How to Choose the Best Steelhead Flies
As summer winds down and leaves start to change, anglers around the country shift their game from Trout to Steelhead. Steelhead are tough to fool, but when you do there's nothing better than bringing a silver bullet to hand. Most anglers target these elusive fish in the Pacific Northwest but lake run Steelhead also have a huge following in the Northeast, particularly in the Great Lakes Region. Anglers go crazy for these fish.
If you're searching for the best fly rod for Steelhead we've covered that here. We've also written a post about the best fly line for Steelhead and the best fly reel for Steelhead. Those posts, read side-by-side with this post, should provide enough information to get you out on the water this fall. Remember, Steelhead don't come easy so enjoy the journey and the views.
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The Best Flies for Steelhead
Here are some of our favorite patterns for Steelhead. This isn't an exhaustive list. If we left your favorite Steelhead fly out of this collection, let us know in the comments below.
- The Boilermaker is a take on the Green Butt Skunk. This pattern, however, incorporates foam into the fly to allow the fly to skate on the surface. An easy fly to cast, the Boilermaker creates a nice little V wake in the water and causes Steelhead to boil on your fly (go figure).
- 'Fly' in quotes. Although many anglers look down upon fishing egg patterns for Steelhead, truth is they work. And especially if you're fishing for Great Lakes Steelhead. Fish this soft egg under an indicator from a boat or the bank.
- Brian Silvey is a Steelhead fanatic. This is his take on an egg-sucking leech, tube fly style. Tube flies allow anglers to change hooks and flies to last longer. This style of fly is extremely popular when swinging flies for Steelhead in the Northwest.
- Similar to the Soft Egg, I'm sure we'll get some flack for this one. That being said, beads are a productive way of catching fish from Alaska to the PNW and even in the Great Lakes Region. If your pride allows you, beads can be incredibly efficient at fooling fish during the fall months when Salmon are spawning.
- The Egg-Sucking Leech is a staple for Steelhead, Salmon, Trout, and more. These patterns are designed to be swung, stripped, and even dead-drifted to imitate leeches and lampreys that feed on Salmon eggs during the spawn. They offer a large meal (and sometimes trigger a defensive strike) to a Steelhead.
- Steelhead eat Stoneflies, too! If you have a 10' 7wt or 8wt rod and access to a drift boat, targeting Steelhead from a boat with an indicator rig works well. Choose a heavy fly to get down quickly with a large profile to catch the attention of a holding Steelhead.
- Another brightly-colored nymph that succeeds in catching a Steelhead's attention is the Psycho Prince. Again, this pattern has a bead head to get down quickly in the water column.
Black Bear Green Butt
- Although this is more of an Atlantic Salmon pattern, it works well for other migratory fish like Steelhead. Perfect for traditional Spey casting on larger rivers in the PNW, this streamer combines classic style and modern fishability.
- This is another classic Spey/Steelhead pattern. While we don't sell this one on our website, it's an easy one to tie and worth having in your box this fall.
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