Winter Steelhead Fishing Tips
Steelhead fishing can be an exercise in patience, everyone who has tried it knows that fact. This can especially be true in the winter. They are the “fish of a thousand casts,” but when they finally bite, it becomes addictive! Unless there is a summer run, steelhead usually start hitting the streams in early fall, in fact, you can fish for steelhead on the Dean River in British Columbia, and they will still be covered with sea lice. By early winter, most of the migrating fish will have arrived. By this time, these fish are “veterans,” having been fished over for weeks or even months.
Since they are cold-blooded, steelhead often become less active and feed less in the winter, so veteran winter steelhead anglers preach precise presentations – the fish are usually not willing to chase baits very far. This is a different game than fall steelhead fishing can be. Find water with less current, where fish do not have to expend their energy fighting to stay in position. Holes and bottom depressions that create horizontal seams in the current are popular areas. So are eddies or areas behind obstructions (boulders, downed trees, etc.) that deflect the current.
Sometimes playing the water is half the battle.
When the river has been dropping and clearing for ‘awhile’, fish the hole. If the river is ‘fresh’ on the drop or rise, fish the heads and tails. Weighted flies will help you get down but some of the flies I see now days are way too heavy. Use the tip to get you down…not HUGE dumbbell eyes on your fly.
Fish the correct terminal gear for the type of water you are fishing.
That means if you need a heavier tip based on depth and flow, put it on. Conversely, if you need a lighter tip, then put it on. Many of the runs we fish do not require as heavy a tip as you think. Although getting down is important, SCRAPING bottom the entire time is non-productive.
Depending on the time of day and river pressure; I would always suggest fishing the run with as light of tip as possible so as to swing the fly into the beach (Early morning and low pressure).
Really big flies catch fish…and they are ‘kinda cool’, but , BIG isn’t always GOOD.
Remember, fish see far better than we give them credit. However, I will have to admit, 5 inches of Black and Blue can elicit a serious crush that keeps you coming back for more! I guess it all depends on the mood of the fish. Winter steelhead anglers often down-size their offerings. Smaller spawn bags or wax worms or wigglers fished under bobbers are popular baits for winter steelhead.