7 Top Tips for Winter Steelhead Success

Steelhead Swing
Tips to Winter Steelhead Success big and small can totally change the day!

Here are our 7 Top Tips for Winter Steelhead Success on the Swung Fly

Tips for Winter Steelhead Success # 1

How deep is my fly?  Am I even in the game?

One of the most important aspects for winter steelhead-spey success is to get your fly down at least half the depth of the water.  Steelhead are often in 3-5’ of water and holding near the bottom.  Getting your fly at least half that depth is critical in winter.  This is not the same game as summer when fish will rise to the surface to grab your fly.  Getting the fly deep requires a combination of the right swing speed, the right sink tip and the right fly matched to the proper speed of steelhead water.

The best way to know how deep your fly is – is by using the Sink Tip Test.  We show you how to do this in our ebook video “5 Steps to Winter Spey Success”  You can get the book and see a free book PREVIEW here. 

Tips for Winter Steelhead Success # 2

Fish the right water. Reading steelhead water during the winter gets a bit tougher if your used to the sweet and easy flows of summer and fall.  Winter water levels can get high and nasty and you’ve got to adjust.  They can also get super low and clear so knowing how to fish a piece of water that’s significantly softer flow and shallower than it was last time is important.  The key is to find the right speed and depth during any conditions.  Look for walking speed water.  Too fast or too slow can mean zero fish.  Find the sweet spot and find the fish.  With big water fluctuations of winter this “sweet spot” may move.

Tips for Winter Steelhead Success # 3

Be prepared. The old Boy Scout motto is so good here, we see anglers spend so much time fussing with their gear and not fishing.  Don’t miss valuable fishing time because your digging in your gear looking for something or you forgot your glasses and it’s taking you 15 minutes to tie a knot…Winter steelhead gear is easy; grab some flies, sink tips, line cutter, hook file, tippet and you are ready to go.

Tips for Winter Steelhead Success #4

Have the right clothing. It’s winter, it will be cold and often it is raining. Count on it.  That’s the way it is.  Do yourself a favor and have lots of layers and a good waterproof gear to keep you dry.  Staying dry and keeping your core warm are essential.  Be sure to take those gloves off when you handle a fish- wet gloves suck and they are not good on the fish’s protective slime coating either.

Tips for Winter Steelhead Success #5

Keep moving through the run. This is one big one that makes such a difference.  What many people don’t see is that the way you efficiently progress through a piece of water is how you trigger a response from a resting steelhead.  Covering water helps you find those fish.  Think of it as a hunt.  You are searching for these guys, it’s a different mindset from trout fishing.

Tip #6

Manage your swing. So often anglers get out there and once the cast is done they literally check out.  Holding on just hoping for a grab.  Instead be actively engaged with the line speed and movement across the water thinking about how the fly is moving.  Each time you move the rod it impacts the fly and how it is positioned in the water.  This is the MOST important thing, it is the swing (how your fly moves in the water) that gets the fish to eat it.  Think about your swing, analyze it and focus on it.

Tip #7

When you get the grab don’t mess it up! This is such a precious moment in time and Lord knows these times don’t come easy.  A couple things to remember about the steelhead grab.  You’ll get all kinds of different types of grabs from steelhead.  Some are serious yanks that just about rip the rod out of your hands some are light taps you’d swear were 6” cutthroat.  The most common is a soft tug, followed by a harder tug, followed by the line coming tight and a solid steady pull.  The most important thing to remember here is to remain patient.  Most often anglers ruin this opportunity by setting the hook too early in the exchange.  Wait until you feel the heaviness of the fish solidly on the line before carefully putting a bend in the rod to seal the deal.

If you’d like to fish with more confidence and stop wondering if you are doing the “Winter Steelhead thing” right get your new Ebook, “5 Steps to Winter Spey Success.”  We teach you how to build an arsenal of fishing options that you can utilize through the varied water conditions you’ll encounter during winter.  Check out the FREE PREVIEW and see if this book is for you.

Our new E-book shows you how to find Winter steelhead fly fishing success.


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