Ready to go steelhead fishing?
The most important rule of steelhead fishing success is “fish were they are”. At no time is that rule more important than at the start of the steelhead season when stream flow is a trickle.
Over the next ten days the weather will start hot and dry and transition to a cooler, damp pattern. That will be a welcome change, but the first fall rains will do little to change tributary flow. Always check the weather charts for wind direction and velocity and keep a close eye on wave action and stream flow gauges.
Fishing to end September and begin October will take place along the lakeshore close to the mouths of the tributaries. No need to look upstream, spend your fishing time north of Route Five and expect plenty of company.
Now that you know where to fish, the next consideration is when.
As steelhead drift close to shore to await the rains, anglers get a crack at them during low-light time each day. Some hardcore anglers begin their fishing trip in the evening and fish all night until after the sun forces the steelhead to seek deeper water the next day.
If an “all-nighter” is not your idea of fun, you can work the day shift with the majority of us. Starting time is just before sunrise and quitting time is sundown or shortly thereafter.
Now that you know where and when, the ability to answer the “with what bait/presentation” question separates the real anglers from the pretenders.
Here is what works.
Generally speaking effective baits/lures are spoons, flat fish, and soft-plastic minnows, single eggs, beads, egg pattern/sucker spawn flies, nymphs, tiny wooly buggers, and egg sacs. Minnows are suggested as good bait by shops trying to sell minnows. I may add a few more baits to this post, but for now that list covers the majority of successful ways to catch early season steelhead.
That list has three categories: food, fake food, and reaction bait.
Depending on your preferred “bait”, the presentation varies. Examples of what that means is this – single eggs drifted under a float, eggs sacs fished on the bottom, spoons or flat fish cast and crank, soft-plastic minnows twitching retrieve, egg patterns drifted through holding fish, etc.
Good anglers have one or two baits and presentations that they have fine-tuned to make them work better. Egg sacs are a good example. You can drift them on the bottom or under a float. You can cast, hop and retrieve them. Sacs can be tied with fresh salmon eggs or trout skein. Add Styrofoam floaters or not.
On any given day, steelhead will prefer one bait or presentation and avoid all others. Hopefully you will get lucky and show up with the right bait!