Top 6 Spring Steelhead Flies

With spring steelhead season around the corner here in Southern Ontario, most of us have had a long winter and are itching to get back on the rivers.

The fall-run steelhead have been in the water systems for seven or so months now, feeding on what they ate as par, which are nymphs and baitfish while they spend their time in the rivers.

Spring-run steelhead run through the winter months to their spawning grounds for the spring, which is usually early March through June.

The fall-run Steelhead are usually post-spawn when we return to the rivers. So if you time it correctly, you can catch a ton of fish that are on their return to the lake. They will usually hit anything aggressively, if the water temperatures are comfortable in the high 40s to mid-50s.

Additionally, as the water temperature improves, so too does their appetite to the extent that large, buggy streamers like sculpins and big buggers fished ahead of a sink-tip will most often than do the trick to catching fish.

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Stonefly Nymph Fly (Eric Belanger photo)

Here are some great flies every fly box needs for spring steelhead.

  • Egg Sucking Leech: This fly represents your normal everyday leech with a bright colored head that represents a fish egg. When a fish sees this fly, it’s usually hit out of pure aggression to protect their nests and almost always produces fish.

  • Stonefly Nymph: Stonefly nymphs are a huge source of food during the spring when the warm weather starts. I usually have a few different colors and sizes to see what the fish like most.

  • Sculpins: These are basically bait fish flies, tied to look like a fish or intruder-style swinging fly, bright with a stinger hook. There are tons of patterns out there, so pick patterns based on what you see in your water system.

  • Woolly Buggers: These flies are my favorite; they represent almost everything, including leeches, crayfish, baitfish, etc. I would have to say I have caught more steelhead on these then anything else. They popular flies come in all sorts of sizes and color.

  • General Nymphs: When I say general nymphs, Copper Johns, Pheasant Tail, etc. are great. Size really doesn’t matter too much; these are always in the water and fish are always usually feeding on them.

  • Yarn Eggs: These flies are a must for the spring; steelhead are competitive fish and will eat eggs that are not their own.

These flies should be in your fly box all year long. I’m sure all or some of them will land you some steelhead and/or resident trout on a good day.

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