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Author Topic: Winter steelheading 101  (Read 8694 times)

Steelhawk

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Winter steelheading 101
« on: December 19, 2017, 11:20:26 AM »

Ya I know this subject has been posted and discussed many times in the past. But since we are in an interactive forum and we are about to start the winter steelhead season, why not having some interactive discussions to help out the new steelheaders? The seasoned steelhead rods on this forum can help out the newbies to help them along. I will start with a few pointers:

1) If you are new to steelheading and you are a meat fisherman, just STOP.
2) You will have too many skunked trips to justify your expense vs the meat.
3) Unlike salmon fishing, you shouldn't camp post in one spot all day. Move around and hunt them. It is more fun that way.
4) Stay away from gong show spots. There isn't enough steelhead there to justify 50 rods in one location.
5) No 10' leader and a betty please. LOL. It is time to learn short floating. Rodney has written the instructions for short floating. Read it.
6) Learn to read water and adapt your strategies based on river conditions.

OK. I know I can add a lot more but I will let other top rods add more of their insights. Questions are welcome and please be kind to the newbies. We can talk about the strategies, etiquette, bait & lures, how to read water, etc., etc.
« Last Edit: December 19, 2017, 08:33:54 PM by Steelhawk »
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sbc hris

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Re: Winter steelheading 101
« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2017, 11:48:36 AM »

The basics of successful steelheading are really quite simple as long as you can make effective and accurate drifts. Cover lots of water. Like lots. Donít waste time in one spot unless you know there are fish there, and even at that, if you canít get them to take, donít get stubborn about it. Move on and find active biters. Just pick a presentation that youíre confident in, and start covering water! Fish everything from shallow to deep, fast to slow, and eventually youíll start seeing a pattern to where youíre hooking fish and where they like to hold. Donít get lazy about adjusting your depth!!!! This is more important than whatís on the end of your line IMO. Being that youíll be fishing everything from 1 to 10+ feet deep, youíll have to be adjusting your depth often, sometimes almost every cast depending on the lay of the river. And steelhead will very often come back and bite again after theyíve been hooked once. Sometimes they need 20 mins or so to cool down depending how long they were hooked for, so if you think youíre the only one around, wander off for a bit and fish elsewhere, then come back for another shot at the fish. Keep in mind they often go sit somewhere other than where you originally hooked them, so be thorough. Now, on the other hand, if you think that someone else might pop in and nail that fish while youíre gone, then itís best to just re-bait, change your presentation, or take a quick breather then attempt to hook it again. Donít waste all day doing it though, and if thereís already othere people working the same piece of water, remember to practice rotational angling. If you canít coax it back after a few mins, move on and give the others around you a shot at it. You can learn from observing them too, to see if they hook up, and what they may have done differently than you.
Have fun and be safe everyone!  :)
« Last Edit: December 19, 2017, 11:50:22 AM by sbc hris »
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wildmanyeah

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Re: Winter steelheading 101
« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2017, 12:19:51 PM »

its not all about the Chillwack/Vedder River, Their are a few other places around the Lower Mainland to target Steelhead like Chehalis River (in the canyon pools) or Nicomen Slough.

Chillwack/Vedder River is probably the most productive
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Steelhawk

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Re: Winter steelheading 101
« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2017, 12:29:44 PM »

I agree the need to adjust for water depth and change up your presentation, especially for very fishy spots. Let me tell you true stories years ago.

Story1: I was fishing between Train Bridge and Bergman one morning w/o success. Then in late morning I saw a fish roll at a deeper fishy spot in lower river that I casted before. Since it was a small spot, I decide to test out different water level and tried everything in my arsenal, roe, shrimp, pink worm, spinners, etc. Only after about 20 minutes of trying and at a certain depth adjustment that I finally had a take down. A fierce battle followed with a large steelie. Wow what a reward, a 16 lbs hatchery buck. It made me wonder how often we missed fish by rushing too fast. I think if you fish a pocket water in the highly oxygenated rapids, you probably will get it to bite within a few cast, perhaps even the first cast. But in lower river where fish have seen many presentations, it may take some repeated effort to get one to bite.

Story2: about 5 years into steelheading, I thought I was a pro, only to learn a bitter & embarrassed lesson. I was fishing with a newbie in a good run which we combed for an hour or more with no result. We used pinky stuffs, roe, worm. Nothing. So I told the newbie there wasn't any fish in the run. How wrong. An old timer guy walked in as we were about to leave. He proceeded to hook 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, all of 5 wild steelies right in front of us, with our jaws dropped. We looked closely after a few fish what he used. It was just wool, but with 2-colour combination most guys won't use. That day really opened my eyes and humbled me. It taught me to be open minded and to be willing to try out different things than my mere roe & worm. LOL.

Story3: an old timer friend of mine surely knows something I don't. Years ago, we were heading up river. He stopped at a location near Thurston Meadow camp site, a run called 'the butterfly' (now gone). There were a few cars already there and a few fisherman combing the tiny run. I said let's try somewhere else but he wanted to try it. He looked at others on what they used and proceeded to take out a spinner of a rare form and colour which he told me later only available in the States. I can never forget the sight of him hooking up into 1, 2, 3, 4, four steelies in the small run combed by those guys plus me. After fish # 2, guys were all switching on spinners but not with his colour and shape. He proceeded to hook 2 more while all of us were skunked. Once again it reminds me how steelhead can be so picky on some days. Since then I have acquired and used that spinner and on some days digging out fish among many rods in busy run that just amazes me to no end. Try change up if one thing doesn't work. Don't be lazy.
« Last Edit: December 19, 2017, 12:42:20 PM by Steelhawk »
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Jk47

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Re: Winter steelheading 101
« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2017, 01:23:09 PM »

All good advice. Hereís mine: LOW-HOLING. Look it up, dwell on it for awhile, and understand how insulting it is to another angler to step into the river downstream of him (her). Donít assume that person is posting up in that spot all day, most likely they will make their way down through the run and youíll have your chance at it.
 I canít tell you how many times Iíve gotten to an empty run and spent the time to sight out the spot, creep up gingerly and begin a casting grid only to have some chump crash into the water below me without so much as even a nod. River etiquette101: Always start fishing upstream of the last angler in a run. When done properly, everyone fishes down thru the run and then walk back up to top again if you wish to start over. Thank you in advance, JK47
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fullahead

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Re: Winter steelheading 101
« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2017, 04:05:50 PM »

jk47
       #2
Fullahead
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MetalAndFeathers

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Re: Winter steelheading 101
« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2017, 04:27:30 PM »

Up north I saw some locals bottom bounce and hook into a two dozen steelhead in an hour or two, they told me steelhead sit on the bottom and like to chase offerrings (spin n glows + roe) along the bottom. Those fish were summer runs (august) so maybe its a different story for winters.

Are you still sure shortfloating is the way to go for steelhead?
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Spawn Sack

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Re: Winter steelheading 101
« Reply #7 on: December 19, 2017, 04:35:09 PM »

Gotta agree with Jk47. I gravitate to water where not a lot of anglers fish (often a bush wack in) but some days I don't have a lot of time and will fish around Peach rd or wherever nearby my house. I expect to run into other steelheaders on these runs and 99% of the time it's no big deal. But, nothing gets my blood boiling faster than working my way down a run and some jerk comes crashing in and starts fishing below me. Have had words on more than a few occasions. I get you saw someone hook a fish just below where I am about to start casting and you want to get to it before me, but you didn't, I'm here now, I'm working my way down, so F off and fish above me.

Surprisingly a lot of ppl don't get this simple concept, or just don't care. From this I have learned that if I get to a popular piece of water and no one is there yet, to quickly hit the spots where I suspect fish to be, and if nothing then walk up to the head and fish my way down.

