Steelhead have the reputation of being hard to catch and harder to land, but these tried and true tactics get the job done in the Pacific Northwest.
When fishing for steelhead, particularly during the winter runs, weather is a huge factor in angling success. Ideally, there has been enough rainfall to keep the rivers from dropping into gin-clear conditions, when steelhead grow spooky and reluctant to bite. But, if too much rain
Many regions – and even some individual rivers – have both winter and summer runs of steelhead. The winter runs begin around the holiday season and stretch into early spring. The summer season starts later in spring and continues into fall. Both runs typically spawn in winter months, with the summer fish spending much more time in fresh water. The methods described here will work for either run, but anglers should adjust their approaches to fit the run.
Generally speaking, winter fish are often more inclined to strike brighter and flashier colors, including silver and nickel finishes and lures painted with chartreuse, bright orange and red. You might need heavier line and tackle to account for powerful river flows.
In the summer, anglers often employ more subtle approaches, including sneaking up on likely looking holding water and using lighter lines and muted lure and fly colors. Summer steelhead often act like resident rainbow trout, moving into riffles and behind rocks and feeding on insects while they await higher flows to spawn.
The following steelhead fishing methods are among those commonly used, but since steelhead can be found in so many types of waters, other approaches also can reward anglers with one of these hard-fighting gamefish.
Rod, Reel and Line
A rod of about eight and a half or nine feet, with a sensitive tip to feel the bit, is pretty standard with hardware methods for steelhead. Many veteran steelheaders use bait-casting models, but spinning gear also works. Typically anglers use 8- to 12-pound test line, but heavier line is a bonus in some circumstances.
This is the most common angling method on many steelhead rivers. On a short dropper, weight such as pencil lead, “slinky” (lead shot in parachute cording) or non-lead options such as a Bouncing Betty. Use enough weight so your tackle travels at current speed, bouncing occasionally on the bottom where steelhead hold. Bites can be subtle, so beginners often are encouraged to set the hook when in doubt. Popular setups use small floating attractors such as Okie Drifters or Corkies and a bit of colorful yarn. Many anglers add natural bait, such as cured salmon egg clusters, sand shrimp and nightcrawlers, or artificial egg clusters, rubber worms or similar lures. Try the “tailout” areas of the lower pool during good flows.
While typical drift fishing is done from a stationary position, there also are side-drifting methods targeting prime water to the side of a moving boat, which allows a longer and potentially more natural presentation uses this method
This is still fishing in moving water, which is popular on larger rivers . Use enough weight to hold your bait or lure in place. The Spin-N-Glo is a popular lure teamed with the same kinds of baits for drift fishing. Often, this technique is effective surprisingly close to the bank, as steelhead often travel in water only a few feet deep.
Spinners and Spoons
These are heavier than trolling models used in trout fishing on lakes. Cast them across and either slightly upstream or downstream, depending on the water. Allow the lure enough time to get close to the bottom and develop a spin or flutter against the current as they swing downriver through likely looking holding water such as riffles or seams off the edge of faster water.
Bobbers with Jigs or Bait
This is a good method for beginners (and experts) alike, because strikes are obvious: When the bobber goes under, strike hard. Floats also are easy to maneuver into pocket water, such as behind boulders, or to drift through long drifts that are relatively constant in depth without hanging up as much as drift fishing. Maribou, plastic and other types of jigs – bright in winter, dark in summer – can be irresistible to steelhead. Some anglers also use floats instead of drift-fishing tackle to deliver natural baits.
Hot Shots and similar wobbling plugs can be trolled through slower moving waters or slowly “backtrolled” using oars to slow a drift boat while the plug pulls farther downstream through holding water. Bank anglers can imitate the back-trolling method (also used with bait instead of lures) with a side planer. And it’s possible to cast plugs and swing and reel them through target water, much as others fish spinners and spoons.
While fly fishing is very popular for summer steelhead on great rivers of the West, , it also can be a rewarding (if a bit challenging) way to catch winter steelhead as well. Common patterns include Skunks and Woolly Buggers. Some anglers also employ a floating indicator fly while drifting a nymph near the bottom. Common steelhead fly rods are 7- to 9-weights, and longer Spey rods for two-handed casting are popular.
On Last Suggestion
Whichever method you choose, fooling steelhead is only half the battle. Make sure you bring a large landing net, a pair of waders with good-gripping soles ... and your heart medication Now lets get some hands on training YA GOTSTA HOOK UP WITH GOTCHAHOOKEDFISHTRIP Jim Mitchell