Swinging flies for winter steelhead in BC is certainly not for everyone, but if you have enjoyed many years of successful summer run adventures it is time to add it to your repertoire (its all about the challenge). Fly selection is much more critical when winter steelheading because the fish tend not to move as far for your fly. The strike zones are smaller so having a fly that will hit the deep water column is critical whether the fish is holding in deep slow water or a fast tailout.
In the small coastal rivers we fish, winter runs are usually much more ocean oriented and not as “trouty” as a summer run, so it’s best to appeal to the feed they see in the ocean like shrimp and krill. Many of the coastal rivers in BC get incredible amounts of salmon throughout the summer and fall and the juvenile steelhead rely on salmon eggs, and carcasses as the major food source. This should be considered as well when selecting colours to fish. Color of the water is another factor to consider, many of our coastal rainforest rivers are tea coloured and you will want a fly that shows up well.
These are our top 5 flies
5. Steelhead MOAL leech
Theres a reason float fisherman are religious about bouncing pink worms through a run, steelhead can hardly resist them. Swinging a pink or red Moal may not pick up the lethargic fish hunkered down in a pool but it will certainly drum up business for all fresh and aggressive fish. It casts easily and sinks moderately well.
4. Silvey's Silveynator
This little fly is the wooly bugger of steelheading. You just can't go wrong with it any time of year. Its simplisity is its best feature as It casts like a dream and sinks like a rock. It seems to have the Napoleon complex in the water and packs a seriously big punch for its small size. This pattern should come out with a whole new range of colors as it is a must have in the world of steelhead.
3. Polar Cobollero Pink
This is a great comeback pattern that mimics an egg or flesh, however you can feel a lot better about swinging it through a piece of water than using a glow bug. It sinks like a rock the second it lands and tempts stubborn fish holding tight lipped to the bottom.
2. Reverse Marabou pink and white
Tom Larimer is 100% correct in my books when he touts the reverse marabou as one of the best winter steelhead flies. It is a small fly when dry but lights right up the second it hits the water. It comes out of the water beautifully and casts with ease as the marabou shakes off any water the second it leaves the river. The best part is that it's not a bulky fly so when tied with lead eyes it sinks immediately. Whether you go with tubes or this solitude pattern with a trailer hook, the reverse marabou will be one of your top producers.
1. Rabbit and Rhea stacker tubes
This is a pattern Smithers guide Chris George has been selling for the past couple years to a select group of anglers. Everyone is familiar with stacking tube flies, but Georgie ties 2 separate patterns, one for the head and one for the tail. The head tubes are rhea and the tail tubes are rabbit strips each coming in a variety of colours. You can interchange colours, or tube weights as needed. It looks amazing in the water and adapts easily to any water condition. Chris isn't claiming to have invented stacking tubes, but he has a very innovative fly that works extremely well for winter steelhead. Chris is tying custom orders, if you are interesting in trying his system shoot us an email.