Why Steelhead Fishing Takes Patience
Steelhead fishing takes patience because the runs are difficult to predict and steelhead are always moving upstream or downstream. When steelhead enter a river system it is with the sole purpose of spawning, but the fish will feed to supply energy during the journey. Steelhead fishermen must monitor river conditions each day and spend a great amount of time timing and fishing the runs in order to have success.
Timing the steelhead runs depends on the season of the annual run and the water flows and temperature. Research the season of the run on the individual river before you go fishing. Runs will occur in each season depending on the river, with winter and summer runs being the most common. The exact date the run begins cannot be predicted each year because the fish will often refrain from moving upriver until the water temperature is cold and the flows are sufficient. There are exceptions to this rule and it pays to be intimate with the river system.
One of the most difficult aspects of steelhead fishing is locating the fish. Steelhead are always on the move and bigger river systems make it a daunting task when you are looking for fish. When steelhead are on the move, the fish are difficult to catch; but when resting, the fish are vulnerable. Look for steelhead in the flat, slow water at the tail end and the top end of each run. The fish will rest in the deep pools before and after navigating the runs.
River conditions influence steelhead movement. Rising waters are a good thing but your timing must put you on the water before levels become too high. Stable flows are good for steelhead fishing and low flows can restrict steelhead movements. When the flows are low, concentrate your fishing in the deep water and in the lower river systems. Weather is another factor on steelhead movements. Many steelhead fishermen consider bad weather a good time to be fishing. Rain, wind and snow can trigger steelhead movement and make for a productive day of fishing.
Steelhead can be caught using a variety of techniques. Fly fishermen use heavy rods and spey rods in big rivers. Swinging wet flies and streamers on sinking lines is an effective technique. Fly fishermen will also dead-drift egg patterns under a strike indicator. Spin fishermen will also drift eggs but casting spinners and spoons is a productive technique.
Steelhead fishing requires persistence and patience. Wild steelhead runs are down around the western U.S. but hatchery fish supplement the runs and increase your chances of catching steelhead. It is imperative that you attempt to time the run and constantly monitor the flows, conditions and weather temperature. Guides provide a major advantage because they monitor the rivers on a daily basis and increase your chances of having a successful trip.