When winter arrives, anglers tend to divide into two categories: those who ice fish and those who steelhead fish, (or three categories, if you count those who are content with not fishing until spring arrives.) Winter anglers can be prevalent, though, which means the few areas that are fishable during this time will be fished heavily. Anyone who’s fished highly pressured waters can tell you what a headache it can be, but you don’t have to pack the Aspirin this winter. Today, I’ve provided you with some tips to help you reel in even the most pressured steelhead when you hit the rivers.
In fishing, generally the best waters are the most popular waters. Rivers and streams that receive huge plants return lots of steelhead and attract lots of anglers, along with rivers that have dams. This means that the farther you get from dams or obstructions that block fish passage the fewer anglers you’re going to encounter. A good tactic for finding some water to call your own is to locate lesser known waters that receive smaller plants or maybe none at all, and still get some fish from natural reproduction. They might be tributaries to more popular streams or more marginal steelhead streams and rivers, but they don’t see as much pressure. Remember though, that some streams only get fish when conditions are ideal, so be sure to hit these rivers when heavy fall rains or spring run-off triggers good runs of fish.
In order to have more alone time on the river, you’ll want to head there when others can’t or won’t. Weekends and holidays are the busiest times, so avoid them at all costs if you can. Many anglers make the trip to the river once or twice a year around the holidays or on prime weekends. If you can avoid fishing on Saturdays and Sundays, you’ll be in good shape, and if your schedule is flexible, the absolute best times to fish are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Many anglers will take long weekends or stay an extra day to fish on Monday or Friday, but rivers will be nearly deserted during the middle of the week.
If you have no choice but to fish on the weekends, then hope for bad weather. Most weekend or holiday anglers are fair-weather fishermen, so a little wind, sleet, rain or snow will cause them to give up or make a half-hearted try and head home early. True steelheaders are prepared for nasty weather both mentally and physically, and can have great fishing when others are complaining about the bad weather. Fortunately, some of the best steelhead fishing takes place when the weather is at its worst. Dark, dreary days mean active steelhead, and the fish become aggressive, often moving away from cover when not pounded or threatened by the usual crowd of anglers. A hook up or two every once in a while and you forget all about the weather. Just be sure to dress for such weather to ensure you’re not miserable.
Hopefully, the tips detailed above will help you get a leg up on those pressured steelhead this winter. Be sure to come back later this week for Part Two, where you’ll get another batch of hints that will have you reeling in a ton of fish.