Fly Fishing For Summer Steelhead

When anglers hear the words “summer steelhead” – thoughts of hard fighting fish on American rivers with rich histories fill their minds. Rivers such as the Deschutes, North Umpqua, and Klamath are just a few well-known rivers in the west that get runs of summer steelhead.

Anyone who has caught one can tell you – they are truly a special fish. Both aggressive and athletic – summer steelhead have been known to consume the thoughts of the most iconic anglers the world has ever produced.

Entering the rivers after a long migration through the Pacific Ocean. These fish will not only give you one of the best fights of your life but will also earn your respect – no matter their size.

Summer Steelhead

Swinging traditional flies on floating line (most anglers use Scandinavian lines) is the most exciting way to fish for summer steelhead. They can be very aggressive and will often move long distances to swipe at a fly.

Getting into fishing for them can be challenging. Learning the river, the flows, where they like to be, and how to present a fly are all great places to start. Hiring a guide will also help immensely. It will give you some much needed information on the river system and the fishing techniques required to catch the local summer runs.

Why fish for them…

Because they may be the most bad-to-the-bone fish in the world! Fun to fish for and a riot to catch – they offer a unique experience of catching an ocean fish in fresh water rivers. You might not catch many of them, but when you do you will be hooked.

Summer steelhead fishing is often a team sport – and an immensely fun one at that. Watching your buddy land the fish of a lifetime is an irreplaceable experience. Landing a fish of your own – may change your life. Ask anyone who has landed a summer steelhead and they will tell you where they were and who they were with when they got their first one. 

Anglers walking along the railroad tracks on the Deschutes River

A Few Summer Steelhead Fishing Tips

  • Be mindful of the water temps and don’t fish if the temperature gets above 68 degrees.
  • Cover water – summer steelhead will typically move further for your fly. Covering water increases your chances of getting your fly in front of a fish.
  • Concentrate your fishing efforts on mornings and evenings when the sun is off the water. You can catch fish in the middle of the day, but it is not as common.

Best Summer Steelhead Flies

The best summer steelhead flies to use will vary slightly depending upon the river you’re fishing, but here are a few that will produce on all the summer steelhead rivers in the west.

Help Save Our Summer Steelhead

Summer steelhead need our help! There are numerous organizations and companies advocating for them and defending the rivers they return to. Dam removal projects throughout the Pacific Northwest are underway that will restore hundreds – if not thousands of miles of spawning habitat. There are simple ways to get involved and help protect summer steelhead.

How to get involved:

  • Support companies and organizations that are fighting to protect our steelhead. You can support by donating money or your time.
  • Vote for politicians who believe in environmental conservation and will make an impact.
  • Advocate and raise your voice. Write to your local representatives to help protect steelhead and the rivers they run.

Switch Rods for Steelhead

There are a few Douglas switch rods that are perfect for summer steelhead. On rivers that have “half-pounders” and smaller adult steelhead, such as the Klamath, a 5 WT rod is a lot of fun. Our Sky 11’4” 5 WT is a perfect switch rod for steelhead. On rivers that have larger steelhead, such as the Deschutes and North Umpqua, the DXF 11’6” 7 WT is a great rod to use – especially when fishing traditional flies.

Difference Between Spey and Switch Rods

Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a spey rod. There are two-handed rods and there are switch rods both of which typically utilize a “spey cast” to get the line out. Spey casting is a form of casting that was developed on the Spey River in the UK. So, if you ever hear someone mention a “spey rod” they are talking about a two-handed or switch rod.

A switch rod is a rod that is longer than 10’6” but shorter than 12’ while a two-handed rod is a rod that is longer than 12’. There has been a lot of confusion on this topic, but the better educated you are, the better chance you will show up to the river with the appropriate gear.

Fly Fishing Switch Rods Near Me

Find a local Douglas dealer near you to try out and purchase a switch rod for steelhead. Or visit one of our online dealers to have one shipped to your door.  Interested in seeing more of our award winning fly rods?

Additional Resources:

The Best 5 Weight Fly Rod
How to Fish Hoppers
Euro Nymphing Tips for Trout