Winter is upon us, which means you need to stock up on your cold-weather fishing gear and steelhead flies because the winter run is just getting started. Steelhead are the same as rainbow trout, but with an important distinction: they spend the majority of their life in the ocean, then head to rivers to spawn. For anglers, that means you can catch them in a number of different ways, in both saltwater and freshwater environments.
From November through March, anglers from all over the world flock to the Pacific Northwest for a chance to take advantage of its unique geography and ecosystem; in Washington and Oregon, freshwater rivers connect directly to the Pacific Ocean, so you have the best chance of catching a truly anadromous steelhead. Compared to their summer cousins, winter steelhead tend to be larger since they’re closer to reproductive maturity.
So if you’re passionate about fishing already, or perhaps you enjoy the outdoors and are looking for a new kind of winter getaway, consider going steelhead fly fishing this season. We’ve covered here some of the main benefits and where to get started.
Fly Fishing Steelhead Flies: The Basics
Fly fishing can be challenging, but is extremely rewarding. It relies on the use of a lightweight lure which is usually specific to each fish species — ie: a “steelhead fly”. You’ll use a special fly rod, reel, and weighted line in combination with a variety of steelhead fly patterns to get fish to bite.
One secret to success is choosing the right steelhead flies to present in a variety of weather and water conditions. These flies tend to have a larger profile, so they stand a better chance of hooking the fish. That said, there’s no such thing as a perfect steelhead fly, since the “right” one will depend heavily on factors like water level, water clarity, current weather, time of year, and even the water temperature. For example, you might need a more visible fly if water clarity is low or the weather is harsh. If conditions are clearer, you might try a more “realistic” fly to better imitate movements of the steelheads’ favorite bugs. Bring a variety of steelhead fly patterns to ensure you have everything you’re going to need.
Why Go Steelhead Fly Fishing?
So why would you go steelhead fly fishing in the Pacific Northwest?
- Some of the best fishing action you can find. For starters, Oregon and Washington offer some of the best opportunities to catch steelhead in the world. Due to their unique geographic location and accessibility, it’s easy for anyone with a bit of fishing experience to catch enormous steelhead on the fly while the fish migrate home to spawn.
- The great outdoors. On your way to your fishing location and as you begin your endeavor, you’ll get to enjoy the beauty and majesty of the great outdoors. Marvel at the enormous trees and mountainous landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. Take in the sights, sounds, and smells; and feel a sense of relaxation you can’t get in the rat race of normal life.
- Disconnection from technology. Fly fishing for steelhead is both a physical and mental hobby—one that demands your full attention to and respect for mother nature. That means you won’t even be tempted to look at your phone or check your email, let alone go on social media. If you’re ready for a technology detox, a fly-fishing trip could be exactly what you need.
- Social interaction. If you’re an introvert or simply looking for peace and quiet, fly fishing could be the perfect getaway. If you know where to look, you can find a spot with no one else around, and enjoy the bounty of the freshwater rivers for yourself. That said, the Pacific Northwest attracts thousands of people every year to take their shot at casting steelhead flies to lure this exciting fish. You can be around many other like-minded anglers, which is the perfect opportunity to make new friends, spend some time together, share different styles of steelhead fly patterns, and of course swap ideas about how to catch the biggest fish or prepare for the current conditions.
If you love fly fishing, consider traveling to the Pacific Northwest. Make sure to bring your A-game and your best steelhead flies to target some of the most impressive steelhead you can find anywhere in the world. If you’re interested in an international fishing trip, make sure to read up on our guide on fantastic fishing destinations all over the globe!