Spey Fishing for Steelhead- How to Get Started?

Time on the water is time well spent. Just how do you get started spey fishing for steelhead?

So you want to get started spey fishing for steelhead?  I just got an email from a guy who wants to start fly fishing for steelhead, he’s never fished for steelhead let alone with a spey rod. He has fished for trout but really doesn’t know where to start when it comes to steelhead. If your intrigued by the romance of chasing steelhead with the swung fly, here’s my best advice- get out now while you still have a chance! That’s the safest advice.  If your not easily swayed and have a tendency to fall in love head over heals and never look back, this might be perfect for you- swung fly steelhead fishing is totally addicting!

The question is how do you get started? It can all seem so daunting, even walking into a fly shop not knowing the lingo or even where to start with the equipment. Let us help. We’ve been guiding anglers for over 25 years and have been the cause of many anglers who’ve become totally addicted.

Where to start?

First, one of the best ways to get yourself started into fly fishing for steelhead is to get proficient with the cast. If you’re not casting much line or if you’re struggling with your cast, you’re really not fishing as effectively as you’ll need to be. Steelhead success is often about efficiently covering a lot of water to find the fish. If your just flailing with your line-that’s not happening. I’d recommend one of our 1.5 hour class sessions that can help you get started. It’s a great time to try out a spey rod too if you don’t have one yet and learn the basics. A series of classes is even better so you can build on your skills you learned in the first session. Sign up or find more info on our SPEY CASTING CLASS HERE.

Another great way to get going is with our Clackamas River Steelhead Workshop. This teaches you the why’s and ways of steelhead and it literally shows you all the good spots a bank bound angler can get to and fish. We teach you the fish run timing, where to go, when to go and how to do it. This is a great class and always gives you way more info than you’ll remember!
Clackamas Steelhead Workshop Info

Another option to add to the list is a guided steelhead trip. While steelhead are hard to find and give the beginner a steep learning curve, going with a guide will give you insights and knowledge from a committed-for-life steelhead angler who is willing to share. Your guide will put you in the best water at the best time of day to give you the best odds of success. Casting lessons, coaching, guiding and a hot lunch are all part of the deal. See our Clackamas Jet Boat Trips here.

If you want the best guide to the winter techniques in a format that you can come back and review time and time again- dust off the dvd player and check this out.  We made a dvd a couple years ago with FlyFish TV that is 90 minutes of instruction giving you a 5 part strategy that is much different than the cast and hope strategy your most likely hear.  It teaches you the insider tips and tactics you need for winter time steelhead fly fishing success (much different than summer!).  Find the DVD HERE.

By the way, if you go to our website and scroll down the page you’ll find a free e-book we give away it’s on the 10 Fly Fishing Tips That Surprise Anglers of all Levels!
A couple basics about gear for winter steelhead, your going to want a #7 or #8 weight spey rod.  Spey rods come in a wide selection but they all are going to have two handles to make casting that big rod much easier – it’s really amazing how well they cast and how easily they can cast with such little effort or strain on your arm or shoulder.  Most often spey rods are 12′-13’6″.  My favorite set up is the Sage 1207 X rod.  It’s a 12′ long #7 weight rod and it’s a blast to cast!  During the winter months when the water is cold steelhead tend to stay deep in the water.  For this time of year you’ll want to have a Skagit Fly line that you can add a sinking tip to.  Skagit fly lines come in different weights and it’s important to get the right one for the rod you have.  I like a 525 grain – 550 grain Skagit line on most #7 weight fly rods.  The sink tip is the business end of things that gets your fly down to the fish.  We find most of our winter guide season we use a 10′ T-11 sink tip more than any other tip.  A good local fly shop can help you with finding the right gear too.  Check out Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn, OR for great gear and service.

I know that gives you a lot to chew on- let me know how I can best assist you get going in this great sport!


Water Time Outfitters, Inc. is owned and operated by Rob Crandall and his team of hard working long time pros. Rob has been a fly fishing guide for over 27 years and the past editor of Fly Fishing & Tying Journal magazine, featured speaker in Oloughlin’s Portland Sportman’s show, seen on Flyfish TV, Columbia Country TV, and Frontier Unlimited TV as well as featured in the DVD- Winter Spey Strategies; the NW magazine Salmon Trout Steelheader, the Flyfisher, Flyfishing & Tying Journal and Salmon Steelhead Journal Travel Issue. Rob grew up on the Clackamas River and loves to share his passion of fly fishing with others. To find out more information on our guided winter Steelhead trips see us at: www.watertimeoutfitters.com

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