I finally got time to run the 2009 Fall numbers and this is how it looked-
(Click Thumbnails for Larger Image)
Couple items to note:
The first is that once again, actual returns (which were decent) didn't match up with reports (which were generally poor) although some hard-working folks reported outstanding fishing. We did have quite low water for parts of the fall, but that just means you have to adjust your tactics because the fish typically are there provided you are fishing the prime return window. Finding deeper holding water (read anywhere the bottom can't be seen) off the beaten path along with fishing early and late low-light periods will go a long way towards making you more successful under tough conditions. Fish will shift quite a bit of movement to night time periods and hunker down during the day. That and in the skinny, clear water, downsizing is often not just a good idea, it's almost required. Don't be afraid to throw patterns in the 14-18 range if you are flyfishing. After dark, particularly with the browns, it can be a different story.
Speaking of browns, note that we are moving closer to the historical peak window (hint, hint start watching the flows)...
Secondly, the Fall runs in particular tend to occur on a very orderly basis year after year. Weather patterns have generally stabilized and although fall upstream movement is heavily influenced by increases in flow, these bumps tend to happen around the same time each year as our overall pattern moves towards the winter months. Note that start, peak and end dates for 2009 fell nicely within the historical means. Once you've identified historical peak windows, you can be sure that a good pricipitation event will bring in good numbers of fish once you are inside that window. Having the historical data IS NOT a predictor of a given years run by any means, but it can give you a very good indication of when to begin watching local conditions. After that it's up to you to find the fish.
Thirdly, it's tough to sit tight in early October if you are a steelhead junky. The urge to get out after a long, hot summer can be overwhelming. However, if you can wait it out, late fishing can produce some of the best steelheading. Remember that returning fall Brule steelhead will winter over in the stream. They lolligag about, and move up or back on a whim, or as a response to angling pressure. The advantage to waiting is that, unlike the Spring run, overall population continues to increase as we move closer to the closer. So even though the peak returns usually happen earlier in October, by early November, there are actually more fish in the stream to target since these fish are not returning to the Lake. Conditions are tougher, but it becomes a numbers game. Quick note about the Steelhead graphic- I inadvertanly posted the historical flow average on this chart. It should be the actual 2009 flow as depicted in the Brown and Coho graphics.