Winter Tributary Steelhead; drift roe, beads or flies?

Posted on March 16th, 2018

How do you make the call as to when to drift roe bags, beads or flies? From my experience much has to do with water temperature, clarity and the speed of the run/pool you’re fishing. Matt Cory of TopSet Sport Fishing sent us these images of recent steelhead catches from the Great Lakes tributaries.


Example, my go to for all-round lake winter tributary steelheading is probably the standard for the Great Lakes region, drifting a dime to nickel-size roe bag. Roe works well when water is a little turbid and starts to rise up around the 40F temperature.


On the other hand, if the water is colder, clearer and the current is slower where I have fished roe with poor results, I will often switch to a nymph pattern fly or a small streamer jig-fly to try and coax shy steelhead into taking.


Lastly when I’m fishing faster runs varying in depth I often switch to a glass or acrylic bead. I find I can effectively fish that critical 1-2′ off the bottom and often hit fish that don’t respond to roe bags or flies. Best practice is trial and error. If one technique works, stick with it. When the fish are turned off that technique, start experimenting until you find the right combination.

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