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Fall Steelheading Guide

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The wild Steelhead is an amazing and beautiful fish and it should be treated as such. They are a species in rapid decline and should be treated with great care. The hatchery fish is clone put in the river for amusement and food while, and while all living things should be treated with respect the hatchery steelhead is perfectly moral to harvest. The differentiating sign is the hatchery fish has had its adipose fin, between the dorsal and the tail, removed. 

Below is a gear list for you who want to figure out steelheading. If you are going with a guide you simply need your waders, Boots and personal clothing options.

Your gear list should include:

  • Waders & Boots - Felt, studded rubber, studded felt is recommend for all but expert waders.
  • 6wt-8wt 9 foot or longer fly rod
  • A good fly reel - Steelhead fight hard you reel matters more than trout fishing
  • Layering > Here is a link explaining how to layer.
  • Thick Wool Socks
  • Rain Jacket
  • Thermos
  • Sunglasses Polarized is a must.
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Fishing License and steelhead punchcard
  • Gloves
  • A good map of the area. Cell phones don’t work in a lot of the places we go. I really like two different maps. I have the California’s Best Fishing Water book which marks about every major access point on the river. I never leave for a trip without my Delorme Atlas. 

Riggings for Indicator fishing

Riggings for a swing rig:

  • 5 to 7 weight spey or switch rod
  • or 6-8wt Single hand rod
  • Floating or intermeadiate head with a variety of sink tips.
  • 9-12lb Mono Tippet
  • 9ft 8-12lb tapered leaders.

Methods for catching Steelhead

  • Indicator Nymphing- indicator nymphing from a boat is the most effective way to catch Steelhead. Flies generally include a variety of Caddis, Stones, Mayflies, attractors and Eggs.
  • Swinging- To swing your fly, you start by casting across the river and letting the current sweep your fly around. This can be an effective method for catching steelhead. Here is a great video on swinging flies.
  • Skating Dries– Perhaps the most exciting and rare way to catch Steelhead skating dries is most effective and early mornings and evenings in September and October. 

Where to go?

Trinity River- Very close to 4.5 hours from SF is one of the most popular rivers to fish for steelhead. The Trinity gets very busy when the fish are in the system. Great access for boats and walk and wade anglers.

Klamath River- Offers a more remote and less crowded experience. The remote nature of the Klamath is not for the faint of heart. Car break-ins and sketchy encounters are normal when exploring the remote stretches of the Klamath River. Float trips are key to avoiding the sketchiness. Great access for boats and walk and wade anglers. 

Rogue River-  In Southern Oregon the Rogue is a killer place to fish. There is a 1hr 20 min flight from SFO to Medford for under $300. Great access for boats and walk and wade anglers. 

A few other thoughts:

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