High-water steelhead.

Posted on April 30th, 2014

My pup Mulligan and I had the pleasure of fishing one of the Lake Ontario tributaries for steelhead with our good friend Aaron Shirley.  We met up at 8am and of course it was raining.  As soon as we approached the tributary we could see that it was flowing high and knew we would be in for some challenging fishing.

treeinwaterMany of the Lake Ontario tributaries have had serious tree damage from the ice-storm this winter and one of the challenges is having large trees and huge branches in the water, sometimes going almost across the tributary.  Not only does this make for tough fishing when you are trying to drift a stretch of deeper water, but when you hook a fish, the odds are it’s going to go downstream and head right into the timber resulting in a lost fish!

woodpileYou can see from the above images that the water was really flowing strong, and that trees where definitely an issue. So what do you do if you hook a steelhead…..be prepared to loose it in the trees.

rapala_driftoutfitBoth Aaron and I decided to use our shorter 11′ Rapala R-Type drift rods with Rapala drift reels, Sufix Tritanium and Sufix Seige 8 lb. test main line and Sufix 6 lb. test fluorocarbon leaders with #10 Gamakatsu Octopus hooks.  For bait we both had various sizes and colors of fresh trout egg-sacks ready to go.  We fished these with sensitive 4 gram floats and 3-4 number 8 split-shot sinkers.  As you can imagine, we lost a lot of hooks and rigs having many drifts go right into the wood that we could not see.

Aaron started the morning off by hooking the first fish which he fought until it took him into a fallen tree and got off.  At the same time that he was fighting his first fish I hooked my first fish (delayed double-header), only also have it go down into the same tree and get off!  For the next hour or so I must have hooked about 5-nice steelhead only to have each one get of either going into trees, or because I purposely clamped down on the reel to let the fish take the hook so I would not loose more of my rig into river wood.

aaron_brownAaron also landed this nice resident brown that was gorging itself on steelhead eggs coming down the river.  Resident browns are commonly caught accidently by steelhead fishermen.

brownIn the summer months when the steelhead are all back in the Great Lakes, these resident browns provide an excellent challenge fished with ultralight spinning rods, 4-6 lb. test line and small lures like the Rapala Ultralight series & the Vibrax #1 spinner.

fiddleheadYou can tell this spring has been delayed when the Fiddleheads are just starting to pop-up.  For those of you that may not know, Fiddleheads are the sprouts of the . fern which in it’s young stage is delicious eating and high in antioxidents, omega 3 & 6 fatty acids and high in iron and fibre!

aaron_steelheadWe finally did get into some great steehead action and Aaron again started things off by landing the first fish which fought hard and made several sizzling runs.

italo_steelheadIt did not take me long to also hook-up.  I was really surprised at how much energy the steelhead had with some fish jumping about 5-consecutive times right out of the water.  I am hoping that we will still have at least a couple of weeks to chase steelhead before most of them are back in the Great Lakes.


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