Im a beginner to Steelhead nymphing. Need some advice

Let me begin by saying that I’m a fairly new fly fishermen; I started last July. The majority of my fly fishing is for trout here in Idaho. I’ve caught a decent amount of trout nymphing. My favorite place to nymph so far is the Big Lost River; on my best days I’ve had twenty+ hook ups and landed ten+.This post is regarding nymphing for steelhead.

I recently took a three day steelhead trip. We fished the south fork of the Clearwater River for two days and the Little salmon river for one day. My friend I was with is an experienced fishermen. He landed two ten pound+ fish and hooked several others. I hooked none. I cant say for sure that fish didn’t go for my flies, since there were several instances when I set the hook. Most likely a lot of them were hang ups, but it’s possible I could have missed some actual fish as well.

This brings me to the main purpose of this post. I need advice on my nymphing presentation. I’ll try and be as detailed as I can on how I was fishing. The first river we fished was the south fork of the Clearwater. It’s not a very big river, though it does have deep fast runs and white water in certain areas. It also boasts several wade friendly fly fishing holes. We hole hopped alot through the day; we fished deep pools, nice long drifts, tailouts, etc. Most of the water was face walk pace to jog pace. I would try drifting through all of the water. The second place we fished is the Little Salmon river. I’ts a very narrow river, alot of places it’s barely wider than a two lane road. It has some slow drifts but is mostly medium swiftness to fast swiftness water with alot of deep pools. I fished with egg patterns, big stonefly nymphs, and a nine foot leader. Between one and three small split shot were used as well.

I would do an upstream cast and after it lands I would roll by indicator back so its behind my flies and my flies are the at the very front of the drift. Then I would mend my fly line and try to get it as straight as possible for no drag. I would stack mend down stream and was effectively doing it without jolting the indicator. In areas with swift water, to prevent drag I would high stick and raise my fly line off the water until the drift was downstream; then I could lay down my fly line in a nice straight line. Here’s one thing I’d like specifics on. I heard that the best way to drift is when the indicator is directly above the flies. With the way I was doing it I rolled the indicator behind the flies so the flies float a few feet in front of the indicator. I thought I was doing it the correct way.

Another thing I want to touch on is the indicator position. I have a super easily adjustable indicator. My friend told me to keep the indicator close the the top end of my leader, which I did. When I nymph for trout I adjust my indicator often. I didn’t question it since the person that told me was catching fish.

On a good note, I do want to say that this was a really good learning experience for me. I learned how to roll cast pretty well and absolutely love it for casting nymph rigs. My main issue with nymph casting before was I would get alot of nightmarish tangles. I had zero tangles my last day there just doing roll casts. This made me question how to present flies. It’s also opened up more opportunities for me because now I’ll be able to fish from more spots with the roll cast. I think I’ve included all the needed details, if I left anything out just let me know. Just looking for any advice, even the smallest tip may help indefinitely.

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