Steelhead are weird creatures, to be honest. They’re stuck between the urge to migrate and spawn and keep themselves alive through feeding and taking advantage of their opportunistic nature and feed on a plentiful food source. Steelhead have definite stages in which their moods and actions are a bit more predictable, for example, during the actual spawning action or after they have completed the spawn and are migrating back to the ocean or lake. The age old debate about what these fish do during their migration to spawn (do the eat?) is futile to a certain extent. What is certain is that these fish take all sorts of nymphs and large steelhead flies during their migration, and in the Great Lakes, steelhead are suckers for a good minnow fly pattern.
Dead drift minnows are great when steelhead and lake-run browns are in their drop back phase or when they’re not interested in moving on a bigger flies. This minnow fly pattern, called the Steel Fry, has an erratic movement as it bounces along the bottom because of its exaggerated length. This pattern is good when fish are right on the edge of moving on a swung fly, and fish will actually take it if you stop your drift and let the fly swing up. This minnow fly pattern is also great for low or clear water where the fish want something besides smaller nymphs and eggs, and the bright orange gives it just enough attracting qualities to be a good search pattern.
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