Flyfishing for Stealhead [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Flyfishing for Stealhead

Stefan S
12-26-2002, 06:50 AM
I hope to get two weeks off from family next year for a fishing trip to South East Alaska.
Now Ive read a lot about fly fishing for stealhead. It sounds great and Im really interested to give it a try. Im an experienced flyfisher, but I never fished for stealhead before.
Do you think a beginner has a real chance to catch stealhead? I havent the money to stay in lodge or take a guide for more than a day.
I have the oportunity to fish in alaska maybe every 5 or ten years. If possible, I want avoid to fish two weeks for stealhead and see no fish. The alternative would be to fish salmon during summer time.
My target will be Ketchikan Area, Misty Fjords or Prince of Wales Island. Has anyone some tips for good stealhead waters in this area? What will be the best time of the year?
Thanks in advance.
Greetings from Germany

12-28-2002, 02:18 PM

Since nobody else has responded yet, I thought I'd help where I can...

I can't help you out with steelhead fishing locations and times in Alaska. See what you can learn about the area and strongly consider hiring a guide for 1 day--that will really help you learn one river, and the basics about steelhead fishing.

Yes, a beginner certainly has a chance to catch a steelhead. You said you're an experienced flyfisher--if that means you have trout experience, start by just thinking of steelhead as large trout. Here are some general rules for steelhead fishing, especially for summer or water temps above 44 to 48 deg F (7 to 9 deg C) that I've posted on other sites in the past.

Line--DT floater or long belly steelhead line. WF floater is OK. Won't need a sink tip until the water temp is below 48, even down to about 44 deg F, perhaps even colder on rivers east of the Cascades. I've caught fish on the surface in temps down to 41 deg F. So, the line is not too critical.

Leader--not too critical either. Nine or 10 feet, with an 8 to 10 lb tippet. I use Maxima Chameleon; steelhead don't care about the leader.

Flies--typical would be a size 4 or 2. Go smaller or larger depending on the river more than the size of the fish. Obvious choices for 3: Skunk, regular or green butt; Purple Peril or variation; and Muddler. Muddler can be natural, or purple or mixed colors including green. Many/most flies will work; I almost never fish a Skunk but most do. Just pick one and fish it; don't waste time changing flies much.

Get the idea not much of this is too critical?

What is important is to keep moving. Move typically 2 long steps between each good cast. If you're not sure if the water is good, move 3 or 4 steps between casts. Good water is typically about walking speed, but just consider steelhead to be very big trout, and you'll guess the water types OK.

Also, don't yank your fly when mending--better to not mend. Fishing down-and-across, a slight belly in the line is OK; mend if the fly gets going to fast due to a big downstream belly. Usually better to slow the fly down with upstream mends than to have it moving too fast, but again, don't jerk the fly. Bad mends will cost you a lot of fish.

Finally, don't set the hook, at least not quickly--let the fish have the fly, even giving some slack initially if you can.

Enjoy it, and support a fish conservation group so we can all continue to enjoy these fish.


12-29-2002, 01:54 AM
Stefan S
Having lived in Alaska for 26 years and chased steelhead for most of my life all 50+ years: I must say you have made a Great choice.
I spent 13 years living in Ketchikan and loved it.
I would highly recommend Price of Wales Island,
If I were you I would contact the FIREWEED LODGER ( or BOARDWALK LODGE (.
These are two very good places to start.
If will try to locate the Right Reveren Steelhead or Joe Oliver and pass your info on to them.
These two guys live the life as Steelhead Bums.
Steelhead Run in the months of April and May,
The Streams to target are the Thorn, Eagle,Logjam, Staney and Klawock.
These are all-accessible from the road and offer excellent fishing.
You have a lot action from Dolly Varden and Sea Run cutthroats at this time of the year all so.
Just bring a trout and 8or 9 (of course I prefer speyrods 6 or 7 weigh and a 14 for a 9.
Floating lines and sink tips, there is not a lot of trypical steelhead water there but lots of fish.
Much of the fishing is done with indicators and glowbugs.
Glowbugs match the hatch every thing from bright Orange to pale Cream in color about size 4 Tied Teimco 105.
Eggsucking leaches and number of other standard patterns,
I suggest the larges size would be 2/0 for the leaches.
Keep you trout flies to Elvin patterns and small bait fish type.
A small amount of dries will help also.
If you need more let me know