It may be too cold— or frozen, for that matter — in your neck of the woods to go bass fishing, but that doesn’t mean your tackle has to collect dust for the next few months. Now is the time when anglers suffering from cabin fever can get their fishing fix by targeting steelhead in their local rivers.
If you’re new at the steelhead game, we’ve got a few tips to help you catch big numbers when you hit the river.
Go With Thinner Line
In the frigid winter waters, you’ll have better luck with slow, sinking flies if you use a flat running line, such as Cortland’s Precision Running Line. Due to running line’s thin and slick nature, it holds less water than fly line, which means your rod’s guides will ice up less frequently. Running line is also much more sensitive than fly line, so you can keep your gloves on and still feel the strike.
Use a Swivel
If you’re snagging, breaking off rigs and constantly retying with cold hands, you’ll find that using a small barrel swivel can help. Some anglers out there may scoff at using terminal tackle with a fly rig, but using a swivel will keep you drifting for fish while they’re trying to tie and retie with numb fingers. Bonus Tip: You can save even more time by pre-tying tippet—tapered leader material—to some of your favorite flies and stringing them onto an old-school snelled hook holder the night before so you don’t have to dig around for them on the water.
A big mistake anglers tend to make is pulling lines out when their buddy hooks up. In actuality, a hooked fish disrupts the others as it darts and thrashes, momentarily causing them to scatter out of the safety of their hole. When this happens, they’ll often slurp up a passing fly as they slide back into their holding pattern. If you’re wading and your friend hooks a fish above or below your position, slip into that spot and get in a few drifts while they fight their fish. Yes, a double might make things chaotic for a few moments, but the payoff is well worth it.
Check out these YouTube anglers hook some winter steelhead.
Photo credit: Dreamstime