Holy cow, we are all beyond stir-crazy at this point. Reading about steelheading is a poor substitute when we all feel like fishing, but with Boreas doing his happy dance up in steelhead country, what's a steelheader to do? Time to get a little learnin' in by buggin' out - bad pun intended....
Kamloops are primarily bug-eaters and tend to spend a lot of time in the upper portion of the water-column over deep basins, or in shallow water areas while out in the big lake. Both steelhead and kamloops will gorge on loose spawn while in the streams, but there's another part of the equation you should not overlook; hence the term "Eggs and Legs".
Getting familiar with resident bugs is a good idea. Steelhead will key on them as a food-source, particularly when the water is either very cold - below 38-40F, and once again when stream temps hit 45 and up. In between they'll be dining on free-drifting eggs, but as female steelhead create their redds, they tend to kick up a lot of nymphs and pupa as they disturb the gravel and rock substrate; and all those fish hanging out below the spawning gravel have lots of choices on the menu.
So how do you know what to choose? One obvious method is to simply turn over softball-sized rocks or pull woody debris, look at what's crawling around, then make fly selections based on what you find. But short of being an entymologist, how do you know? Or if it's the dead of winter and you're poking around in the fly shop, or sitting at the tying bench, how do you make a choice? Fortunately the answer is just a click or two away.
If you're not aware, the MPCA maintains thousands of monitoring stations on water-bodies throughout the State. These stations assess everything from water-quality to biological data. Answering the bug question becomes pretty easy because the answers are right at your fingertips.
To get the data, you just need to know what to look for. First, navigate to the MPCA surface water station site. It's a multi-layer GIS style map-based page that allows you to quickly navigate to data and is found HERE
Once you're there, it's just a matter of zooming around the State map and finding a particular type of station. You can eliminate clutter by selecting the type of map-layers displayed using the Map Contents Layer Visibility feature. Just check Surface Water\Monitoring Stations\Aquatic Life Use Support-Streams. If you uncheck the others it'll reduce clutter even further.
Once you pan over to the North Shore, zoom in using the +/- on the nav bar. If you have a scrolling mouse you can use that to zoom in or out too. What you are looking for are the Brown Square symbols that represent a bio-station.
Once you're there, click on the brown square. This will call up the station info, click the bio-station ID to view data.
Now that you are in the station, simply click the "Aquatic Life" tab. This will bring up all of the species which were sampled during the latest period. Note that not all of the stations will tell you what kinds of bugs were found. It all depends on what was actually done during the last survey; but when there is a list, it is a great informations source.
From there you can look at a variety of streams in the area to determine the most common bugs available to the fish. Use that knowledge to help you determine which flies to buy, or which to tie. Note that if it's steelhead or kamloops you're after, key on the nymphs and pupa of the species listed as they will be what the fish are going to be feeding on most of the time.
The last item to note is that you DON'T have to be a fly-rod wielding junkie to fish flies effectively. You can catch steelhead and kamloops on flies with a variety of gear with a little know-how. Rather than re-create the wheel, you can read the companion blog on fishing flies HERE