Tag Archives: winter steelhead

2014 Oregon Winter Steelhead Report

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Over the last couple weeks we have had some rains to bring some fresh winter chrome into Oregon’s coastal river systems.

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Depending on the drainage and timing, we have seen great catches recently of both wild winter steelhead and bright, harvestable hatchery fish.

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As of this writing, there is a lot of snow on the ground in western Oregon, and with warm rains on their way, it seems we are poised for a blowout. However, as the high brown water drops and fades to green, there should be another group of bright fish in the coastal creeks and rivers.

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With about 7 weeks left to play in the 2014 winter steelhead season, we still have a lot to look forward to. New fish will continue to pull into streams of all size up and down the coast.

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Winter steelhead season is my favorite fishing of the year. While the conditions are changeable and the weather sometimes inclement, these fish are amazing and beautiful creatures.

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Though I have quite a few days booked over the next couple of weeks, I have a number of days still available this winter steelhead season, particularly in March. This is often the time of year when we see the biggest wild steelhead show up in our area streams! Please call or email if you would like to arrange a guided trip!

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The rivers of Oregon’s central coast offer some truly world class winter steelhead fishing opportunities!

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Oregon Winter Steelhead Report

The next six weeks is prime time on many of Oregon’s winter steelhead streams. A lot of our rivers have had good numbers of both wild and hatchery fish show up early, which is a good barometer of things to come. This week’s rains will bring river levels up again, which should bring more fish into the streams. We have had a remarkably mild winter thus far, which has made the on-stream conditions much more pleasant than they usually are in January. Though the light snow pack may lead to low water this summer, it is a rare pleasure to be able to feel one’s fingers and toes all day while chasing winter steelhead. Also, warmer water temperatures generally make the fish more responsive.

Though I spend the overwhelming majority of my time fishing for summer steelhead with a swung fly, it is often necessary to employ some different techniques in the winter time to be successful consistently. Nymphing with various egg patterns and a strike indicator is a very effective technique this time of year. Egg patterns (#4-#10) in various shades of orange, pink, and white, both weighted and unweighted, are a good bet. Here is a selection of eggs I fish regularly:

egg patterns to fish for Winter Steelhead

This perfect specimen fell for a weighted egg pattern fished about six feet below a strike indicator. This fish of 8 or 9 pounds, though not a giant, is about as beautiful as they come.

A perfect specimen:  wild winter steelhead buck

This fish fell for an identical fly on the same morning:

A wild winter steelhead from one of Oregon's small coastal streams

Though nymphing is often an effective way to go this time of year, the winter is not without its swing opportunities. The swing can be an effective way to go in the winter, but it often takes a somewhat different approach then one would employ in the summer or fall. In the winter I use heavier flies, on average, fished on heavier sink tips. I also try to fish my fly more slowly in the winter, as the fish are often more sluggish given the cooler water temperatures. Big intruders, tied in various color schemes, are a good bet. The bold silhouette of the intruder often gets attention even in winter’s colder, swifter flows. Here are a few that have recently come off my vise:

Intruder Patterns to swing for Winter Steelhead

The next six weeks are the prime of Oregon’s winter steelheading. It’s time to wake up early, layer up, and make your way to the river to chase these amazing fish. It will be over soon, so now is the time to get out there and make some memories.
Tight lines, Ethan

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Winter Steelhead Season is Upon Us

With December comes the advent of the Winter Steelhead season. One of the most exciting things about this time of year is that nearly every river and creek along the Oregon coast gets at least some returning adult steelhead. With the arrival of winter rains, a stream that in the drier months is nothing more than a trickle will become big enough to drift boat, with bright fish moving into the system after each high water event.

Wild Oregon Winter Steelhead

Any kind of fishing can be fickle, but winter steelheading with a fly rod can be especially so. The weather and water conditions in the winter can be, to say the least, dynamic. Each river or stream will generally fish best when the water is neither very high, nor very low. Smaller rivers and streams will start to fish well within a couple days of a major rainfall as the water clears from a mocha color to the magical shade of green fishermen dream about. Within another couple days, however, the water on these smaller creeks will become too low for navigations and good fishing. If conditions remain dry, most fishermen and guides will start to fish the larger rivers. Some of the biggest rivers, like the main-stem Umpqua, need as much as two weeks without rain before they will clear enough for good fishing with artificial flies.

Wild Oregon Winter Steelhead

One of the keys to successful winter steelheading is having some familiarity with various rivers in your area of different sizes and paying very close attention to water levels and conditions. As you learn each stream, try to figure out what flows are optimal, then track the water levels and weather on the internet to figure out how to best target your efforts.

The pursuit of winter steelhead can certainly be challenging: the fish may be here one day and gone the next, icy roads may make your morning drive to the river dangerous and the fishing itself unpleasant. It is indisputable, however, that the rewards can be huge.

A Big Winter Steelhead Buck

The winter is the most dynamic and interesting season of the year to be a fisherman in Oregon. There are dozens and dozens of streams and rivers all along the coast range which are worth careful attention. Pick your battles and have fun out there.

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