Steelheading is synonymous with hard work. Nobody should get into Steelheading if they think its going to be like trout fishing or trolling for salmon in the ocean. Steelheading is a commitment and you have to be prepared to physically work for your first fish and every fish after that. So don't be discouraged if it has taken you many outings before you even hook your first Steelhead!
Secondly, I would like to remind you of the number one rule of Steelheading: ''Fish where the fish are.'' I can't stress this enough, I see people flogging water all day long with very little results because they aren't fishing where the fish are. My advice is simple: keep moving! Hunt the Steelhead. Search for them, find out where they are and when they like to be there and then figure out how to fish for them. Many times a year I drive out to rivers with no fishing gear with me at all and walk them to see where the fish are hiding and what the conditions are like. All I want to learn is where and when the fish are there. When you are shore fishing, you should be hiking and exploring more than you are fishing. Plan a route of fishing holes that you want to hit the night before and start at the most productive/most familiar one at first light then move on after an hour and explore. That's Steelheading, it's all about hunting them down, finding new water and enjoying the experience.
Leaders and Hooks:
Before you sit down and pre-tie a bunch of leaders, consider how hook and leader sizes may affect your catching. In my experience, I always want to use the smallest hook and the lightest leader that my guests can effectively use to land a Steelhead. Water conditions play a factor in what hook size and leader weight you will use. In heavier water, use heavier line and larger hooks. In low clear water use light line and small hooks. For example, I never use more than a 12lb leader for island Steelhead and often I will use a 6lb leader. So play around with your leader weights, you'll be amazed how this will improve the amount of hook-ups. Also, don't be afraid to use small hooks because they actually stick better than larger ones. Here's something that I do, I take my leader tied to a hook and stick the hook into a tree then pull the leader to see if the hook straightens out before the leader breaks. I want the leader and the hook to fail at around the same time, that way I'm using the smallest hook I can use for that weight of leader line. Plus, I get to feel of how much line pressure I can exert on a certain leader weight. Experiment with leaders and hooks. Tie up your usual Steelhead artificial with a hook and leader then place it in some slow-moving water and watch how it sinks, now take the same artificial and use a lighter leader and a way smaller hook and place that in the water. Which one looks more natural in the water? It's all about making the artificial bait look natural in the water, master that and your catch will increase.
There are soooo many different artificials for Steelhead, there are Trophy Tackle spoons, jigs, plugs, egg clusters, single eggs, worms, wool, blades and shrimp and dozens of variations of those and more. So what do you do? As a guideline, I always try to 'match the hatch'. During the Salmon spawn the Steelhead are clearly eating the loose salmon eggs, therefore I use what looks like loose salmon eggs such as single eggs, small egg clusters and wool. Before and well after the Salmon spawn, Steelhead are pretty well eating anything they can get their mouths on so fly's, spoons, blades, egg clusters, plugs and worms work great. However, there is always exceptions to the rules because water conditions don't always allow you to use what you want and you have to adapt. However, whatever artificial you choose to use, fish it with confidence and be prepared on every cast that a fish will strike it. There have been many times I have lost a fish, simply because I wasn't prepared for the strike.
I have covered just a few minor aspects of Steelheading in this short blog post! I hope that some of it has encouraged you to get out and go Steelheading. Its an awesome sport and a fantastic way to get outdoors in the winter. Tight lines!
See my fishing blog by clicking here.
The Rambling Fisherman
Vancouver Island Fishing Guide and Blogger.
Next Weeks Article: Rod/Reel Set-up For V.I. Steel.