When you have a question about winter steelhead fly fishing on the Olympic Peninsula, there isn’t a better person to answer it than Waters West Fly Fishing Outfitter’s proprietor Dave Steinbaugh. Dave earned his living guiding for winter steelhead on West End rivers for many years before he opened his shop. He is a gifted fly caster and regularly gives Spey casting clinics. Dave is also a superb fly tyer, and his Isabella and Purple and Peacock Shank Fly are two of my favorite steelhead dressings. Because of his long experience on winter rivers, Dave’s store has everything an Olympic Peninsula winter steelheader needs, including a complete line of single and two-handed rods, Spey fly tying materials, Waddington shanks and tubes, and nymph fishing tackle.
For this interview, I concentrated on lines for winter steelhead.
Q–If you had to choose just one full length line for winter fishing, not a multi-tip, what would it be?
Dave–Well, I guess I would choose a floating line. It’s not my cup of tea for winter–I’d really rather have a Versa-tip–but I’d recommend a good floating line like a Clouser Tip or Rio Grande. One with a short heavy head. Most of the floaters have a loop on the end these days, and you can always put a sinking tip or sinking leader on a floating line and get down. But it’s hard to dead drift with a 15 foot sink-tip.
Q–The multi-tips have changed a lot since I got mine. What sort of options do you have now?
Dave–If someone’s just getting into steelheading, I always recommend a Versa-tip. Most of the brands have four of five tips now–a floater, Type 3 and Type 6 and an intermediate or Type 8. The tip you use depends a lot on the fly. I actually use the Type 8 quite a bit. It’s thinner and comes out of the water at least as good as the Type 6. (author’s note–Although it seems counterintuitive, the thinner the tip the heavier it is).
Q–I know you fish with T-14 quite a bit these days. Where do you use it?
Dave–Pretty much everywhere. I’ll use a 6 or 8 foot piece on creeks and up to 12 feet on bigger water. I don’t usually go much above 12 feet. You can either hook it directly to your line of put a Cheater between your line and the T-14.
Q–The Skagit Cheaters have become very popular and not just with the Skagit lines. How do you use them?
Dave–I really like the 5 foot intermediates. They make the transition from the floating belly to the sink-tip more gradual. They also help keep your fly down in the zone more, and you can often get away with a lighter sink-tip. I also like to use a 5 foot section of intermediate Cheater and a 7-foot sinking leader. It fishes really smooth. Now they’ve got 10 foot sinking leaders too.