Flies For Three Seasons Of Steel: Part 2 – Spring
In this short series I'm highlighting a few patterns I really like to use while guiding anglers on Lake Erie tributaries, where we experience three distinct seasons – fall, winter and spring.
When spring arrives, the snow has melted, the trees are budding and the robins have returned. Hopefully the spring run has begun and the runoff has delivered waves of fresh chrome from the lake.
During spring, the rivers become a very busy place once again. Our steelhead become quite visible as they return to the gravel flats to spawn, and anglers wake up early to get their spot on the river.
At one time or another, most all Lake Erie steelheaders have caught fish off gravel, or fished for them on gravel. They're stocked fish with very little successful natural reproduction. That's due to several factors, but we're not getting into that discussion right here, right now.
Instead, I'd rather focus on what's below the spawning steelhead (gravel, bugs) and what other fish species use the river at the same time.
The spring season delivers a variety of food items that are readily available and eagerly eaten by a hungry steelhead. The menu includes a little bit of everything that dislodges from the bottom as steelhead and suckers dig their redds –loose eggs, stoneflies, mayflies, caddis larvae and more. The schools of creek chubs and darters are back, and the newly stocked steelhead smolts are everywhere.
Pools and deeper runs directly below gravel are great spots to get into good pods of both fresh and dropback (spawned-out) steelhead that are eager to take a dead-drifted fly. With that thought, here are five of the most productive flies to use under an indicator during the spring season.
Top Picks For Indicator Fishing
Vitso Psycho Spawn – Created by Michigan guide Eirik Vitso, this egg-pattern cluster can be tied in several colors and when wet, imitates spawning-sucker egg clusters.
Ohio Golden Stone – Spawning hen steelhead dislodge these guys out of the gravel when building redds, and steelhead waiting downstream willingly take them. This is one of my personal patterns that imitates a golden stonefly from an Ohio tributary.
Flybum Caddis – Another insect dislodged from the gravel that steelhead readily take. This one was created by Patrick Robinson and it produces extremely well.
Chicken Little – Tied by local guide Patrick Robinson to imitate small baitfish feasting on a drifting egg, it's a very effective fly pattern on the dead drift, and has accounted for several steelhead in the bottom of my net.
Impossi Hex – Lake Erie has a fantastic population of these large mayflies. This is a very simple and extremely effective pattern from Mike Schmidt that you should have in your box.
Top Picks For The Swing
For the streamer guys, late spring can be an exciting time to throw something big. Two of my favorites for this time of year imitate both creek chubs and the newly stocked smolts.
Shaggy Dub Sculpin – A simple pattern designed to imitate a chub, sculpin or goby found in Lake Erie and its tributaries.
Kid Bow – Designed to imitate steelhead smolts. Adult steelhead chase them with zeal, and you've got a good shot at a big lake-run smallmouth bass with this fly as well.