Fly fishing for steelhead fish can be a challenging and rewarding experience. These amazing fish share their heritage with the Atlantic and Pacific salmon. Although they are native to the West Coast of the United States as well as in Russia, they can also be found in the tributaries of the Great Lakes. This is because they were planted in the lakes many times in the 1800’s.
There are numerous places you can go when fly fishing for steelhead. As we’ve already said, they are most plentiful in the Western United States. You can find plenty of steelhead in the rivers of Northern California, Oregon, and Washington state.
Steelhead are cousins of the rainbow trout and have a decidedly chrome-like coloring. They are amazingly acrobatic and can provide any fly fisherman with a fulfilling challenge when trying to catch them.
Most of the fly fishing techniques used to catch steelhead are based on those historically developed to catch Atlantic salmon. Flies are cast downstream from the angler on a floating or sinking line. The take, which can sometimes be quite violent, usually occurs towards the end of the swing. You can also use nymphing methods usually used by trout anglers.
Winter steelheads are often considered the “hard core” of fly fishers, sometimes enduring hours of repeated casting in cold water and freezing conditions for that one tug that can occur when you least expect it. Many fly fishers will spend a lot of time trying to land that prized steelhead only to be frustrated near the end.
The main thing to keep in mind when fishing for steelhead is to practice a lot of patience. For people who fly fish for steelhead regularly, the success of a day consists of one good hook. You will not see big numbers of catches like you will on trout rivers. Keep a positive attitude and watch what the fish are doing.
Most steelhead pockets are found downstream, but other anglers know this as well. Steelhead are most plentiful in the cold, winter months, but you can often find several other fly fishers trying to fish the same spot in hopes of landing their fish. As you can imagine, this is not especially good for the fish or the fisherman. Practice appropriate etiquette when on the river fly fishing for steelhead.
You will probably need a 9 foot single hand rod or a 12-15 foot double handed rod for best results. Line weights should range from 7 to 9. The best flies to use when trying to land a steelhead include the Wooly Bugger, the Conehead Zuddler, and the Black Bear Green Butt.
Fly fishing for steelhead can be an amazingly gratifying experience when you are patient and wise when it comes to the natural patterns of these fish. When you are able to land one, you will be surprised at how much fun it is to reel it in.