Steelhead question


Active Member
My old man has been going for 3 years now of solid steelhead fishing with absolutley nothing to show for it, except a ton of frustration. Im sure a few of you can relate so I put out this question to the veterans.

How many of you run or have ran an indicator for steelhead with a weighted bug instead of a weighted line/sinking head? I was thinking it might be easier for an inexperienced steelheader to run an inidcator off a floating line to a weighted bug with or without split shot to increase the odds of catching a steelhead. This would eliminate the need for the "feel" that it takes to sense these subtle strikes.

What do you think and what are your experiences? Thanks.

~Patrick ><>


Now I am not experienced by any means, (4 hooked, 1 landed, all on dries, all in a one week period this summer) and I go every chance I get. I try to match the set-up to the situation. I run an indicator on small water (Tucannon, Pilchuck) and for water that wont produce the best swing, i.e. slow water, pockets with back eddies and narrow slots of good water. That is what I have done, and would love to hear some feedback from the "seasoned vetrans" also as to what they do to get the results that I dont get, yet.


Ignored Member
I have been fishing for steelhead for a number of years now and have been lucky enough to catch more then my share. Most of the steelhead I have hooked have slammed the fly. There was nothing subtle about it. This is one of the reasons I prefer to swing flies for steelhead. The violent strikes this method seems to elicit.

I don't know what to say that might increase your dad's chances of hooking up. But, I really don't think his lack of hook ups is because of the method he is using.


Active Member
Hey Kerry,
Interesting??? All of the steelhead I have caught have been hooked by "feel", like a hesitation in the line or the slightest bump possible?? All of my steelhead have been late summer runs or winter runs. I have never had a violent take? Even my buddy who runs average of 20 fish a day on the ronde with a baitcasting reel and a pink yarn setup goes by feel as those fish seldom take the fly aggressively??
Are you fishing the majority of the time on the west side?? Maybe they take more aggressively over there being closer to the salt????? :dunno When I look back at my pre-steelhead times I know I was getting strikes but I didnt know thats what was going on until I actually figured the feel out. I was thinking the indicator might possibly help those that have yet to figure this part out??? I dont know so thats why I posted.
~Patrick ><>

Take him out for summer runs on the 'Chutes or one of the other Columbia River rivers. It is rediculously easy if you hit it right. No need to jig for them. You can still catch 10 to 20 fish a day having the fish come to the fly.


Ignored Member
I spend most of my time over here on the west side but the 1st week of Oct. this year was spent on the Ronde. I had several multi fish days while there mostly swinging flies. And again I would say most of my hook ups were from fairly hard hits. Every once in awhile I would get one where I gotta ask myself is that a fish? Only to lift my rod to find a pissed off steelhead on the end but 95% of the time I knew when they hit right away.

20 fish per day eh? That is pretty effective. I seen an old guy over there last year that was using a float and jig setup on a baitcaster. He was by far the most effective fisherman there. I watched him come through a hole behind me and get 4 or 5 steelhead where I only got 1. Didn't exactly give me more confidence in my methods if you know what I mean. Oh well. I still prefer to fly fish for steelhead.


Active Member
I hear ya on the prefference :thumb

Ya, the kid is amazing!! He went to college down there so every extra day/weekend was spent on the Ronde for 4 years straight. By far the most knowledgeable I have ever met for that area.

~Patrick ><>
Sorry Patrick your father hasn't hooked into a Steelie in 3 yrs. It took me about 3 yrs to hook into a Steelie legitimately on the swing. Actually I've had only 2 SLAM a fly on the swing like a freight train, both those fish in late summer, all the other steelie takes were suttle or hesitant. I'm sure when the water is a little warmer Steelies are more likely to SLAM or even follow a fly.
I made the mistake in the beginning by fishing areas blind and "not knowing" really what areas the fish may or are lying. Have you brought your dad to guarantee Steelie holes? Maybe a guided trip with DDickson will end that fishless streak.
I'm sure that when your dad hooks in, that Steelie will wash all those fishless years away in a matter of seconds, it did for me! Patience does pay off...
Good luck!

