We all want to be on the river when steelhead fishing is at its best, however knowing just when this is going to be depends on many factors. The run timing for each river is going to be different, and the best way to get information on a particular section of river is to check with a local sports shop. Owners of these sports shop make a living selling steelhead anglers gear, and they know that if they provide accurate up to-date information they will build trust with the anglers and this trust may just lead to a sale. Plus many of these shop owners are steelhead anglers themselves and know just how important good information is to someone planning a fishing trip, they will also give you some very good ideas on what type of bait and tactics are working.
Once you have a general idea of when the steelhead will be in the river section you would like to fish it is important to keep an eye on the weather reports. The weather is one of the most important aspects when it comes to steelhead fishing, or any type of fishing for that matter. You not only want to be prepared for the weather yourself but the fish activity is greatly influenced by the weather. Knowing how the steelhead or fish react to weather changes will definitely let you know in advance just how good of a chance you will have of hooking into a steelhead.
Here are some general rules of thumb with regards to the weather and fishing that will help with picking the best times to fish for steelhead.
Pressure High:Typically gives you those bright sunny days and while this is great weather for fishing it is not typically the best weather for catching fish especially if you are steelhead fishing. Fishing in general usually slows down during high pressure. Steelhead spook easily and this is more than ever true now, with the sun out and casting shadows it is hard to get your presentation in front of them without scaring them off. Deep pools and areas that are shaded will offer you the best chance for success under these conditions. Try slowing down what ever type of presentation you are using and use pale colors for the best results.
Low Pressure:Usually means you will be fighting rainy and or snowy conditions so make sure you take along the appropriate clothing. You will find that in general the fish are much less active during these times, although a good rain usually signals the steelhead to start to move again they typically do not hit well in a driving rain. If it is a large storm river conditions can change from crystal clear to that of a chocolate milk shake suddenly. Under these conditions fishing is going to be at its toughest now. If you are fishing some of the smaller rivers and steams try fishing close to the banks as it offers the steelhead some protection from the floating debris and is also where the current is not as strong. If you are fishing the larger rivers try finding some deeper holes too. The darker colored lures work the best now.
Rising PressureWhen the pressure starts to rise usually after a storm moves through fishing will start to improve as the fish again become active. Steelhead at this time will normally still be found in the slower moving deeper pools or close to the banks out of the main river currents. While you will not find them charging up the river just yet they are more likely to be enticed into striking then during the storm. Bright colors fished along the edges of the main current should work well, as will fishing them in the deeper pools where the fish were holding during the storm.
Steady Pressure/Normal Pressure:
This is typically found on those days where you have hazy sunshine or it is over cast but no precipitation is predicted. Fishing should be fair to good on these days. You will find steelhead through the river and they will be active enough to get them interested in what you have to offer. Most any of the standard steelhead gear will work now so try your favorites.
As a storm approaches and the pressure beings to fall you will want to be on the river. This is the best time to fish as the fish now are at their most active state. Steelhead will become aggressive when the pressure is falling and they seem to strike at almost anything that passes by them. If you can time your steelhead fishing trip so you arrive on the river the day before a storm moves in your chance for success will be greatly improved.
While it is true you can catch steelhead in just about any weather, if you want to make a trip that is going to give you the best chance of success, then it is important to consider what the weather is going to be doing. Planning a trip where you have the weather working for you instead of against you is always something you should do before you take off after that often finicky steelhead. Being on the water at the proper time is going to improve your fishing success.
Trevor Kugler has written a short e-book called How the Weather and the Moon Really Impact Fishing, I believe this e-book is still available for free by signing up to receive timely fishing information twice a month.