In the past ten years or so since Bob started using Raven Floats on his steelhead fly rods over in NY his clients hook up rate has dramatically increased. We even use them at home in VT on our medium to larger trout streams with similar results..
Raven FS Floats which are the ones we use on a fly rod aren’t made for fly rods. They’re actually designed like all other Raven Floats to be used on Spinning and Centerline rods. Having said that, when properly rigged on a 10ft 6 or 7wt and matched with a good fly line with a heavy, extended head such as a Scientific Angler Anadro line they cast relatively easily (roll casting only, a false cast would be a fatal mistake) and more importantly, will allow your fly to stay exactly where you want it to. Most traditional fly fishing bobbers aren’t designed to carry more than a split shot or two, when you have one or two split shot on your line there’s going to be a lot more guesswork in the position of your fly. Is your fly floating at the same depth on every drift? Probably not, is it going to be directly under your bobber? Doubt it. And how well is it going to show if you’re getting a “dead drift” These are all things that play a role on how many fish you’re going to catch in certain situations. Not all, but a lot, and a lot when we’re steelhead fishing.
Generally when targeting steelhead we’re looking for the fast water that still has a little depth. Especially in the fall, the steelhead are going to be in the fast moving water which makes it that much more crucial to have enough weight to keep your fly where you want it. Often Steelhead can be the fish of a thousand drifts so anytime you can eliminate variables such as depth of fly you’re going to see better results. When fishing with a raven float, you’re going to putting a decent amount of weight on your leader, in doing this it’s going to create a vertical presentation with your leader, indicator and fly making it a much more reliable way to ensure you’re getting your fly to the proper depth on every drift. Often with other indicators, and less weight, you may only be getting your fly into the proper column of water every two or three drifts, which at the end of the day might make a steelhead the fish of two or three thousand drifts. Another benefit to a Raven or any other kind of indicator/float that has some sort of vertical post is it’s going to tell you how your drift is and where your fly is. If the post on your Raven isn’t vertical, you’re doing something wrong. It could be you don’t have enough weight on your leader, your fly line is creating drag and preventing the fly from drifting properly or your fly’s too deep. Often, with a more traditional indicator which doesn’t have some sort of vertical post protruding from the top of the indicator you’re not going to be able to identify these problems as easily. And when we’re guiding, that post is super helpful in allowing anglers to see if they’re getting a true dead drift or not. If the Raven is tipped upstream your fly line is moving slower than you’re float and holding it back so mend downstream. If you’re Raven is pointed downstream your fly lines moving quicker than the Raven so mend upstream.
Lastly let’s talk about how we rig these up. First up is the leader. It’s important to ditch the tapered trout leaders. A waste of money and they won’t do you any favors with this rig. We start off with a 3ft section of Maxima Chameleon 15lb connected to another 3ft section of 12lb Chameleon. The 15lb is your butt section, the 12lb is going to be your shot line-meaning all split shot will live on this middle section of your leader. Below the 12lb we’ll tie in a Raven 4XS Micro Swivel. To that we’ll run 18-24″ of Maxima Ultra Green in 6 or 8lb. Before adding any weight or a fly to your leader you now have to add a couple pieces of Raven 1/16″ silicone tubing to your leader by sliding it up over the swivel and positioned around the blood knot connecting the butt to shot line. Obviously, depending on depths you’ll adjust the location of this tubing and your float. We like the top piece of tubing, which will slide over the top post on your Raven to be slightly longer, if you go really short often your leader will get caught between the post and the leader, but if you run it slightly longer there won’t be that little gap for line to get caught in. As far as weight goes, even distributing the weight across your shot line is best, keep in mind the size float you run will dictate how much weight to put on your leader. The bigger the float, the more weight and the quicker you can get your fly down in fast, deeper water. The opposite holds true for slower water.
This method of nymphing isn’t the answer for every situation, not that there’s any method that is. But, it’s a method that would serve a purpose for anglers across the country, we’ve used them in VT for trout and salmon, obviously over in NY for steelhead, NC and TN in high-water releases in some of their tailwaters, Montana during spring run off where weight is super important to getting your flies through all that water and lots of other places. In the right time and place, it can be an absolute game changer.
Click on Diagram to enlarge