Best Flies for Winter Steelhead
Pro Guide Rob Crandall Shares his take on the Best Flies for Winter Steelhead. Fly fishing the NW during winter the conditions are always changing- having the right fly for the conditions is important.
There are many theories about why steelhead eat a fly which makes your job choosing winter steelhead flies that much tougher. Is it a territorial response, triggered feeding response or simply curiosity? While a plethora of ideas abound so do fly patterns. How do you choose the right one? What are the critical elements that make one fly better than the other. Is it truly, only presentation that matters?
Finding the right fly for steelhead can be a misnomer, aggressive steelhead would eat your car keys if given the chance; the “key” is for fish to be able to see your fly and want to eat it. Choosing your fly based on fly size, color of the water and time of year/sexual maturity of the fish may influence your choice for finding the best flies for winter steelhead. Other factors influencing fly selection are castability, weight of the fly and depth/speed of the water. There are a lot of choices when trying to find the best flies for winter steelhead, let’s unpack a few.
Best Flies for Winter Steelhead – are What Size?
Typically the best flies for winter steelhead are typically on average larger than flies used for summer steelhead. Winter flows are commonly high and off colored water happens frequently. Having a fly that fish can see is an important starting point. It’s common for winter steelhead flies to be 2-1/2″-3-1/2″ long.
Best Flies for Winter Steelhead- What are the Best Colors?
Steelhead in winter will eat a wide variety of colors. Black, black/blue, purple, purple/pink, pink and white, cerise, cerise and orange, orange, red, white, shell pink, among other colors are common producers for winter steelhead. There are a few favorites that tend to standout and perform better than others.
Day in and day out, if I had to choose just one color combo for the best flies for winter steelhead it would be a black and blue combo. This can be a wide variety of blends from mostly blue to mostly black. This color combo is a proven producer for steelhead.
Best Flies for Winter Steelhead- Tube Flies or Shank Flies?
Both tube flies and shank flies have their super powers for winter steelhead. In general, I favor shank flies for ease of use and because I can tie a fixed loop knot that allows the fly to move and appear more animated in the water which I think is a key factor in the success of a fly pattern.
A stinger hook style fly tied on a shank will typically give the best hookups. Often steelhead exhibit curious characteristics when they encounter your fly and will nip at it from the back end of the fly. Having a hook placed at the back of the fly will yield much better results than not.
Stinger style flies are great – they give you the flexibility to change out the hook for a newer sharper hook as needed. (My favorite hook for this is a sz 2 Gamakatsu Octopus style hook). They also are typically a shorter shank which will be better for fighting fish. A shorter shank gives the fish less leverage to tear out the hook. Stinger style flies for winter steelhead are my favorite.
Best Flies for Winter Steelhead- Where to Get Them
You can find my favorite selection of my patterns on my website click here: Crandall’s Steelhead Flies Best Selection you can find most of my patterns and a good selection of other great patterns here: Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn, OR.
Rob’s Crandall’s Favorite Flies: