. With new features in the Surge Shad, Suggs tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead that even he can find success out on the water!

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Unlike many game fish, catfish can be harder to catch during the spawn. Here are some strategies. Catfish

Understanding Catfish Spawning

Keith Sutton - June 06, 2006

Unlike many game fish, catfish can be harder to catch during the spawn. Here are some...

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options. Catfish

12 Great Catfish Baits

Jeff Samsel

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.

 Veteran bass anglers often dismiss urban fishing opportunities as Bass

Bass Pond Fishing: Catch Lunkers at Small Lakes Near You

Dan Anderson - February 13, 2018

Veteran bass anglers often dismiss urban fishing opportunities as "kid's fishing ponds," but...

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures? Other Freshwater

5 Great Lures For Bluegills

Stephen D. Carpenteri - March 10, 2011

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures?

See More Trending Articles

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.