Wednesday, January 2, 2013

In Praise of Tails

Throughout the year steelhead will pick a variety of places in a river to call home. In the spring it's the gravel beds and the runs behind them, in the fall its the pockets and slots as they head upstream, and when the temperature drops to around freezing in Steelhead Alley its the tails of deep, slow pools that they find to their liking.

The fish hunker down in the three to five feet deep tails, stay out of the current, conserve their energy and wait for warmer days ahead. Even though the water temperature can be below 35 degrees such tails can be very productive. On my favorite stretch of what I consider my "home water" a collapsing shale cliff has extended the length of a prime pool by nearly 10 yards. This has made winter fishing in this pool even more productive this winter as there is now more slow water for the trout to call home. Throughout December I tested how far back into this newly configured tail the fish would hold. I'm really not yet sure of the answer, but there is at least three new holding spots in the back of the pool before the river takes something of a right turn and heads into a riffle.

Second Cast Tail Dweller

During the last week of the year I was having success swinging flies through the middle of the pool when a friend joined me in the pool. He prefers indicator fishing and I encouraged him to test out one of the new tail spots and he hooked and landed a steelhead on his second cast. Yep, sometimes fishing tails can be that easy.

I'm going to enjoy the rearranged pool this winter and get to know that tail as well as I can. But I also know odds are that spring rains and/additional cliff collapses will alter that tail again before next winter. That's part of the fun and challenge of steelheading -- the tails and the tales always change.

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