Winter Steelhead Action Plan

Winter steelhead fishing is in full swing now in NW rivers.  We have so many options here in this amazing part of the world.  Big rivers and small are part of the landscape and sometimes your choices are tough, where do I go when?  Here are a few ideas to help you sort out the where to go when.

1.  January is dominated by hatchery steelhead runs in most of Oregon and Washington.  That doesn’t mean that wild steelhead aren’t around – they are but big numbers of hatchery chromers are swimming in many of the Oregon rivers now.  Tops spots:  Wilson, Nestucca, Siletz, Alsea and NF Alsea, Kilches, Neccanicum are some of the very best targets for early season winter fish.

2.  Water levels and conditions dictate when and where to hit these rivers.  This time of year flows are high low and inbetween and that impacts our fishing success.  Some rivers simply are going to be too muddy- ie…SF Nehalem much of the winter!  Watch river levels and clarity to make your best choices on where to go when.  Fish lower in the river system when long periods of low, clear and cold water exist.  When water is higher ie warmer fish higher in the river system.  Keep in mind higher up the river often puts you above tributaries that turn lower sections muddy.

3.  River clarity gauge- these rivers drop and clear fast:  Kilches and Neccanicum rivers.  Hit these first after major rain events.  Fishing best water conditions puts the odds in your favor.  After several days with out rain next look at: Trask, Wilson and then the Nestucca.  After long periods of no rain and when many small rivers arebtoo low and clear look to the larger rivers like the Clackamas, Wilson and Nehalem rivers to still offer good opportunity at success.

4.  Match your fly pattern choices to the water conditions.  If the water is green with a tinge of brown use cerise/orange in large profile that shows up.   As rivers drop and clear switch to black/cerise and Black/blue is great in clear water.  Scale down fly sizes as the water gets crystal clear and low.  We like having a selection of colors as well as weighted and unweighted patterns.

Best of luck on the water!

Rob Crandall

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