Experienced swingers -- fly anglers who regularly chase steelhead with two-handed rods and large flies -- will tell you that within any pod of fish there are only one or two aggressive enough to move to a swung fly. And sometimes none of the fish are in the mood to swing. This is how steelhead developed the reputation for being the fish of a thousand casts.
I'm not obsessive enough to count the casts, but this fall/winter I am 0-for-whatever. Not a single tug has come at the end of a swing. After a relatively successful spring of swinging and a great experience on the Naknek River in Alaska in the summer, I was expecting more fun on Steelhead Alley this fall. However a combination of weather and work limited my outings when the conditions were right for swinging flies.
This past Sunday conditions were perfect on the Rocky River as the water flowed strong and green through a deep, empty pool. A light drizzle fell and occasional gusts pushed arctic air down through the river valley. I swung a black and purple marabou tube fly through the head of the run and slowly worked my way through the hole. Nothing. I switched to an olive sculpin, returned to the head and tried again. Nothing.
I was confident that the hole held fish and I succumbed to the temptation to prove it. I walked back to the car, pulled my single-handed rod from the back and grabbed a few fly boxes. Within an hour I had hooked four fish.
I went back to the spey rod and tried a white rabbit fly with an orange head. Ssome argue that orange flies work well on the Rocky, I'm not yet sold on the theory. I swung through the back half of the hole where the fish had eagerly taken eggs and nymphs.Nothing.
I will resume swinging in the new year searching for that aggressive fish willing to give me the first tug of the season.