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How to fish for Steelhead

Steelhead are found in coastal river systems and the Pacific Ocean from northern California to Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. British Columbia has significant Steelhead populations with some of the best Steelhead fishing located in the rivers around Smithers, BC. These rivers include the Bulkley, Babine, Morice, Sustut and Skeena Rivers. Steelhead can also be found in the Eastern Pacific and portions of Asia. They have also been introduced into the Great Lakes, New Zealand, Australia, South America, and Europe.
Steelhead feed on insects, squid, shrimp, and small baitfish. Steelhead can achieve large sizes of over 40 pounds but most angler caught Steelhead are 5 to 12 pounds. Most steelhead are not caught in the open ocean but in the estuaries around spawning rivers and mostly in the spawning rivers themselves. Steelhead are a favorite species of fly fishermen and are known for their ability to fight.
Fly fishing for Steelhead can be done with a 9 to 10 foot 7 or 8 weight fly rod with a matching reel that is preferably a smooth ball bearing disc drag fly reel. Most Steelhead fishermen still use single handed fly rods but spey rods (two handed fly rods) are gaining popularity in Steelhead fishing circles. The fly reel should be spooled with a fly line that matches the weight of the rod and reel and is a WF sinking type 3, 4, or 5.( type 3 has a sink rate of 3 inches per second type 4 is 4 inches a second and so on). Use plenty of backing as Steelhead can make long runs. At the end of your mainline tie on 6 to 10 feet of 12 lb test fluorocarbon leader. A 6 foot leader for faster water and a 10 foot leader for deeper, clear pools. If you are using a tapered tippet use size 0X.
When casting your fly, cast into the middle of pools and let your fly sink and drift into the tailings of the pool (down stream end of pools where water exits the pool) where steelhead are known to hold. Another area to cast is just up from large boulders and let your fly sink and drift around and behind the boulder which can be another Steelhead holding area. As your fly moves downstream follow it with your rod tip.
Fly patterns that are constant producers for steelhead are Babine Special, Freight Train, Showgirl, Skykomish Sunrise, Conehead Muddler Minnows, Conehead Brown Marabou Muddler Minnows, Double Beadhead Golden Biot Stonefly, Beadhead Krystal Bugger Red, Beadhead Mohair Leech Purple, Egg Sucking Leech / Orange Head, Woolhead Sculpin Olive, Flesh Fly, Zonker White, Glo Bug Chartreuse, Glo Bug Pink, and the Glo Bug Pink / Oregon Cheese. 


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