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Get Ready to Catch Your Winter Steelhead Now

winter steelhead
Troy Rodakowski

Prepare now to catch more winter steelhead.

Hooking a Fish:

Trying to hook and land a nice winter steelhead is often times much easier said than done. They say these steelies are “the fish of 1,000 casts,” and in most instances, this is true. Floating river waters are the best options. Make sure to look for stretches where you can find some of the best pockets, and holes that are unreachable from the bank tend to hold quite a good number of fish.

Steelhead are tough to land.
Steelhead are tough to land.

Options:

I like to pitch Cleo style spoons in orange, red/pink with silver and gold combos work well. Blue and silver colors work also work nicely. Side drifting yarn with puffers in orange or hot pink colors can entice fish to strike as well. Many anglers use flatfish, Mag Lips and hot shot style plugs that are bright colored work good in the slower frog water near rapid convergences and structure. Steelhead prefer to rest in these locations when water levels are lower and rains have not persuaded them further upriver and away from the ocean.

Putting a nice winter in the boat will make any angler smile.
A nice winter in the boat will make any angler smile.

Rubber worms in green or pink fluorescent colors drifting into and through holes and deeper water with good current has been a promising tactic used by some. It is a good idea and I like to use additional shrimp scent on all rubber worms and yarn/puffer set-ups. Fresh cured roe is one of the favorites of these fish. I like small clusters about 1 ½ inches in diameter are perfect fished off the bottom or side drifted using about 14-18 “of leader and various sized slinky weights depending on water flow. Fresh live or frozen prawns are irresistible when fished with a fluorescent pink, green or orange corky. Sometimes adding a bit of yarn near the hook tip makes for a more enticing rig. When yarn is used make sure to keep it trimmed down to a very small amount without a tail.

Cured roe and yarn is a staple for winter steelhead anglers.
Cured roe and yarn is a staple for winter steelhead anglers.

Steel with a Fly:

For flies, the best results can be found with egg row, articulated prawns and bunny leach pattern styles. Using these in pinks and oranges with purple and other darker colors for contrast seem to work nicely. Anchoring your drifter on islands or opposite sides from good holes will likely produce some of the best results. Let your bait, lure or other set-ups through some of the creases and holes make sure the presentation looks natural. Some of the most productive flies are the Moal Leech in a purple / pink or purple / black pattern combo. 

Also, try using the Green Butt Silver Hilton for slower water using a 10ft rod and 10 lb leader. The Egg Sucking Leech can be used with both floating or sinking line. “This is a favorite that can be fished very deep dead drift style for fish holding near the bottoms,” according to Chris Daughters at the Caddis Fly Shop in Eugene, Oregon (541 342 7005 / caddiseug@aol.com )

Bent rods are what keep us coming back for more.
Bent rods are what keep us coming back for more.

Presentation:

Cast upstream to and let the spoon bounce near the bottom while keeping good tension on the line for the best action. Using various colored hot shots with blue /green or silver contrast and fluorescent colors also works well. Especially in some of the slower waters near the deeper bank edges. Drifting bait is a good way to entice a steelhead to strike in many sections of these rivers. For a good time use a slinky with .250 gauge shot with 2-5 shots depending on the swiftness of the current attached to an 18” leader with a #2 hook with egg loop and puffer.

 NEXT: HERE ARE 7 WEIRD THINGS HUNTERS DO AND NO ONE ELSE UNDERSTANDS

Get Ready to Catch Your Winter Steelhead Now