The end of March is the time when people start to ask; are there many winter steelhead left? and when are the summer steelhead going to be in?
The answer to the first question is, Yes! Although the major push of winter steelhead is over in most rivers, there are still rivers holding steelhead, and others where the run is peaking. The Santiam River system will have both winter and summer steelhead March and April. Places such as the North Umpqua have their best winter fishing in March and April, and many of our local coastal rivers have late runs of native fish. If you are fishing these rivers, it is best to focus on the upper stretches, as this is where most of the fish have moved to. The drawback of fishing this time of the year for winter steelhead is that many of them are spawning. It is not ethical to fish over spawning fish, so please avoid fishing over redds. If you see mating activity, watch and enjoy, but move to another area. Flies to use at this time of the year are: Pick yer’ pocket, Guide Intruders, Dirk’s Wiggler, and egg patterns.
The second answer to the steelhead question is: they are on the way. There are already a few hundred summer steelhead over the Willamette Falls, and it is expected to be a better than average year for fish in the Mckenzie and Willamette rivers. A few summer steelhead have been caught in the valley, so it won’t be long before they are here in fishable numbers. MOAL leeches, Morejohn’s Bantam, Bush’s Town Run, Green Butt Skunk, and Purple Perils are all good choices to swing for chrome, hard fighting early summer runs. Basically, it is all part of the Oregon endless steelhead season.–JC