2014 Combined Trap Trend

Just some quickie analysis of the Trap trends for 2014...

    No surprizes here with respect to inititation temps and trap numbers, but I want to throw a new concept at you.

    If you read the technical literature closely, you'll find a concept which helps you understand when to change tactics and where to fish under certain conditions. Stream temperatures give you a window on when adult steelhead begin that first big upstream migration, but what happens once those conditions are met and maintained? Well, this is where flow takes over.

    Once steelhead begin entering the rivers, they have one goal in mind - reproduction- and they are on a mission. Few things influence their drive to move upstream like flow. Steelhead are biologically programmed if you will to move on high flows. Over time, higher flows have allowed steelhead to reach those areas of the stream which are most conducive to spawning and rearing, and those areas are typically located in the uppermost portions of a given watershed. They typically have the right combination of spawning gravel, cover, habitat, forage and oxygen levels which promote successful spawning, and allow young fish to survive to the time at which they return to the lake. But those upper reaches are also typically shallow which is where running on higher flows pays off, the adults can reach these areas when they otherwise would not on lower flow.  

    Those steelhead strong enough to make it successfully pass on their genetic makup, so it becomes a sort of positive feedback loop. But again flow is key. Things are a little different on the North Shore due to the short run nature of the streams, so we are just talking about the overall concept of that pre-programming in steelhead generally.

    New Concept: Can the flow get too high, and if so, what happens when it does?

    On the Knife, thanks to the folks at DNR Fisheries, we know that the flow value which limits the ability of steelhead to continue their push upstream is right in that 500-600 CFS range. We're seeing that right now in the trap and creel numbers:

    The trend has essentially flat-lined as the flows increased significantly after the recent heavy rain. Remember, the flow values on the chart are divided by 10, so you have to multiply by that to get the actual value.
    So how does this affect you as a steelheader? Well, you have to change tactics because the fish are simply hunkering down and riding out the high flows. Looking for areas which are sheltered somewhat from the chocolate maelstrom pay off big time in these conditions, so too does going big and bright, or big and dark. If you can go big, bright/dark and smelly, so much the better....
    One of my favorite tactics in these conditions is to find big back-eddys. It looks absolutely stupid, but it works. Basically you cast on the inner edge of the downstream eddy seam, but what you are really trying to do is to get your presentation caught up in the eddy so that it comes back to you. It's like fishing in a washing machine because your presentation just keeps going around and around; but where you usually get bit is during the "upstream" cycle as it were. That's because the fish are usually laying in the gentler eddy out of the storm, but because the water is cycling upstream and around, the fish are actually facing backwards, usually right at your feet (so don't just go blundering right into the water).
    You can do this with flies or yarn, but it's tough because it's difficult to control what's going on at the terminal end. Using a float with a jig and your favorite big smelly presentation suspended just off the bottom is perfect. Just let the washing machine do the work...


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