Winter Steelhead Flies


Active Member
I'm trying to put together a box of flies for winter steelheading on the Cascade, Skagit & Sky. I'm hoping to get some thoughtful input from some of you on the subject. I hate to be a pain in the arse, but I not really looking for anwsers like "green butt skunk never fails." I'm looking for theories on strike triggers, light conditions, turbidity, flow levels, river/run specific past performers, spookiness of fish, etc... I would like to settle on 6-10 flies (the fewer the better) that will cover the range of river conditions and fish I'm going to encounter on the aforementioned between now and season close. 60% of my fishing will be slow & low wet fly swings, 20% will be greased line, and the remaining 20% will be high-stick and/or indicator nymphing. I'm fairly traditional in my technique, but totally open on patterns/materials for the working end of the line. I haven't searched to far back in the archives, so if you know of a kick-butt thread on winter flies from awhile back, bring it up. Otherwise, if you have strong opinions backed up with decent fish numbers on what 6-10 flies you consider to be the 'core' of your fly box, let's hear the what, why & how of it. Thanks in advance.

Wishing you all tight lines,



Be the guide...
I'd have some purple, pink or cerise, and black GPs, Marabous, bunny leeches for most conditions. Larger profile for low vis conditions. The clearer the water and the more fishing pressure the fish have received - the more i'd switch ot nymphing techniques using large stone fly (maybe rubber legs even) and egg patterns. Based on your river list, you'll get a good mix of dollies and SRCs on those patterns as well - depending on time of year...

There are some good threads on the subject dating just a few months back at the most. Wetline (dave) started one that was pretty good.



Active Member
Thanks for the replies. I did some searches and bookmarked the gallery of the steelhead swap flies. There are some pretty good looking patterns there. I'm definitely going to carry an egg pattern. I'm also planning on carrying a couple large marabou patterns, one in pink/purple and one in darker colors. I like your idea on the gp's. That is certainly one I'm considering.

Here is a strike trigger theory that I've been nursing for awhile. Go ahead and laugh. The flies that I've tied with this theory in mind are mostly a product of having had to much to drink. We've got the "looks like food" and the "aggression strike" theories to explain why steelhead hit. Here's another...

I was flipping channels and I find this show where this guy is playing with these immense great white sharks. This guy says that sharks bite because their mouth is the primary tool they have for interacting with the world. He compared the bite to a dog sniffing/licking/mouthing something that it is curious about. This might sound strange applied to steelhead, but after drinking a certain amount of beer I can really get into the theory. What generally happens then, is I start tying weird flys that I am convinced a steelhead would "mouth" in a vain attempt to identify just what the hell had come drifting its way. The flies usually end up with names like 'the elton john' or 'the gene simmons.' They tend to look like a prince nymph from hell or a saltwater crustacean with huge sunglasses and a pink shirt. Besides suggesting public stoning for my naming conventions or AA for my fringe theories, would anybody care to comment or suggest patterns that they have used that would fit this description?

Comments on what makes a gp such a great fly?

Rob Blomquist

Formerly Tight Loops
>Comments on what makes a gp such a great fly?

It looks like a sand shrimp! GPs rock, in orange, purple, red and black.

Egg Sucking Leeches are good, but for an egg pattern, I really like Eggo.

Surprises me there are such few responces to this. Throwing flys all day for a fish that is hard to find in the first place and then having it not interested or even the possiblility of the fly drifting past a dolly, cut, or native trout and have them not interested either. Seems to me that Steelhead are feeding as well as these other fish. Trying to match what they are feeding on seems to be the ticket. And what the dollys, and cuts are feeding on the Steelhead are feeding on. This of course number one being eggs... damn things are all over the river now and the fish eating them up. Sure some of the steelhead flys out their seem all pretty and I may find them a bit tasty but that really is not the point. So of they fly i have be convienced will catch me the big one end up looking more like the leaves i see floting down the river and I have a feeling a fish only eats so many leaves before they figure out they suck. It also seems to me that a female steelhead stomach must also shink with the addition of eggs to her system. This would leave them less likely to feel the need to feed at all and if they were to feed maybe eat something full of protien and small... again eggs. Sure fishing egg paterns may seem against the ones of us that are too good to use paterns like that or even ever consider using an indicator for nymphing... but hey who really want to know when they get the strike its more about saying i am a natural "fly fisherman". Matching the hatch.. well eggs are the hatch right now and you will not go wrong fishing the egg patern.


Active Member

Very compelling logic... I think it is interesting that you taste your flies. I have never really thought of doing that, but it makes a lot of sense. I think if you really want to understand fish you have to think like a fish. I sometimes like to fill the bathtub with cold water and wiggle around on my belly and pretend to be a fish. I close my eyes and make fishy sounds. I think maybe I'll throw a handful of flys in the tub with me and see how they look and taste.

fishy sounds, fishy sounds, fishy sounds...
The one aspect of this that I think no one really takes to mind is the fact these fish have left the safe surrounding of the beautifull warm ocean to swim miles and miles up poluted cow crap infested rivers to do one thing.... Spawn. Why not present these fish with an option of a easy lay. I have devised a fly that looks much like a sleezy white fish... these are steelheads favorite sexual prey. Sure they are on their was to spawn with other steelhead, but that is a one shot deal and they wana know that they are going to be good at it as soon as they are presented with the chance. The one problem i have been experencing is that hooking a fish in the genatalia makes for a hard fight. With humans it is very easy to guide someone around when you have a handful of genatalia... but with steelhead. Not a chance. It seems to put even more fight in the fish. As well as goops up your flys. If you would like pic of this patern let me know... I would post it but a sleezy white fish fly is quite obsene.

Well tight lines and hard fish.


Active Member
Hmmm... Very intrigueing. I wasn't aware that steelhead molested white fish. I have personally molested white fish at lower points in my life, but I figured I was just strange. Couple of times I even brought them home and took baths with them. Swimmy little white fish make fishy sounds!

Well, tight whitefish and hard, umm... you know.
Well it is funny you should mention you bath. I also like taking baths. Although I do not make fishy sounds I do make stinky bubbles. Maybe you, a couple of white fish and I should get together some time.
I would not exactly say hitting... maybe more like showing some interest. I dont know if you are interested or not but i have a room in my house I call the spawning shack. Basically it has large clear shower curtains on the floor covered with vasaline and olive oil. You get dressup in a swiming fins, with your hands duck tapped to your sides and flop around on the floor and I try to catch you just wearing hip waiters and my vest. OH and one of those cool felt hats.