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West Coast Winter Steelhead Techniques

By Marilyn Murphy (as Published in Jan 99' Island Fishfinder Magazine), 🕔Mon, Mar 21st, 2011


How many secrets are there?

Every angler alike has several things in common. The joy of the outdoors, the ambiance of the scenery, the therapeutic sound of rushing water.......WHATEVER!!.

Personally the above things add to the experience, but the reality is...the heart pounding, knee weakening feeling that you get when you feel the Steelhead take your gear followed by the rod thumping action immediately after the hookset.

We also have a tendency to gauge the success of the day by the number of times we get the above experience. Steelhead fishing does have a "mystique" to it, my Mother swears she made 5,000 casts before hooking her first Steelhead. For me, my luck has been alot better than hers. Being constantly around guides and great fishermen has exposed me to alot of the tricks of the trade. Some of the mystique can be reduce by applying some simple applications to your approach.

Be prepared for different water conditions. Change your gear as the conditions change. Which may mean twice a day. Have a variety of gear pre-tied.

  • high water after a heavy rain; means using larger gear, heavier, shorter leaders and brighter colours. example large pink worm or # 8 or 10 spin-n-glow with a luminescence finish. Use 5 pieces of large split shot on a 20" leader and 10 or 12 lb test leader.
  • low water during cold/dry spell; means using tiny gear, longer and lighter leaders, and subtle colours. example small gooebob or #12 spin-n-glow in pink or cherise. Use 3 pieces of large split shot (or 4 pieces of small shot) on a 24"-36" leader using 6 or 8 lb test line. We call this finesse fishing, almost like fishing for trout.

Consider the run timing. The longer the fish have been in a system, the more gear they have seen and they become selective.

  • early season; fish wherever the least amount of people are, try to find fish that have not encountered other gear. These fish are not shy and big gear works great, especially the pink worm. My number one choice for early season.
  • mid season; the fish by now are located where they are going to live for the balance of the season. They are becoming selective so having a natural presentation using the right size of gear is important. Try to fish an area that does not get alot of pressure from other anglers. It gives you and the fish a better chance.
  • late season; the fish are very selective. They are "educated". Some have been hooked and have it figured out. This is when finesse fishing is crucial, the smaller the better. Another approach for late season is to work upon the "territorial instinct", meaning using plugs or spinners.

Consider the tide change. Steelhead have spent most of their life at sea, they move in on the tides, and feed on the tides. These same patterns have become apparent to our guides on the river. So fish the early morning and the tide changes. This pattern seems to diminish as the season progresses. Oh, and avoid the beginning of a full moon; its usually terrible. But right after a full moon is when new fish move in.

These are some of the concepts (secrets) that our guides work with every day. I hope they can help you with your next trip.

Good Luck.

Best wishes and fishes,

Marilyn Murphy
Murphy's Sportfishing


Marilyn comes from a well known fishing family on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. They are presently fishing the Stamp River and Gold River.
You can reach their free fishing report line at 250-723-8022

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