Peter ><>

"Follow Me and I will make you fishers of Men" Matthew 4:19


Active Member
Definately fishing holes that contain steelhead. I typically pull fish out of the same holes. Just two weekends ago, side by side and I landed two steelhead, so its not a matter of being in fishless holes??

On another note, I need a few days and I will get back to you on the other issue ;)

~Patrick ><>
Come this December I will have completed my first year of officially chasing steelhead with the fly. I have tried almost all methods, swinging flies, dead-drifted, I've indicatored and even used dries. I, by no means am an expert at any one of them, but I think I have done above average. I have had fish take swinging flies that have hit so hard I thought they were going to pop the tippet and had takes so soft, I didn't realize they are on until my line was screaming up stream. So I understand what you are saying about the soft takes. The fish that I have taken with indicator and nymph have been ones that I have swung through first, they just wouldn't move that much for the fly, because of pressure, or whatever reason, they just wouldn't. Once a well presented double nymph rig was used, they would almost always take, the takes were similar to fish on the swing, some hard, violent takes, and others soft and slow.

Next time you are in a run you know there are fish, set dad up with a stonefly and egg dropper, under an indicator. He should get a hookup, once he has gotten a few with this method, get him one on the swing, and he will see which one is better. I still throw nymphs, but always as a second option.

How does the weekend after Thanksgiving sound for hitting that spot we talked about? We can get him into a fish there for sure.


Old Man

Just an Old Man
This is from another old man. I have sometimes the same results as your dad does. It took me a while to catch my first one. It wasn't a monster(21") by any means but it was still a steelhead. But you just keep plugging away and I'm sure that his time will come. I seem to catch mine in the summer time and on dries. I have yet to catch a winter fish but I keep going out there trying.

And now I'm into the bigger,longer style stick. A 14' St Croix and now I'm using a 13' 8/9 CnD custom. My luck has to change sometime soon. Maybe I should wash the shark repellant off my waders. LOL



Active Member
>My old man has been going for 3 years now of solid
>steelhead fishing with absolutley nothing to show for
>>How many of you run or have ran an indicator for
>steelhead with a weighted bug instead of a weighted
>line/sinking head?
>~Patrick ><>

Hey Patrick

until winter try a size 4 or 2 beadhead Kaufmann Stone at the end of a 12 foot leader. You really don't need an indicator with a bug like that and typical steelhead size lines (7 through 9). Just mend to try achieve a dead drift. You don't have to be that precise.

Winter is tougher, but a lead eye marabou "clouser" in the right colors fished the same way works too.

As long as you strive for a dead drift (you don't have to achieve it, just keep the bug ticking bottom), and the fly line is in the same position it would be for bottom bouncing trout nymphs, no indicator is needed, and you stand a great chance of hooking up AND seeing the line twitch, halt, or move upstream rapidly!


When you're swinging flies, it is depth of your fly and speed of the swing that are the crucial elements to productive steelheading. It's much easier to type that on the keyboard than it is to achieve it on the water.
You will probably speed up your dad's learning curve by setting him up with an "indicator" and nymph rig. You don't really learn anything by not catching fish and this technique will help hook up with some fish. Glo bugs or heavy bugger or egg sucking leaches will do the trick. Make sure his flyline is not dragging the indicator downstream and that his fly of choice is just bouncing along and not hanging up too much.
After a fish or two he will learn a bit more about exactly where those fish were hanging out and should be more productive with the swing.
I prefer swinging flies but will do the indicator thing only in water that I know I can't fish effectively with tips.

P.S. If he would prefer to fish tips then I would make sure he's fishing with heavy enough tips to get the fly on the bottom. I think most people who have a tough time flyfishing for steelhead aren't getting their fly deep enough (and slow).