I love steelheding and my favorite time is to fish throughout the winter when there is a mix of fresh and holding fish in many of our Great Lakes tributaries. Only challenge is that weather can be unpredictable and if it’s been really cold, tributaries can be locked-up. But, when you get mild spells, they open and if you take advantage of “driftable” conditions, the fish are just waiting for you.
While most Great Lakes tributary fishermen use roe bags or imitation eggs, I love to fish “jig-flies” in different sizes and weights. I call them jig-flies because they look like a jig and hang horizontally on your line, but they are 100% fly, tied with all fly tying material. My personally tied flies are tied on a small jig hook. I use a pin to attach a fly metal or plastic bead ahead of the eye and than I tie my fly. Materials are simple; rabbit fir strips, a little flash, maybe some maribou and voila!
Colors can be very important. I fish white and light pink in clear water.
Dark colors like black and purple in turbid waters. If the current flow is strong enough I “dead-drift” the flies, if it’s slower, I gently work my float like a top-water lure to make the fly produce a tantalizing horizontal swimming action. If you have not tried this drift-fishing presentation, when the fishing slows down with roe bags, you might get a big surprise!