Short anecdote: a day or two prior on a popular lower river Vedder run I had had a wicked take down. Had something big on but it snapped my leader right away. I had not checked my leader in a while and must have had a nick in it. STUPID!! From that day I always check my leader quickly every 15 or so casts. Anyway, I re-rigged and tried to get the fish to commit again with no luck. So days later I am back on the same run and am the first one about 7am. The "spot" was mid run but I thought I'll start at the top and work my way to it. I'm working my way down, nearing the sweet spot, when this ogre comes lumbering in and heads right for the spot. I guess I'm not the only one who knew it was good!! First or second cast he hooks a nice 12 or so lb hatchery!! Yeah, so obviously I'm not impressed. I figure whatever it's done I don't want to ruin my day with a confrontation. After 10 or so min it becomes apparent that this guy is not going moving and intends to fence post. I walk by him, compliment his nice fish, and ask if he minds if I work around him (I'm going to anyway, just trying to be polite). To my surprise his says "yeah, I mind." At first I laughed as I thought he was joking. He was not. I then berated him for low-holing me and then having the gall to ask that I not fish below him.

Lesson learned: if you are the first one on a run, fish the prime water in that run first, as you never know who is going to show up after you, and not everyone is going to fish above you.

Also, as stated already, if you arrive on a run and there is already someone(s) there, start above them and fish your way down. If they are fence posting then exchange quick pleasantries and ask if you can fish around them. No reason why they should say no, unless you run into a real champion like I did the one day.
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Steelhawk

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Re: Winter steelheading 101
« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2017, 04:40:02 PM »

"Up north I saw some locals bottom bounce and hook into a two dozen steelhead in an hour or two, they told me steelhead sit on the bottom and like to chase offerrings (spin n glows + roe) along the bottom. Those fish were summer runs (august) so maybe its a different story for winters.
Are you still sure shortfloating is the way to go for steelhead?"


There are other techniques to catch steelhead of course. Just not sure what you mean by bottom bouncing though. There is a true bottom bouncing technique using 2-3 ft leader and a small spin & glo on a pencil lead bouncing along the bottom . It is often used in faster run to slow down the presentation to deep-sitting fish. I use it often for that plus in really low & clear water where even the float may spook the fish. Your idea of it may be different from what I mean. I am referring to folks using a heavy lead betty (2-4 oz) and 10 ft leader. That is a flossing setup used for salmon. What you describe, using bar rigs with spin & glo and roe, is more like bar fishing here on the Fraser for spring salmon or coho. I have seen people doing bar fishing for steelhead in lower Vedder downstream of the H1 bridge and they claim they have success sometimes. Again, it is personal preference of techniques. For me, steelheading is more like hunting the fish down by constant walking, casting and testing out different spots and trying different presentation. Perhaps when I am 80, I will do bar fishing for it. Lol.
« Last Edit: December 19, 2017, 04:48:00 PM by Steelhawk »
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milo

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Re: Winter steelheading 101
« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2017, 04:45:47 PM »

Thanks Jk47 for bringing up the importance of steelheading etiquette. Low-holing is rude and unacceptable.
Be forewarned: If you low-hole ME, I will walk down to you, yank your rod out of your hand, at toss it into the river.

On the other hand, if you come and say hello, and ask me if you can fish below me on an empty run, there's a 95% chance I'll say go ahead, and even help you land your fish if you get lucky.



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Steelhawk

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Re: Winter steelheading 101
« Reply #10 on: December 19, 2017, 04:59:59 PM »

For the newbies to steelhead, you need to be mentally prepared for steelheading as a hobby. Patience & perseverance is the name of the game. You may not hook a fish in months or in a year or two. It is actually getting harder by the year as there are more people fishing and less steelhead stocking to go around for so many rods in the river. So if you want to stick to this hobby, learn and fish hard and observe the successful steelheaders. You may luck out to catch one or two, but in general newbies will need a steep learning curve and persevere in order to be a successful steelheader. So again if you intend to use steelhead to fill your freezer, it is not the hobby worthy to pursue. Try to get the satisfaction of the challenge and try to count each trip out as a good day out, fish or no fish. You will slowly get more and more in tune with the 'grey ghost' and your success rate will go up. Until then, hang tight.
« Last Edit: December 19, 2017, 08:30:31 PM by Steelhawk »
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Jk47

