BigJim, in my book if its legal, sporting, and especially if it works, THEN IT COUNTS!
Pardon my going on here, but I'm between cups of coffee and enjoying reflecting on the proposition you've raised. As a boy just moved out to (then agricultural) HoCo, I discovered that a tiny tributary (then clear and clean) of the Patapsco (then still badly impaired, pre- Agnes scouring) held a population of (not positive above the ID) redside dace, that ranged up to almost a whopping four inches long. The one thing I'm sure of is that these were stunningly pretty and spooky critters... and how excited I was to eventually learn to catch them (or at least those with mouths big enough!). "Perhaps no one else had ever bothered to fish this secluded ribbon of flow in this forgotten little valley," I wondered several times as I hiked along on my way to the 'real' fishing grounds at the river.
Well, it took a number of tries, but I found that a very spare and small 'kreelex' (actually the smallest, completely bare gold salmon egg hook I could find!) would do the trick, allowing me to briefly admire their blood red flanks. Provided I didn't scare them making the flips, many tiny lures would draw follows, but not nips. Using even a smidge of garden worm on those hooks got bit, but proved too bulky to be engulfed. Did this angling for minnies in a rill that almost anywhere could be stepped over count?
Well, I remember the experience four decades later with as much fondness and satisfaction as anything else I caught anywhere else by any means at the time. Maybe more, since so far as I knew, I was exploring 'unplowed ground' and working out a successful approach on my own, and success was not immediate. That made it count double.
We anglers tend to think of some methods or tackle or species or fishing grounds as being inherently better than others, as if there was some threshold of combinations, 'below' which, a fishing experience didn't count. Really, this is self-limiting and prejudicial.
I'm not especially keen about trolling myself, but stand in awe of you guys who can manage a big spread of lures on downriggers, side planers, wire, and flat lines, taking into account the tides, winds, currents and boat speeds and so carve an effective swath along bottom features through waters that reach the horizon. Of course it counts, even though its not exactly my favorite cup of tea.
While not every variation will naturally hold the same appeal to every fisher, I've come to see that any approach affords an opportunity to potentially learn to apply great skill and refinement, OR to be botched badly.
I have no right to demean those who drag lures through the water just because I happen to strongly prefer to cast them and to hold and work a single rod and line. How 'bout the guys sitting bankside by the forked sticks? They might just be shooting the breeze and knocking down some beers, but they might also know a lot more about what they are doing than meets the eye of the guy in a drift boat plying plugs in the same river by slipping.
Can a guy fly flailing quite badly (and so fruitlessly) for Atlantic salmon on a prime, private beat in the wilds of Nova Scotia validly lord it over a kid piecing together an effective method for carping a small, murky cattle watering hole in the ground? I can't answer that question for anyone but myself, but its a no-brainer. Fishing fun is whatever you care to find or make it.
OK, time for my second cup... Oh yeah, are you saying that the traditional western steelie patterns (basically big wet flies on heavier hooks) regularly work well on the swing for stream and river smallies? Last (and my first) time out on the Grande Rhonde in WA, I took a few smallies while targeting steelhead, but thought it was kind of a fluke. Maybe not so much?
Many years ago Larry Dahlberg came up with a fly for Minnesota smallmouths he called a "Flash Dancer", basically a muddler with a wing made of gold flashabou. I still carry some and try them once in a while, but the only place I've ever had any consistent action with them is on Fifteen Mile Creek up in Green Ridge State Forest. I don't think I've ever caught a smallie out of the Potomac on one, may have to re-visit that fly this year.
Jnashed, I've never been to AK or caught a coho, but understand they are really something on the end of a line. Got voluntarily bumped from a flight once, and so had an op to redeem my compensation as far away as Alaska compliments of Delta. Started doing some homework (this back when the only webs were on bushes and railings!) and got the impression that there were two or three kinds of inland fishing to be had... high-end, fly-out, and lodge-based, float trips, and shorebound combat fishing. also got the impression that wind, rain, along with bears and skeeters that both commanded respect, could all feature prominently in an AK fishing experience. Decided I couldn't feel good about dropping a lot of $, was no longer as keen about roughing it as I once was, found chuck-n-duck fishing effective but tedious, and was very averse to pestering hoardes of biting insects... basically that AK (as wonderful as it undoubtedly is) was just not (for me) as appealing a getaway as say, the high desert areas of the Pacific NW where the sun shines most every day, you can change up the presentations all you like, and about the only bugs are hoppers!
