With the fall season hanging in the air and winter just around the corner, this time of the year usually means hanging up rods in exchange for hunting rifles and bird dogs. But even though the trees are dropping their leaves, by no means does that signify the end of the freshwater fishing season. Steelhead fishing, albeit a sometimes cold and wet endeavor, has proven addicting for those who’ve reeled in one of the giant fish. Every angler should try their hand at steelhead. It’s hard to fathom a 10+ pound rainbow trout taking a fly, but it’s definitely possible.
Olympic Peninsula Steelhead
Steelhead are the cousins of their strictly freshwater relative, the rainbow trout. They live part of their lives in the ocean and migrate into freshwater estuaries come spawning time. The fish come from the ocean, so naturally, they’re ocean-sized. The Olympic Peninsula is the winter steelhead mecca, only about a 4-hour drive from the Seattle airport and with 10 to 15-pound fish straight from the ocean. But that’s not to say that 20-pound prize steelhead can’t occasionally be found as well.
Gear and Flies
But how do you hook into these winter-run steelheads? For every angler fishing on the Olympic Peninsula, some essential gear should include 12-13 foot 8-weight two-handed spey rods with skagit lines and tips, and 9 foot 8-weight single-handed rods when fishing under an indicator. Flies include intruder-style spey flies (purple, blue, pink, black, etc) and beads or “yarn balls” when fishing under an indicator. And don’t forget your rain gear!
We’re proud to work with Brazda Fly Fishing which runs the new Wild Duc Lodge which is just outside of Forks, Washington, and within a 5 to 50-minute drive from five of the best winter steelhead rivers in the lower-48 states.
The season runs from January through April. While the season’s early months tend to produce fewer fish in the river systems and volatile weather conditions, the crowds and pressure are relatively low compared to later in the season. But the fishing can be good during all the months of the season.
The guides out of the Wild Duc Lodge fish the Calawah, Hoh, Sol Duc, Bogachiel, and the Queets. Depending on which river you fish, they’re all within a 5 to 50-minute drive from the lodge. And depending on how high up you’re fishing on a particular river, you could be only 1 to 40 miles from the open ocean. This is why the Olympic Peninsula is known for the freshest and hottest winter steelhead in the lower-48 states. A few of the rivers close to fishing in mid-April, while the others remain open through the end of April.
Steelhead fishing should be on every angler’s bucket list – especially winter steelhead fishing. The state of Washington has no shortage of wild and scenic rivers, but finding a truly professional guide operation dedicated to showing their guests a great day on these amazing rivers is harder to find. Brazda’s team of nomadic guides gravitate back to these holy steelhead waters each year from around the Pacific Northwest, and these guys always go the extra mile
“We had a great time fishing Brazda and company last week along with the new Sol Duc Lodge. What a great place to stay for a few days. The bedrooms are spacious and comfortable, and you have lots of space for just relaxing after a hard day’s fishing. And the view from the back deck was great. Everything was just perfect, and of course, the fishing was world class just like the guides. We can hardly wait for our return.”