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Re: Winter steelheading 101
« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2017, 05:38:34 PM »

Be forewarned: If you low-hole ME, I will walk down to you, yank your rod out of your hand, at toss it into the river.
;D Lol If I saw Milo marching downstream at me with vengeance in his eyes I would just chuck my rod into the river myself (quickly, before I bolt for cover)  ;D
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Spawn Sack

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Re: Winter steelheading 101
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2017, 06:46:09 PM »

Thanks Jk47 for bringing up the importance of steelheading etiquette. Low-holing is rude and unacceptable.
Be forewarned: If you low-hole ME, I will walk down to you, yank your rod out of your hand, at toss it into the river.

On the other hand, if you come and say hello, and ask me if you can fish below me on an empty run, there's a 95% chance I'll say go ahead, and even help you land your fish if you get lucky.

Funny, I laughed out loud! But hopefully a hyperbole to solidify the steelheading faux paus known as low-holing.

Unless you are the toughest, meanest mofo on the river, I would not consider laying hands on another angler or their gear. I have had my share of verbal exchanges, but I can't imagine getting into a fight over a fish/fishing spot.

I have met and/or trained with enough guys (and gals) that looked like someone you could push around. Surprise! Turns out they are highly trained and could choke out a rhino. Have seen my fair share of large intimidating men get destroyed by much smaller harmless looking men.

Sorry not trying to derail the convo, just please people do not get your teeth knocked out over a fishing spot.

If you are large/intimidating and highly trained, then you can probably safely toss someone's rod in the river and go home with all of your teeth. I prefer to educate anglers and ask them if they are aware they just low-holed me. Some honestly have no idea, are new to steelheading, and take the advice well. Some clearly know better and dont care.



« Last Edit: December 19, 2017, 06:50:07 PM by Spawn Sack »
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SilverChaser

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Re: Winter steelheading 101
« Reply #13 on: December 19, 2017, 08:17:01 PM »

Awesome thread! I've only been steelheading for around 4 or 5 years now, and all I can say is take your time in a run and fish everything. Don't rush. Often times I find myself rushing through a run for various reasons and I have to settle down and take a breather and remind myself  :D
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Steelhawk

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Re: Winter steelheading 101
« Reply #14 on: December 19, 2017, 08:21:43 PM »

You guys talking about tossing rod and reel into the river just remind me of another never forgotten steelhead story about that. LOL. Years ago, me and a friend were fishing a nice long run with some others already there. About 8am or so no one hooked anything. But this run was above a large turbulent pool without good access. So any moment new fish could move into the nice run above from the pool. Sure enough about half an hour later, people were beginning to hook steelies one after an other, sometimes double and triple headers. There were 10 fish landed, 9 were hatch and mine the only wild one (lol). Then it died down. Two guys beside us had kept their hatch and were sitting back happily talking about their catch, leaving their other friend trying very hard to catch his so they could go home. But no more hit.

Then all of a sudden, something incredible happened. The friend without a fish yelled out loud cursing his bad luck with (*&^% words, and before we knew what was happening, a nice set of steelhead rod & reel was thrown into the river by this guy. He kept on yelling and cursing and stormed out of the run, with his 2 friends now gingerly and quietly following him out. With our jaws dropped, we realized what had just happened. Instantly everyone was casting to the vicinity of the the spot where the rod & reel landed in the river. LOL. But to no avail. No one could get it back. My friend who happened to stand beside this guy said he thinks that rod is a St. Croix. Oh man! Some steelhead insanity there. Lol.

So Milo, no need to chuck the rod & reel for the guy. Just fish around him and catch fish after fish, skunking him to the point he will probably chuck his rod and reel in frustration himself.  ;D ;D ;D
« Last Edit: December 19, 2017, 08:25:06 PM by Steelhawk »
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