Steelhead fly fishing

I'm just getting started on steelhead, still trying to cast a fly line decently--full-on newbie. I've been poking around the Clackamas lately, sometimes the upper Nestucca (trout), flinging flies from the bank, and not getting much action yet. I assume that's partly the nature of this kind of fishing and largely my inexperience and ignorance.


I'll appreciate any tips on flies to try, techniques, approaches to wading/bank-fishing for steelhead, where the fish are (large scale--not your favorite holes, just 'against the bank' or 'above Blaine' or whatever you care to share), etc.

That's pretty broad. To be more specific: what do I need to do to get my flies down where the fish are in this big winter water? I've got a weight-forward floating line and 9' leader; would bead-head flies do the trick? Tandem streamers? Or do I have to go buy a sink-tip line and learn to cast (retrieve) it?

Thanks in advance!
I would say that in relatively clear, relatively low water, a floating line should be fine. When the water gets deep and murky, you may want a sinking tip to get the flies down deep. This naked advice really only scratches the surface though. I would tell you that I only ever fish a floating line in rivers, just because I like it better. Finding what you like is where the real answers lie. And you'll only know what you like by trying stuff out (and, God willing, catching the fish).

In most big rivers, fishing for big-game from the bank is extremely difficult (IMO), especially with flies. That said, many people are very, very good at it. Really it comes down to recognizing the water where steelhead hang out. I usually try to find a good trough, and then I fish the top thoroughly; really try to get a fly through the entire top, without scaring fish (stay high, and land your casts well above the real beginning of the trough). then I move relatively quickly through the body of the trough, because that is where you are least likely to find fish. Then when you get close to the bottom, stay high, and work the bottom of the trough, hard. There ARE fish in the bottom of the trough, the key is ticking them off with well presented flies. For the record, when I say top, I mean up river, and the bottom is the downriver portion; I am not referring to depth.

As far as what flies to use, I would say go to your local fly-shop, and humble yourself to the owner or employee. A new fly fisherman is a potential gold-mine to a store-owner, and if they make you feel like a noob, or don't give you advice freely, go to the next store. Ask them what flies they are using, how deep they are fishing them, what type of line they are using, etc...

Good luck,

Last edited:
If I were you I would target smaller streams eagle creek, noth fork nehelam, three rivers stuff like that. A lot of people use pencil lead or split shot with floating line to get fly down fishing pocket water and small runs where you can sling your line into these spots without long casts. On the clackamas you will probably need a sinking tip line and a spey rod to get out to where the fish are and the depth they are at. any fly that represents and egg or flies that resemble steehead jigs I would think would work. These are sugestions from someoneone without a lot of sucess, Ive caught one steelhead three chinnook and a coho with a fly rod, so Im just starting out also. Good luck, tight lines
Thanks, fellas. Helpful comments.
Top Bottom