Jay Nicholas dishes summer steelhead secret secrets for the Blogosphere.

It can seem confusing, at times, to understand the terminology associated with summer steelhead fishing technique. Knowing Jay Nicholas as a simple, straightforward, commonsense guy, I asked him to write a short piece about the various steelhead presentation styles we often refer to. Uh oh. Be careful what you ask for. Here is what I got. Good luck.–CD

Nicholas’ Summer Steelhead Fly Presentation Methods – Part I of III

summer steelhead

Butt on

This presentation is also referred to as the “tail-down”, the mend-your-eyeballs-out-of-their sockets, and is precursor to the “hang down.” The key aspect of this presentation is to offer one’s fly to a steelhead with the butt (tail) of said fly straight in the afore mentioned steelhead’s face. To do so, one must align the head of said fly directly upstream, away from the chrome object of a fly fisher’s desire. This can be accomplished by making a cast at a shallow angle downstream and across potential steelhead holding water, mending one’s fly line, and then repeatedly mending again, and again, and again, and then a bunch of more times. These repetitive and agonizing mends are intended to maintain a hook-eye-upstream – hook bend-downstream perspective throughout the time elapsed between gentle touch-down of fly to the absolute hang down (see hang down). In practice, executing approximately 77 mends throughout the course of the fly’s travels across the steelhead holding water produces 77 herky-jerky movements and scares the bejeepers out of the intended target of this presentation. An alternative is to make just one mend to set up your fly for a cross-tailout transmotational passage, let it swing a little, and hope the yard-long silver ghost decides to execute chompage. On the other hand, the 77 mends per cast do provide considerable entertainment to any fellow fly fishers nearby. One of them light even offer to share their mood stabilizer meds, which would be a bonus, come cocktail hour in camp.

Classic dry fly

This presentation is executed by first spooling on a double taper floating fly line. Next, the steelhead pursuer ties on a tapered leader, wades into the stream, ties on a dry fly, applies fly floatant, strips off some line in preparation for making a cast, chucks the fly upstream into a bubbly riffle near the head of a pool where some nice little trout is likely to be looking for a floating bug to eat. Subject fly fisher next implements a variety of trick casts in order to maintain a drag-free presentation as long as possible, striping-in fly line as the floating fly drifts downstream towards angler’s location in stream. Be advised that steelhead do not necessarily lie in such water, nor to they normally rise to the surface to engulf a fly presented in such manner. Be advised that considerable difference of opinion exists regarding the use of terms like steelhead “lie” versus steelhead “lay.” Same also regarding whether a fish will “rise” versus “raise” to a fly. Also note that steelhead will occasionally eat a fly presented as descried above.

Classic Wet Fly Swing

This summer steelhead presentation is the most effective but least understood among the various alternational trendy-cute methods typically observed on-stream these days. Chuck the fly across the river as far as one can cast. Tuck rod under left armpit in order to execute fiddling with bag of Cheese Nips, address issue with itchy crotch, use tippet nippers to trim nose hairs, photograph backlash in flyline, or pick up cased caddis nymphs to use for bait. These antics lull Mr. Steelhead into thinking that the angler employing this presentational style is a goobis, which might be true but is beside the point. 93.6 % of all summer steelhead caught since 1947 have succumbed to this presentation methodology.

swinging a nice run on the deschutes


Unless one is an unfortunate attendee of a frat party off-campus, or the newbie in Steelhead Camp on the Ktok, this term refers to the act of fishing a dry fly for steelhead in an assertive, nay, aggressive manner. Appropriate usage might be as in – “like dude, I’m gonna Chugg this here Muddler ‘till Mr. steelie eats me.” As one might infer from the imagery bestowed n this term, to chug is to actively push water, make waves, or otherwise disturb the river’s surface by imparting serious motational tension to one’s line-leader, thereby transferring 7-gs to one’s fly in a manner that throws spray approximately three feet into the air. Chugging dry flies and bass poppers was invented by a steelhead angler dismayed by having gone grabless after employing normal presentation methods for 13 years. Note to reader: this fly presentation has caught only one steelhead in the last three years, and that fish was a kelt.


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3 Responses to Jay Nicholas dishes summer steelhead secret secrets for the Blogosphere.

  1. varna says:

    solid writing and advise there!

  2. Jay Nicholas says:

    And every word the inspirational truth too. JN

  3. Joe says:

    uh oh. Will the occurrence of “chugging” in the Nicholas lexicon add legitimitacy and perhaps a touch of panache to this ‘method’? (yes, I’m a crotchety old fart and nearly fainted when I first observed this approach deployed on the NU)

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