Two weeks left. She has been a bit fickle. I love her anyway.

Hey Andy –
Been way too long my friend. Did you make it to the Brule this fall? It sounds like you’ve been a busy guy. I sympathize with you there. I had a very lean year of fishing. Mostly out with my 7 year old, casting for panfish and bass.

I am going to make it to the Brule this coming weekend thankfully. It’s a little later than I usually make it there so I had some questions for you. I know, i know, there are no real answers. It’s Steelheading. But I wanted to pick your brain regardless. Thanks bud! Hope to see you again soon.

1) Historically most of the fish have entered the river by mid-October. Where is their ultimate destination? Do they pick spawning grounds all throughout the river, or are they congregating together further upstream? Would we be better to target areas further upstream or still fish the full length?

2) Water is higher this year than I’ve fished it in a long time. I assume this will mean fish are more dispersed and not just holding in deep pools?

3) I wanted to give swinging fly’s with my single-hand rod a try this year. Historically I’ve been a nymph rig/indicator angler. Do you swing at all? And if so, would high water call for it more so than low water? Or will i be better off sticking to indicator fishing with high water?

Greetings Jake
Good to hear you are getting your boy out!!
I was up Oct.10-13, 17-19 It was as crowded as I have seen. Both times there was reasonable precipitation just before I arrived there. At flows above 250 the catching/hooking success was almost nonexistent in my favorite stretches. The water just becomes big, angry, and characterless at 250 and above for my style of fishing. Wading and crossing becomes dangerous. Clay, standing water and high traffic made the trails to, from, and along the river treacherous for walking. Many anglers I talked to had taken a fall at some point. I hope the freezing nights have made the trails more navigable. Flows below 220 and dropping were the best. Most days I fished from 11AM to dark. First lighters are stumbling around in the dark trying to beat each other to the prime water. I heard about lawn chairs, sleeping bags and 4AM arrivals.
Not my game!

1) I am not sure of their ultimate destination. Someone else may be able to chime in with that info.  To clarify, as far as I understand, It is just the largest push of rainbows that enter the river during the mid-October time period, not most of the rainbows. I am told that some come in and go back out to the lake. Some come in and stay low on the river. Some go straight in past Brule to the upper river and some won’t come into the river until the spring, when they spawn.

You have browns(beginning or spawning now), salmon and rainbows all milling about. Many end up above Brule where we cannot fish to them.  I am not near as familiar with the upper part of the Brule and what locations/habitat the different fish require to spawn or hold over. Through the Meadows section which is still below Brule in the legally fishable water I  have spent very little time on because previous trips to this area were unsuccessful. There is just a lot of river to explore and I believe one would need a life time to become familiar with it all. You lucky locals:)

Most folks only have a limited amount of time on the water. I still believe you fish the water you are intimately familiar with. The water where you know every rock, back eddy, pool, snag monster, seam line, drop, cut, foam pile and shore line will be the most productive for you. On this water you spend the majority of your time. The fish are there. On one day or a half day, you explore new water. This allows you both to expand your horizons and still be comfortable/confident in a sport where hooking-up to a steelhead can be as elusive as truthful politician.

2) As I write this to you flows are at 238cfs. Looks like some precipitation must have come on the 27th of Oct. At 230cfs the edges are just beginning to clear on the sections of the river I most often frequent. I believe some of the fish move to these edge locations under high water conditions. I think we used the term “diluted” over beers on the tailgate discussion one evening. This means the same number of trout have more places, or maybe better said, “other places” to hold than when flows are at 160cfs. The deep pools can be more difficult to fish if you are trying to get to the bottom. More debris, stronger currents and more weight on your line can all add to the challenge of figuring out the correct drift formula. So, yes, to question 2.

3) It is a personal question and yes I will admit to being a swinger. Hell Jake, I am a rebel and wish to experience all that life fishing has to offer. There is not a day where I do not add the swinging technique to my repertoire. I am convinced that pulling out all the stops, throwing caution to the wind, breaking bad, circling the wagons, so on and so on is the way to approach this type of fishing. The more techniques you can master or reasonably employ, the more adjustments you can make, the more thought processes you can conceive of, the more chance of success. There are lines I draw on an ethics of fly fishing basis but all in all I do everything I can to win this battle. Landing and releasing, unharmed, one of these rare wild treasures is dope. End of story.

Have fun!!! and shoot me a report when you return.