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On the left you'll see me with my very first Vancouver Island Steelhead! Below are my top 5  Beginner Steelhead Fishing Tips or maybe things that I've learned in a short time going from completely clueless about steelhead fishing to having caught a few. I’m a terrible fisherwoman. But with help of Alex West, the lead guide of iGuideBC  I’ve probably caught more steelhead than you. What I'm saying is; if I can do it, anyone can.

When winter steelhead season came about and I was soooo ready to catch these tricky buggers.

Or so I thought...

5 Beginner Steelhead Fishing Tips

Beginner Steelhead Fishing Vancouver Island Tip #1: Wear Appropriate Gear (or what NOT to wear)

My first day fishing for Steelhead, I was so pumped. It was winter so I put on my 15 layers of clothes including some brand new base layers and my favorite stanfield sweater. I looked like a 12 year old kid who loved cake waaay too much. It’s Vancouver Island, winter time, so I quickly threw on my rain coat of course.

“Uh no.” was the response.

“What?! Why?” me baffled

“Because it’s fluorescent, that’s why”  said Alex.


“So, you’re gonna scare the fish away with that thing.” says the pro.

“Oh” I said, deflated trying to find a more suitable raincoat that would please Mr. Guide and not “scare the fish away”....

Turns out these fish are super fish, super smart fish that is. And yes fluorescent jackets or anything that catches their eye, even if it’s out of the water will scare them. So wearing appropriate gear is not what I thought it would be. Wearing something that blends in with your surroundings is ideal- or just not something you would wear to ensure you could flag down a search and rescue plane looking for you in thick bush. At this point the one thing I knew about winter Vancouver Island Steelhead was they love the flourescent pink worm, so I thought my flourescent pink jacket would a bonus. Uh wrong. 

Holy Crap what was I in for? I had no clue what I was doing. 

At least I was warm.

Beginner Steelhead Fishing Tip #2: Practice tossing your bait caster around BEFORE heading to the best fishing hole.

Ohhhhh. Baitcaster, how I hate you.

If it’s your first time with a baitcaster and you head straight for right where the steelhead are sitting expect to reduce your chances of catching anything that day to zero. Trust me.

Colossal failure.

This tip could also read, keep your bloody thumb on the spool at all times. Take it off just ever so slightly during the release of line and then as soon as your gear hits the water, clamp that thumb down as if there’s a thousand dollar bill blowing away in the wind under it. If you forget and, you will forget, I hope you’re very good at getting tangles out of line.

Alex now fishes with a fly rod and seeing how exciting it is for him to catch a steelhead on the fly, I’ve expressed interest in this area. However, I’m pretty sure after the baitcaster kurfullel I’ll never be given a fly rod. Like ever. Something of that caliber is not to be trusted in the hands of someone so bad at fishing.

Once you’ve got the rat’s nesting (that occurs if you happen to forget your thumb has one purpose in life) to about 1 out of 10 casts move on.

Beginner Steelhead Fishing Tip #3: Presentation, presentation, presentation

Let your line float down the river as naturally as possible. This means keeping the extra line out of the water- so not too much slack or they’ll see it and spook. Also, not to much tension or it won’t float naturally.

A nice happy medium of tension. I’ve heard fishing is all about presentation, so present that lure like it would naturally float down the river.

If you master this your first day out good job. I didn’t.

Beginner Steelhead Fishing Tip #4: Cover all the lines of the holding water, but start with the closest line.

Winter steelhead are lazy. They aren’t going to chase after a pink worm that’s 6 feet away. The water is cold and they’re conserving energy, so you gotta get that gear to pass right by their head. Otherwise nadda. So when you find somewhere the river calms just a bit and is flowing a little slower than the rush of the white water, toss in that line and make sure to cover every inch of that section.

But to start you have to throw the gear nice and close to yourself and then work your way out. The reason for this is simply if you’re reeling in your gear from far away right through some steelhead hanging out happily, you’re going to spook them and chase them off.

Beginner Steelhead Fishing Tip #5: Get your gear as close to bottom as you can without actually catching bottom.

This may seem obvious to you, but it wasn't to me so it's worth mentioning. Obviously these fish hangout on the river bottoms and in the winter they aren't going to swim up to eat. They wait for they're food to float by them and then snatch it up. Make sure you're lure floats right by their head otherwise you won't so much as get a bite.

I fly helicopters and there’s usually alot going on when doing so. I think perhaps Steelhead Fishing on Vancouver Island is harder than flying helicopters. Being bad at something, doesn’t mean you can’t love every single minute of it, even if you do suck terribly. And with the help of a great guide like Alex, I am getting better at Steelhead fishing. It took me a two trips to catch my first steelhead and I’ve heard many people have fished steelhead for a couple of years before they finally get lucky, so I'm grateful and happy every single time I can get out on the water and perhaps thats the most important tip of all.

Written by: Kristie Eccleston, Steelheader Since 2016

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