Winter Steelhead

Wild Oregon Winter Steelhead

Winter Steelhead Rates

December through March is winter steelhead season here in Oregon. To my mind, this is the most exciting and challenging season for the flyfisher. Nearly every river and creek along the Oregon coast gets 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. Successful fishing is often about being in the right place at the right time, but never more so than for winter steelhead. Water conditions change very quickly based on the weather, and the fish migrate upstream quickly.

Rob Russel with a wild winter buck, cropped

Unlike summer steelhead fishing, where the river levels are relatively predictable, winter water conditions are always in flux. 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 anglers dream about. Within another couple days, however, the water on these smaller creeks will become too low for navigation 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 heavy rains before they will clear enough to have a good shot with a fly rod. Being consistently successful flyfishing for winter fish involves being intimately familiar with a number of different streams so you can move to find the right conditions and some fish.

Wild Oregon Winter Steelhead

Whether guiding or fishing recreationally I am out fishing on a daily basis during the winter season, keeping a finger on the pulse of Oregon’s winter steelhead streams. I fish these rivers often, and pay very close attention to the weather and water conditions in order to target my efforts more effectively. The pursuit of winter steelhead can be tough, demanding patience and perseverence from both guide and angler, but it is indisputable that the rewards can be huge.

Wild Oregon Winter Steelhead

Of course, winter weather and water levels can be volatile, and successful winter steelheading is often about striking while the iron is hot. If you have booked a day with me and and the conditions are not conducive to a successful trip, I will happily reschedule the trip for a better time.

Wild Oregon Winter Steelhead

The two most common ways to fly fish for winter steel is either by swinging flies or by dead-drifting a nymph or egg pattern under an indicator. Each method lends itself to different water types and situations. Most of the swinging I do in the winter involves the use of a spey or switch rod. These two handed rods are effective tools to cast and fish the heavier sink tips and larger flies I often use in the this time of year. I am a good teacher and coach, and an expert instructor for all types of fly casting. I also have a lot of high quality fishing tackle that you are welcome to use on guided trips if you don’t have your own.

Coastal Chromer On

Winter Steelhead Rates:
$600 per day for 1 or 2 anglers. No half days due to travel time.

6 responses to “Winter Steelhead

  1. Hunter Britegam

    Hello! Just came across your site. Good work! I am assuming that your daily rate is per person is that correct? Just wanted to clarify.

    Thank you


    • Ethan Nickel

      Hi Hunter, thanks for checking out the site. My rate for dat trips is $450 per day. The price is the same for 1 or 2 people. Fish on! Ethan


    Looking for a trip in March 18-20. What does your price includes.

    • Ethan Nickel

      Hi David,

      A full day trip with me includes lunch, non-alcoholic beverages, and all rods, reels, and terminal tackle. My daily rate is the same if you come by yourself, or bring a fishing buddy to share the day with. Guests should plan to bring licenses, rain gear and/or waders, clothing depending on the weather, hats, and sunglasses.

      Please let me know if I can provide any other information.

      Thanks, Ethan

  3. Wade Hanel

    Hello Ethan
    My name is Wade
    I have a friend who’s interested in flushing for steelhead and would like to get him on a trip with you!

    • Ethan Nickel

      Hi Wade, thanks for writing. I have several days open the first week of April, if that might work for you guys. That is a great time to fish in my area. Feel free to call or text at 541 554-2303 and we can talk it over. Thanks, Ethan

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