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Learn more about Salmon and Steelhead:

Learn more about big streamers and how to throw sinktips:

Steelhead and Salmon on Streamers

Steelhead and Salmon on Streamers

Steelhead and Salmon on streamers isn't something you hear much about because 99.99% of the time fly anglers pursue them with chuck and duck, floating line and indicator, and spey methods. Just like spey fishing for steelhead, streamer fishing for lake run fish is very rewarding and extremely exciting when you finally hook up. If you can imagine a 7-20 pound fish creaming your streamer and then taking a long, leaping run then I'm sure you'll want to give this a try. When you have hooked enough Salmon or Steelhead on nymphs and eggs, tie on a super sized streamer.

First of April until Mid May is prime Spring Steelheading, with plenty of fish in the river getting one on a streamer is very possible. To pursue Salmon mark your calendar for mid-August until October 15th. Starting in mid October and ending around November 15th is the prime time to look for aggressive streamer eating fall steelhead. All these time frames have common factors that come together to give you a chance to drill a King Salmon or Steelhead on a streamer. Water temps are in the high forties to low fifties making the fish active. These large migratory great lakes fish are used to eating baitfish from their days in the big lake. Salmon are baitfish eaters so when they first show up they will be the most aggressive. But females protecting the nest and males just pissed off at the world will crash a properly presented fly later in the run. The spawn migration kicks in the hormones for the males to step up dominance, so striking at big bright objects is second nature. Also during the spring you will have a larger percentage of drop back steelhead available, drop backs feed aggressively looking to rejuvenate their bodies after the spawn. King Salmon fry and parr are easy meals, along with sculpins and planter rainbow trout.

The method isn't difficult, just go strip streamers. If you can handle a 200-300 grain sink tip on a 7-9 weight rod you can start searching those likely runs and pools. My favorite set up is an eight weight Orvis T-3 with a large arbor reel, like the Mach or Vortex loaded with a 300 grain sink tip. I attach 3 feet of 20 pound fluorocarbon and tie on a fly. My favorite patterns are large flies that have a lot of movement when stripped. The steelhead pictures here (below and to the right) ate an olive and white sculpin pattern of my own design called the Nutcracker. (learn to tie the Nutcracker here)

The combination of a long rabbit strip tail and lots of marabou give this fly great action. The more wiggle and movement the better your chances for a hook up. They need to be fished slowly to entice or irritate these fish into a strike. The salmon pictured at the top of the page ate a Mad Pup fished near her redd. They will often move ten feet to drill a fly, you won’t believe it until you see it.

Many anglers just don't have the patience to pursue a steelhead or salmon on a streamer. It might take days of fishing to catch one of these trophies so why should you consider doing it? Look below and you will see why!

Sculpin eating Steelhead
Big Brown Trout eating streamers

Brown Trout! While you are looking for that steelhead that is a "player" you get to catch brown trout. We are talking maybe your biggest trout of the year. The big resident browns are doing the same thing the aggressive steelhead and salmon are doing. They are hungry and aggressive. Spring and Fall triggers them to eat, they want a big meal and that's where your streamer comes into play.

Steelhead are going to be hiding the same place the browns are, little pockets and runs where they can ambush their prey. Also look for Brown trout and steelhead behind the salmon redds gobbling whatever gets washed over the gravel.

Most of the time it's eggs and nymphs, but how do you think an egg sucking leech got started? The fish holding in the dark water are the "player" fish. These are the fish that have moved up and want to eat whatever they see. The Salmon are creating the food source, sculpins, and baitfish will get pushed around in this dark water and then they are an easy meal for the hungry trout and steelhead waiting in the depths behind the gravel. In other words, you will be fishing where browns are. The only real requirement to catch a steelhead or salmon on a fly is the ability to float by fish on gravel and throw streamers into the dark water. Think about catching big aggressive fish that are eating, let everyone else try to catch spawning fish.

Any river that has steelhead and brown trout in it is acandidate for steelhead and salmon on streamer flies. My favorites are the Muskegon, Pere Marquette and the Manistee. All three rivers are prime water for both species. Spend a couple of days with Hawkins Outfitters trying to nail one of these trophies. Even if you don't get a steelhead or salmon I'll bet you have some memorable trout fishing.