“Winter steelheading in Great Lakes tributaries involves icy flows, sluggish feeding, small flies, and big crowds. Spring fishing means big bugs and voracious hits. Success with fish dropping back into the lake now is all about effectively covering a run—which you should have all to yourself this time of year.
1 / Get a Head Start
Begin at the head of a run and fish the seams between the fast center and slower edges, where steelhead can intercept food without fighting the teeth of the current. Drift a stonefly nymph or conehead Woolly Bugger under an indicator. Clip the hackle off the Bugger to make it look more like a baitfish.
2 / Meat in the Middle
At mid run, switch to a Zonker. Cast long and slightly upstream, and then strip the streamer back so it swims across the run, showing its full profile to any fish. If you move a steelhead and it misses, remember its exact location. Come back later and drift the same lane with a nymph-and-indicator rig.
3 / Swing Low
Take a few steps downstream. Cast across the run with a dark-colored Intruder and let it swing through the tailout, stripping the fly upstream as the swing ends. This fly has a weighted head that helps it get down fast. Keep a death grip on your rod because a drop-back that hits on the swing can yank it from your hand.”
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