With the fall steelheading season in full swing on the Great Lakes tributaries, anglers will be targeting the runs of fresh steelhead entering the creeks. While most anglers will be found fishing deep holes and runs loaded with pressured fish, and other anglers, some anglers will be seen stealthily approaching brush piles and structures to reach the most aggressive of fish. Though it may seem like a no-brainer to target the more aggressive fish in the stream, they are more than likely the hardest fish to get to. Whether it be a pile of thick brush, a submerged tree, or even manmade structures, the fish that seek refuge in these areas are far more aggressive than fish in other areas of the stream.
So what makes the fish in these areas more aggressive than fish in other areas? The simple truth to this is that these fish are not targeted by anglers because they require casting into thick brush and high rates of snags and lost gear. Also, many anglers do not think of looking deep in to brush piles and other similar locations. The fish in these areas are taking shelter from the busy, fast-paced fishing pressure that is going on in other areas. These fish have not seen many/if any anglers’ presentations. This means that they are opportunistic in their feeding habits. If they are presented with a bait that resembles one of their common food sources, they are extremely likely to strike.
The best way to approach these fish holding structure areas is from the downstream side. Most situations will allow for baits/flies to be drifted near the edge of the structure. Fish will hold under the structure’s edges and wait to see food items flow by to ambush. Aggressive strikes can be triggered by moving heavily weighted streamer flies and jigs near these fish holding areas. Popular patterns include egg sucking leeches, arrogant emerald shiners, bunny spey, and a variety of others. Instructional videos for these patterns can be found at FishUSA’s Angler Resources site. Seeing a Great Lakes steelhead swimming out of a brush pile full speed and ferociously attacking a bait/fly, is a sight like no other.
You will come to realize that even though you will land only a small percentage of fish that you hook in these areas due to a large number of factors that are not in your favor, you will have very high hookup ratios and see a large amount of fish! Fighting the fish out of the brush adds to the excitement and challenge of this type of fishing. For the catch and release angler, this method of fishing provides an awesome day of fishing that is challenging, yet rewarding!
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