I’ve been fishing for Great Lakes Steelhead for 8 years now. Steelhead fishing has become an obsession of mine. Whether it is fall or the cold of winter, I am willing to drive 5 hours to have a chance at such a beautiful fish. Some days you will fish for hours without a single take..but when you get that beautiful chromed out steelhead on the end of your line cartwheeling and taking you downriver, all those fishless hours are worth it.
Tip 1. Have the Proper Gear
An 11ft 7 weight switch rod is my rod of choice when steelheading. It allows you to do everything. You can swing flies with a scandi or skagit setup, you can tight line nymph and or throw an indicator rig. The 11ft rods give you great line control and feel. Using a longer rod also helps you land fish faster and more effectively. Make sure you have a reel with a strong and smooth drag.
Line choice: Fluorocarbon/ Tippet that you trust. I prefer (Cortland or maxima) 4-8lb fluorocarbon and (Cortland Top Secret) 2x-4x tippet. As it gets later in the season drop your poundage or tippet size.
Tip 2. Variety of Different Flies:
Always have a wide variety of flies. Egg patterns in a variety of colors, stoneflies big and small, squirmy worms, nymphs, egg sucking leeches etc. Change your flies throughout the day. Figure out what these fish will eat on a specific day.
Tip 3. Read Water According to the Season:
Finding and recognizing productive holding water for steelhead is key. This, of course, depends on the time of year and conditions. Fall: Steelhead are most often found in the faster water. The pockets, riffles, and runs but don’t hesitate to fish slower braids. Winter: Steelhead are most often found in the slower/moderate water. Fish the deeper pools and runs.
Always practice catch and release, watching the fish you just landed swim away strong is the best part!
So this steelhead (pictured above) was one of the biggest steelheads I’ve seen in person in my 8 years of fishing the river. This big male was 35.5 inches with a 17.75” girth weighing in at 16.5lbs.
The big male put up one hell of a fight. It ran me downriver quite a ways to the point where I thought I was not going to land it. As the fight went on and the fish became tired I was able to bring him back upriver. With my bud Will on the net, we were able to bring the fish close enough for a one-shot scoop as the fish was getting ready for a second run. With the fish in the net we were both so stoked. It was a once and a lifetime fish and a memory I will cherish forever.
Article and photos from Mike Querfeld, check him out on Instagram @mike_querfeld.