Summer Steelhead are one of the most thrilling fish to chase here in the Pacific Northwest. They are available throughout the region and offer us an excuse to head to the great outdoors and explore our rivers and streams this summer. If you are new to the area, new to fishing, or both, then this article was written just for you! This article is designed to give you a good idea of what local anglers are using to catch Steelhead. Make it a goal to get out and explore a new river this summer, try out a new technique, and enjoy the great natural beauty and awesome fishing that our region has to offer.
John’s Jigs have been on the market since I started fishing for Steelhead, they are a great choice for anyone needing to build a selection of Summer Run jigs. All of their jigs are tied with ultra-durable rabbit fur on Gamakatsu hooks. They are available in almost every color combination you could imagine. They catch plenty of Summer Steelhead. I always have my jig box stocked with a few black, purple, red and nightmare patterns during the summer.
Over the Edge Jigs
Over The Edge Tackle offers some of the most unique Steelhead jig patterns that I’ve come across on store shelves. Whoever is designing these patterns gets an A+ for creativity. I really like the looks of their low-profile Jig-L-Bum series for summertime low-water conditions, and the Roe-Bot series because it infuses the use of beads into a low-profile design. High quality design and all jigs are tied on high quality Gamakatsu hooks.
Aerojig Hackle Series
Aerojig makes a Hackle Series that is arguably one of the most widely used jigs on the market. These jigs offer a unique hackle tail and slender profile that is perfect for lower and clear water conditions. All jigs are tied on high quality Gamakatsu hooks. Even during early summer, when our rivers flow high and cold due to snowmelt, the brighter orange and pink Aerojig patterns are exceptionally effective.
Worden’s Maxi Jigs
Worden’s Maxi Jigs have a lot going for them, they use super high quality Owner hooks, the beaded body is very fishy, the designers reached out to the region’s top fishing guides to create a bunch of great looking color patterns, and they catch a lot of Steelhead.
Trout Beads have been an extremely popular in the past few seasons. These mega-lifelike salmon roe imitations were initially designed for Alaska’s trophy Rainbow Trout fisheries, but once Steelheader’s got hold of ‘em… the rest is history. Go to any river throughout the Pacific Northwest, and you are likely to come across a few bead fishermen. It is somewhat complicated to explain why these are so effective, but I will keep it simple. Summer Steelhead live in the river for around six months before they spawn; they must feed occasionally. In Alaska the bead anglers catch a lot of Rainbows because they usually fish in areas where thousands of salmon are spawning, matching the hatch so to speak. In our Northwestern rivers, we don’t usually have areas where thousands of salmon spawn during the summer months, and yet our Summer Runs love to bite the bead. I think that these lures capitalize on the Steelhead’s trout-like characteristics. I also believe that the sight of a small egg imitation pulls on the curiosity strings of a Steelhead, and that in itself is enough to induce a strike. Get some beads.
Drift bobbers are one of the essential items needed to drift fish for Steelhead. Corkies are one of the most widely used drift bobbers, they are available in hundreds of colors and many sizes. A Corky can be fished solo above a bare hook, it can be fished with yarn (scented or unscented), it can be fished with bait. The purpose of a Corky, as its classification as a drift bobber might elude too, is to float (lift) the offering of bait/yarn a little bit and keep it above the river cobble as it drifts along with the current.
Cheaters are another popular style of drift bobber. Like the Corky, they are buoyant and help lift the offering off the river bottom, they are available in lots of colors and a few sizes. It you want to get a little crazy, grab a pack of mylar-winged Cheaters and give them a go!
Little Cleo Spoons
Little Cleo spoons are a very useful lure for those that enjoy swinging metal for Steelhead. Unlike other spoon companies, the smaller spoons are not only thinner but also smaller in profile, which I really like. All spoons have a brass or nickel finish, which means they aren’t as flashy as a full gold or silver plated spoon. Pick up a few ¼ oz and 2/5 oz Little Cleo’s for your summer arsenal.
R & B Spoons
R & B Lures are a local company that crafts all of their spoons and spinners in Oregon. Their spoons are very highly sought after (yet hard to find). Aside from basic silver and gold patterns, they also have some really cool looking blue, green, red and purple spoons that catch fish.
Rvrfshr spoons are one of the more popular offerings in the Puget Sound area and this Seattle-based company focuses only on the products that are super effective. I personally know the owner, who does way more “field testing” than is probably necessary, but it is nice to know that a guy that makes fishing tackle actually goes fishing now and again. Their half & half, silver, gold, copper, and brass finishes are all worth having in the tackle box.
Rvrfshr spinners also made the list because they have some redeeming characteristics that others lack. They are heavier than other spinners on the market. They come in a variety of blade colors and body colors, including some really cool metallic body finishes. They are local. Swinging spinners for Summer Runs can be a lot of fun!
Blue Fox Vibrax Spinners
Blue Fox Vibrax Spinners are a true classic. These lures will catch about anything that swims, and while they are best known for their effectiveness while targeting Coho and Chinook Salmon, many a Summer Steelhead have been beached by your’s truly on a Size 3 or Size 4 Metallic Blue.
Rooster Tail Spinners
Roostertail Spinners are one of the best lures available to catch trout, but these buggy-looking spinners are a great late summer option for Steelhead as well. As the summer carries on, Steelhead become more acclimated to the river and take on trout-like characteristics. They will feed on Caddisflies, Stoneflies and other bugs, and will have a tough time turning down a black or brown Roostertail that goes swimming by.
Lindy River Rocker
I have always been a huge fan of the all-time favorite Tadpolly plug, but it is from a bygone era, and not readily available. Lindy has designed a plug similar to the Tadpolly, but with better colors available and a few new sizes, this one is going to be a great choice for anyone looking to pull plugs this summer.
Maglips 3.5 plugs have been one of my favorite lures since they came out. Yakima Bait Company designed these to run true, swim deep, and catch fish. Lots of great colors to choose from. YBC did their homework on this one!
During the summer, when our rivers get too low and too clear to run the bigger and more colorful plugs, the Bait Diver setup comes out to play. Rig up a small cluster of cured roe, a full or part of a live sand shrimp, or a cured prawn and backtroll through your favorite fishing hole. I like to run a tiny Spin Glo above the bait to lift it from the bottom and give it a little added attraction.