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Tips and Tricks, Newsletter #5 High Water Blues

This winter of 2015/2016 in the Pacific Northwest, it has been a Steelhead fishing season of non-stop high water. Now in mid February, it is time to go fishing for wild Steelhead, but the forecast stills call for lots of rain.

Rain and water are the core of winter Steelheading. Winter Steelhead respond to the ebb and flow of water in the river accordingly. The normal winter scenario is a period of no rain where the fish hold up either at the river's mouth or in the lower river's deep holding spots waiting for the next rain freshet to happen. When the rain falls, and rivers rise the fish begin to move. The Steelhead move until the rivers gets too high, and then hold. When the rain stops and the rivers come back into shape and start to drop the Steelhead begin to move again.

But if the river stays high for long periods of time, Steelhead will move and trickle up the river until they reach holding water near their spawning redds.

Tips and Tricks #1

Fish major upstream holding waters if you know where they are. Avoid spawning redds - usually in tail-outs above or below these holding waters.

Tips and Tricks #2

Steelhead usually like water depths of 3-6 feet, but in higher water this three foot range maybe more like 1.5 - 4.5ft. In lower clear water depths of 4 - 8 ft will fish better. Select your sink tips to fish these depths.

In muddy water, I've caught fish in water visibility of 1.5 feet. It helps to know where the fish are when it's this muddy. Steelhead also travel very close to the bank in muddy water. Swing your fly to the bank - select a lighter tip to do this.

Tips and Tricks #3

Use big flies in off color water. Black is the king of all Steelhead colors. Black = Silhouette, and that is most important. Colors I like to fish in the winter for off colors water are Black/Pink, and Black/Red. When the water clears - Black/Pink but smaller, Black/Blue, Black/Blue/Chartreuse, Pink, and variations of Black/Pink/Orange or whatever you have confidence in.


My friends (Fishing Photos) and I have had some success this difficult winter - using the above info. The BIG Fish award (doesn't have to be big in size but big in our memories) goes to Dave Robinson who caught an 18 lb Chrome winter Steelhead (click here)


I released this video in the fall just after my last newsletter. I will have a new one for this winter coming out in spring.

Fly Fishing Videos by WaterWorkFilms & Grab Flies

Summer 2015 Steelhead fly fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Watch Grabflies swing flies for summer Steelhead - 26 minutes long.


Again I have to plug the Redington's Chromer Spey Rod, 8136-4 (13 ft 6 inch, line eight). A strong eight weight Spey rod, the best on the market for $400.00. Nothing like a strong eight weight for Steelheading. (click here)


This has been the year for Grizzly hackle in my patterns. Here are two hot new patterns:

Skagit Leech | GTL

Thanks for reading, Jeff Layton -

Steelhead Fishing Tips and Tricks

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