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Steelhead Are On The Move

It seems like we went from summer to winter this past week.  That’s good news as the steelhead are now entering the systems we fish.  Here’s the latest from the frontlines on the Grand River.

With the recent rains, cold weather and eggs flowing down stream from the salmon, steelhead are slowly showing up.  As we move into November, more will continue to enter the area systems.  

When fishing this time of year for steelhead, here’s what water we look for, what gear we use, what flies we use and how we build our leaders.  

Where To Look:

There are combination of things that start to drive steelhead into the rivers this time of year. The primary driver being, the massive amount of eggs from spawning salmon. The second will be water temperature. Ideal temperatures for steelhead to enter area systems are between 42 and 55 degrees.

While fishing for steelhead in the fall, target the darker water behind spawning salmon, medium depth wood (4-6 feet) and transition water, where you find the faster current.

Remember, these fish are migratory. They are in one spot one day and the next gone and in another spot.


Egg flies are the preferred fly to fish. Fly colors should be in oranges, peach and cream colors to match the different stages of egg color in the rivers from the salmon spawn. Nymphs work well but it is primarily an egg bite.

We use 10 ft 7 wt Recon rods, Hydros VI reels and Scientific Anglers Amplitude Anadro Indicator Floating Line.

Leader Build:

1. We build our leader from the fly line starting with 2 feet of 20#
monofilament. This keeps enough distance from the fly line to not spook
the steelhead in clear water.

2. Next we add 4 to 5 ft of 15# monofilament to the 20# , via a blood knot,
which we use to attach the strike indicator too. Depending on water
depth, we can adjust the indicator so our fly is riding close the bottom.

3. Next we attach 2 to 3 ft of 12# fluorocarbon to the 15# via a small barrel
swivel. This is the final section of leader to which we attach our fly.


One thing to note, depending on depth and current, you will need to add weigh to the indicator section of the leader. Add the weight between the indicator and the fly, a few inches above the fly. As you get deeper in depth and faster current, you’ll need to add split shot and the opposite as you get shallower and less current. We like to start with 3/0 and #7 round split shot. If your indicator sinks, you have too much weight and will need to remove split shot.


We like to use Oros Screw-On Strike Indicators in 1 inch size or Raven Floats in 11 gram or 8 gram.  They are easy to put on and you can adjust to your water depth.

Nothing beats a fall day on the river targeting Great Lakes Steelhead. They are big, beautiful, chrome fish and is always a treat to be able to shake hands with these fishing during one of the best times of the year.  If you’re interested in booking a trip with us hit the contact button below.  See you on the water!

- Capt. Tom Werkman

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