5 Winter Steelhead Fishing Tips – Catch More Steelhead!

Winter steelhead are the fish of a thousand casts. As I started chasing winter steelhead years ago, I quickly realized the reality of making thousands of casts for a potential hard-fighting sea run trout would just be that: a thousand casts.As a winter steelhead angler, you face a multitude of challenging factors that make winter steelhead fishing special, yet one of the most difficult fisheries. River conditions can change within minutes, if not hours, changing how the system fishes, where the fish will be located, the color of the water, and what baits to use. Constantly battling the elements and a changing river system will put your steelhead knowledge and drive to the test. Anglers looking for success, whether catching a steelhead to just fishing new areas or mastering a new technique, can utilize these 5 tips to catch more winter steelhead.Keep Making Casts – I watched a podcast episode where legendary NW angler Buzz Ramsey once said he fished every single day of the winter steelhead season one year and never got a single bite. Can you imagine? But, being on the water every single day taught Buzz how to read the water, seeing varying conditions, mastering his craft in different techniques, mastering the row of the drift boat, and more. The time on the water paved the way toward his future success. He kept getting on the water, making casts. Fishing can be humbling. But if you can see the future through trial and error, making as many casts a possible, you will come out rewarded going after steelhead.Water Dictates Everything – Water clarity, water level, temperature dictates so much of an anglers approach to fishing that particular day. Conditions can change in a matter of hours, and before you make that first cast, check the water. Put a game plan together and make a cast. You will never get the “perfect conditions” but the water will always dictate what to throw, what color or technique to utilize, where on the river to fish. Pay close attention to the water!Mix Up Techniques and Baits – Today anglers love fishing beads, jigs and worms. Years and years ago, side drifting with cookies, eggs, even back trolling plugs were the way to go 100%. More techniques and baits have come into the fold, but don’t forget about those old-school techniques. And changing up techniques and baits can be just the ticket. Casting into a hole may not get you any bites with one bait, but a quick change of color or bait could just be the small change. Winter steelhead are finicky fish, so super small, subtle changes make a significant difference.Go with a Guide – Fishing guides are the best. The best teachers. The most experienced. The best form of learning. When I first started steelhead fishing, I booked a trip with a guide and learned more in hours than I could trying to go fish by myself. In particular, I wanted to fish a specific river and learn a specific technique, and going with a guide was my masterclass. I left the day landing a very nice steelhead, but taking away more knowledge and experience than I could have going by myself. If you have a friend that’s super experienced and willing to take you fishing, that’s awesome. And you should take advantage of those opportunities. But for most anglers, they do not have that friend or family member to take them fishing to learn. For me a guide is the best way to fish and learn. It will amplify your knowledge and rate of success long-term changing steelhead.Start with a Single Technique – As a newer angler, don’t try and master multiple techniques right out of the gate. Find a single technique and master it. I learned the hard way trying to learn 3-5 techniques when I first started, and I had a hard time feeling like I had mastered anything or could get just a bite. Once I made the change to focusing on a single technique, I got really good, and felt good about fishing that technique on the river. Then, I learned another technique. Mastering a technique takes hours and hours. But if you try to master multiple techniques, you may end up spending many thousands of hours of casts before hooking a fish vs. learning single technique and finding success much faster, before those thousand casts. Focus on one technique. Master it. Expand to the next technique. And repeat. Just like eat, sleep, fish, repeat.

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