I hooked my very first winter steelhead on a Paint Brush. it was 1985. I was fishing a powell 9'6" 9wt built by Bill in my very favorite winter run riffle on the Washougal called "Skelton's". It was a cold mid morning in Feb with moderatly low water condition. Half way down the run I make a case as far up and across as I could putting 5 stack mends into my floating line and 12 foot leader. Just as the line flaoted even with me the tip stopped and started moving upstream I struck hard and a nice fish of 10 pounds came flying out of the water. I stripped in the slack as fast as I could but as soon as it came tight the fly pulled free.
Now I live in an area where winter steelhead populations are totally and completely destroyed and I have found that hatchery winter runs to be EXTREMELY poor biters on flies so my winter flyfising is somewhat limited but I think if a guy was willing to do the work you could catch just as many on a floating line as with tips. a big part of floasting line (unweighted flies) fishing for winter steelhead is knowing where you can and cannot do it effectively.
Only steelhead matter!