When fall’s angling hordes descend on your river’s most popular steelhead stretches, target these secret fish-holding spots instead
THE SALMON INFLUENCE
Generally, steelhead don’t like to mix with chinook salmon, but if the conditions are right in September, they will migrate into the rivers at the same time; the earliest I’ve found steelhead on my home waters was September 10. When this occurs, as noted earlier, the salmon quickly displace the smaller steelhead, pushing them into skinnier, secondary locations. So, even if the fishing pressure isn’t heavy, it’s best to head straight to those places.
Steelhead will also sometimes position themselves downstream of spawning salmon to gobble up their eggs. While this isn’t as common as we all wish it would be, it does happen, especially if the salmon are spawning just upstream from a deeper holding area. In such deeper areas, the steelhead can avoid conflict with the exceptionally aggressive chinooks, yet still remain close to the eggs drifting by. The bigger the spawning riffle, and the more salmon that are using it, the more likely there could be a couple of steelhead downstream gorging on eggs.
Many anglers who look for these egg-eating steelhead never find them, however, because they search too close to the salmon. Instead, start looking at least 10 to 15 metres downstream of the salmon, in the next spot where the depth increases. Even what seems like an insignificant depression in the river bottom can, and will, hold steelhead, especially if the water is high after a rainfall and the clarity is a bit off.
As yet another bonus, these same places are often the preferred fall hiding places of migratory brown trout. It can really light up your day when you’re fishing one of these hideaways for steelhead and also pluck out a couple of beautiful migratory browns.