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Steelhead Fishing Videos



 … a sample of the script from one of our instructional  steelhead fishing videos

About Steelhead  

Steelhead are migratory rainbow trout that are spawned in our rivers and after an average of two years head to the ocean.  Hatchery steelhead may take less than a year to reach their smolt stage, and like their wild cousins forage their way down river and head to the ocean or great lake where they will grown to maturity.

Most steelhead spend two to three years in the salt feeding and forming into the streamlined silver bullets we love to catch.

A few remain longer at the feed trough and it is these specimens that stay out four and five years that become the trophies of our dreams.

Upon returning to their home river steelhead immediately start to change appearance. They slowly loose their bright, metallic sheen and take on a duller rainbow trout like color.  The males are more hooked jawed while the females sport a bullet like snout; both have spotted, broad, tails.

There are both winter and summer runs of steelhead.  On the West Coast the shorter streams seam to harbor winter run fish while the longer systems produce the summer runs; some rivers have both winter and summer runs.

Generally winter fish return November through March while the summers come home between May and September.  Both spawn in February or March, so the summer steelhead spend much longer in the rivers.

Unlike salmon, steelhead can return to the ocean after spawning but only a little over ten percent manage to repeat the entire reproductive ritual.

Steelhead  Holding WaterHabits

Where exactly do steelhead hold in their home rivers is the first important lesson to be learned if you intend to catch them. Before you leap in and start casting look at the water and learn where the fish are most likely to be.  This is called reading the water and it is a skill you need to conquer unless you are satisfied to spend all your time fishing in a crowd.  There is no doubt however that where you find a lot of anglers you will find water that holds steelhead.  

Bad Steelhead Holding Water Types

There are some places you won’t find steelhead so eliminate them from your possible fishing locations. Avoid fast water, steelhead are sometimes called lazy because they don’t want to spend their time in fast current.  They won’t waste valuable energy fighting heavy water; waterfalls, steep chutes and quick moving shallow runs can be ignored.

Avoid sandy river bottoms, you won’t find steelhead where you have a sandy or muddy bottom.  Dirt and fish gills don’t mix and steelhead will avoid such areas if they have a choice.

Good Steelhead Holding Water Types

Gravel, rocks, and boulders are the preferred structure for steelhead to hold over and around.  Something that breaks the current, like a big stone or even a submerged tree, this provides both a place for fish to rest and protects them from the sun and predators.

The ideal current speed should be about that of a normal walking pace.  What is tricky is that the current at the surface may be quite different from what it is at depth. Underwater structure can break and slow the current beneath the surface and these are often ideal places to find steelhead.

Extremely shallow water makes steelhead vulnerable and you need at least three feet  of depth to provide them some level of comfort.  Not many rivers will provide you the opportunity to fish much deeper then fifteen feet.

Generally you will find steelhead close to the bottom or in and around structure where the current is slower than the normal speed of the river.  The deeper calmer portion of the river is often the best while the stagnant water is not productive.

What are some of the best types of holding water?  Riffles are one such area, this is where the fast water starts to slow down.  Often this is right after a rapids, falls, or chute. The water is choppy, providing overhead cover, and the bottom is often rocky causing the bumpy surface.

Pools can follow riffles and are the deepest form of holding water with a surface that often swirls and alternates between slicks and boils. Pools are not still but have sufficient flow to suspend fish and enough depth to provide cover.

Tailouts are where the pool begins to turn back into river. Water depth shallows and the river widens, while the surface is often smooth and flat.  Early and late in the day steelhead can be found in such areas that have ideal water speed but not much in terms of protection from the sun and predators.

Break Points are another spot where you can often find fish.  This is just where the tailout ends and the river begins to take another form, which might be rapids, a falls or even a deep chute.  This is often a small choppy zone that may provide the right water speed and submerged structure to make the perfect resting spot for steelhead. 

Often times you will hear veteran steelheaders say they are looking for flat spots in the main flow of the river. What they are really seeking is a portion of the riverbed with sufficient depth and water speed that is tilted slightly up from the normal descending nature of the bottom.  In such spots steelhead position themselves to get a surfing sensation as the water pushes up from the bottom, this allows them to hold in slightly faster current than you might anticipate.