At the time I didn't think that steelheading was my cup of tea either, and focused exclusively on resident trout the first several trips out west. Now I like to split my vacation time about half and half on resident and migratory salmonids. I couldn't bear to ignore, or to focus completely upon, either flavor of fishing. The steelheading is more taxing and it is very possible for a bank-bound freelancer to wade deep, cast long, and swing away an entire week without so much as a single bump to show for it. Plus I am now finding all that sun and possibly wind exposure has become cumulatively physically taxing.
So mixing in some trouting serves as a psychological 'security blanket' for an objectively successful vacation experience. Then again, I live near trout and at least see them daily, so it would seem a wasted op to be in steelhead country and not at least indulge long enough to have a good shot at some pullage.
The big fish I mentioned was a legitimately epic angling experience, but ultimately kind of ruinous... I both employed hard-earned skills but also got very, very lucky on that one, which may have been a state record (it was released). Given my limited means and energies, I don't expect to ever meet another fish that might even approach that particular encounter, and so it was a bittersweet personal benchmark. Not complaining here, but if I could ordain such things, it would have been better to postpone that catch towards the end of my fishing life, I think. Other memorable fish that might grace my future are yet appreciated, exciting, and rewarding to be sure, but at a discounted rate by comparison.
Otoh, I can now focus more on sharing the angling outing/experience with companions in real time, or in story-telling after the fact, and am much less driven to fish extra hard all the time to somehow try to maximize it, or to be competetive. That one fish 'exorcized' what had become my own 'fishaholic demon', and that was (and is) a relief.
I have the luck to go with a group of local guys to the Naneck river camp. The cost for the week is not horrible considering it is guided trips everyday and 3 meals a day. Plus they also have a rate for those who want to go it alone w/o a guide to. You are right about a couple of things though. First the fishing that time of year is mostly egg or should I say beads. Not much traditional dryfly or even nymph fishing. One can go on plane rides to other streams of course and I might do that actually but even then most fishing will be with beads. A lot of people go chuck and duck. I cant bear too actually. nothing against those who do but it cant be fun to "chuck" large weight with a flyrod (that was never intended to cast such wt). Although catching 24-30" rainbows is always fun. I am sticking to beads and streames, for better or worse. The coho/ silver salmon is the greatest draw in many ways as they and pinks will apparently go for streamers. I have to believe a Kreelex with purple flash has got to be a go to. You dont know until you try but I am going to tie some once I get some Purple flash. i am no expert but have gotten some advise from friends and others from this site that have been up there. I am eager with anticipation, and yes there are a lot of bears, but I hear they are pretty filled up by August/ Sept. as opposed to June and July. we shall see I guess.
I think the people who fish the "Steelhead" alley of the great lakes are a little spoiled by the multiple fish/ day of the stocked steelies we see. I'd love to go for the western steelhead some day. But you are right, one must have to fish trout the rest of the time (any why not).
Thanks as always for the insight and thoughts. Hope I can get out for some smallies soon. The bite has been really really good in the 'Doah and the lastest rain should keep it going for a little while longer. Then it will be evening poppers and hoppers. A lot of decent sized fish this year though. hope the trend continues.
Have a great trip up there, and let us know / see a pic or two about your adventures. There is something about the 'Alley' steelhead venues that alters the game in many ways, some for better and others for worse. The fish themselves are just as strong and dtermined as any out west I've sampled, but the setting is much less grand. Its been forever since I've gotten to wet a line in the Shenandoah... Glad to hear good reports from there.
Iíve always loved the Shenandoah. there is so much history surrounding that river. I miss fishing there as well as the Potomac. Two fly patterns, that worked well for me there. Are the spruce fly and the dark spruce fly. I never had good luck on either of them. Except there. So I always made sure I had them when going to fish the Shenandoah.
Yep thatís the dark spruce fly. It has gold badger for the wing or just dark badger. The Spruce fly, has just badger hackle wings. Other then that. Their isnít a difference. But there is just enough difference to the fish.