Passionate Great Lakes Steelhead and Brown trout anglers know that there are so many things to consider when it comes to catch both of these prestigious gamefish species. One thing that they will agree on is that “timing” is critical. Being on a tributary after the water level has risen (even to flooding conditions), and is starting to fall with at least 6″-1-2′ visibility is one of the top times to intercept these fish in any of the Great Lakes tributaries.
Secondly, the location you pick if the timing is right is most critical. Do you fish the lower sections of a tributary (near the mouth), or further upstream in the pools and runs. My choice would be to fish the pools/runs upstream and when water levels are normal, fish the lower tributaries near their mouth. My theory is that fresh-run fish come up from the lake and take advantage of higher/turbid waters and head up as far as they can get.
In tributaries that have fishing below obstructions like waterfalls or dams, those can be teaming with fresh fish.
Set-up is also critical. If you drift-fish, having the right size float/weight is critical to match the drift-speed. Novice steelheaders will continue to fish one float size/shot weight configuration throughout a tributary stretch where current speed and water depth can really vary. Advanced steelheads know to change up their float/shot rig to maximize different pool/runs conditions.