Winter Steelhead Fishing and Weather Conditions
Winter descended upon the Chilliwack Valley in its usual unpredictable style. Mild rainy weather with periods of biting cold, followed by driving sleet and the occasional flurry of snow. The winter Steelhead fisher is a determined breed, braving the harsh elements in pursuit of the elusive winter Steelhead.
The steelheader must be prepared to tolerate even more than unpredictable weather; the constantly changing temperature and precipitation can be a huge factor in fishing productivity. Moderate winter conditions would see a daytime high of about 4 degrees Celsius, overnight low minus 3 degrees Celsius. Using this example would give fairly predictable fishing prospects as water temperatures would only fluctuate slightly with slight warming in the afternoon. You could expect to find good morning fishing and an afternoon “bite”.
Let’s say, that the overnight low dropped to minus 8 degrees Celsius. The morning would still produce the odd fish, most likely by 10 o’clock the bite would come on. The afternoon bite would likely be even better. The productivity is affected by the water temperature. As the temperature rises, maybe only a degree or two, the fish become more active and aggressive.
Precipitation….rain or snow… can cause the most dramatic temperature changes. For example, say we have a dump of snow overnight of 5 inches. Typically the water temperature would dip and again a late morning bite would be likely. Provided that the air temperature does not change drastically the fishing will be almost unaffected by mere snow on the ground. Now suppose we have some mild weather with rain. That 5 inch snow layer begins to melt and drains into the river. This snow melt is not unlike putting an ice cube in your drink. The water temperature will drop rapidly and the fishing will slow until after either it stops raining or the snow melts away.
The actual temperature of both water and air is not as crucial as its consistency. When the water temperature is dropping the fish are “off” and much harder to entice. Once the temperature drops for a day or two the fish get used to it and fishing is “normal”. Rising temperatures will almost always result in bringing the “bite” on.
Cold weather( one degree high, minus eight degrees low) will cause the water to drop and clear. Warm weather (four degrees high, minus two degrees low) will bring on some melt and will typically allow water levels to inch back up and slight murkiness would be expected.
Warm weather with rain is usually bad news, especially after a prolonged cold snap. Rapid snow melt in addition to the rain will raise the river quickly. The effect of frost heave on the ground loosens the soil in the entire water shed and runoff results in quite murky and muddy conditions.
The variations in water conditions (temperature and clarity) demand varying techniques and presentations, which fall roughly into these four categories:
1) Light and Fussy
2) The Subtle Approach
3) Loud and Proud
4) Shock Therapy
Light and Fussy – Typical of low clear water of high fishing pressure. Small floats, light main line of 10# – 12# , 6 – 8# leader, small hooks #2, #4 and small baits (single rubber egg, #14 corkie or spin’n’glo, natural roe).
The Subtle Approach – Moderate water levels with slightly reduced visibility. Medium size floats, 15# – 12# main line, 8 – 10# leader, hook size of #1 -#2. Typical baits – single rubber egg, corkies and spin’n’glo’s size 14 and 12, dyed roe, pink worms mostly 4 inch or 6 inch in pale colors.
Loud and Proud – Moderately high and high water with reduced visibility full size floats, 20# – 15# main line, 10# – 12# leader, hook size of #2 – #2/0 (depending on bait size). Typical baits – single rubber egg, corkies and spin’n’glo’s size 12 – 8 used alone or with bait. Dyed roe, gooey bobs, and pink worms 4 and 6″ all colorss
Shock Therapy – An alternate tactic when confronted with those times when nothing else seems to be working. This would include these options: pink worms in 6″ in “radical pink” or “fluorescent pink”, gooey bobs in “hot” colors. Large spoons such as an “Ironhead”, and “Ultra” and “Krocodile” 5/8 oz. – 1 oz. in size. Colorado swivel spinners size #4 – #6. A great big gob of dyed roe.
With constantly changing variables in weather and fishing it is best to apply appropriate techniques to maximize your opportunities.
Respect the fish, the resource and your fellow fisherman
Good Luck and Good Fishing!