When and Where is the Best Steelhead Fishing?

A steelhead trout in a river
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This week’s question of the week comes from a reader who asks where the best steelhead fishing is in the U.S., and when is the best time to go steelhead fishing:


If you could go anywhere at any time for Steelhead, where would you go?

I should explain that I am an intermediate fly fisherman with virtually no spey casting experience or skills. I have fished in Alaska about 7 times and do pretty well there, but I'm interested in bigger fish than what I get in August in Alaska (Silvers and 25-28 inch rainbows). Is there a place to try where someone with my limited skills can have a successful steelhead trip? By successful, I would hope for 2-3 tries at fish per day and perhaps 1 or more landed per day.​



Hey Alex

Thanks for the question. Unfortunately, here in Central California, I don't have a ton of steelhead options, although the rainy season has helped our coastal creeks and should help bring some steelies back.

I would say the Pacific Northwest is the best option in the fall. I know the guys at Arch Anglers in Seattle know their stuff and can get you on some fish, even if you haven't done a lot of steelhead fishing.

Here's a Q&A on steelhead fishing I did with them awhile back. If you liked that Q&A, there’s a second part to the interview on fly fishing in Washington, Seattle, and the Puget Sound as well.

When it comes down to it, regions have the steelhead opportunities that they have in the Pacific Northwest, so I'm sure a lot of their clients don’t have a ton of experience.

I would definitely check in with them and other guides in the area to see if you couldn't hook something up.

Let me know how it goes!

If you can’t make it all the way out to Washington, Idaho also has some solid steelhead options. I prefer sea-run steelies, but the Idaho fish have plenty of fight to them.

The Clearwater River, for example, near Lewiston, Idaho, is one of the state’s best steelhead rivers and holds double-digit steelies that fight like steers.

The steelhead season typically kicks off for the bigger fish in late August, when steelhead enter the system after spending a couple years at sea. They can typically be found in the lower third of the river. The Clearwater also holds some rainbow and cutthroat trout, although steelhead are the main draw here.

You’ll definitely want to get a guide and float the Clearwater to ensure you get on some fish and also stay safe on your trip down this stellar steelhead fishery.

In the meantime, here are my five keys to catching steelhead trout.

- Brian Milne