A good guide is prepared for anything. This means that their fly box better be well stocked with a wide variety of flies for different conditions and situations. Steelhead may eat anything. Knowing what they are in the mood for on a given day is not easy to know. They are not known for being overly picky eaters, but they can be very stubborn and moody and finding what they want to eat can be challenging. Especially if there aren't many of them around!
This photo is an example of some of the flies that I bring with me everyday when guiding for Winter Steelhead. I cant fit them all in one box. I use one or two large waterproof boxes, usually two or three smaller boxes and some sandwich bags full of an assortment of tube flies. I keep fresh hooks for the tube flies in a small water tight container. With this spread of flies I feel I am ready to find steelhead in any water or weather condition.
My go-to winter steelhead flies include the Fish Taco, Flash Taco, Sid Fishes, Party Boy, Tandem Tube and Marabou tubes. If conditions are good the Fish Taco is my number one choice. If the sun is on the water I like flashy flies, Flash Taco in high water or Sid Fishes in low water. High colored water and dark sky its the Party Boy. If it is real low water conditions, I may go to small traditional hair-wing style flies. When I have two or three clients I will always have each person fishing a different sizes and colors of fly, this way we have better odds of finding a fly that the fish are interested in that day. I also always use tube flies, they are a great way to be versatile and keep your hook sharp and fresh. When keeping this many flies on the river with you everyday it is very important to keep them dry and out of the sun to protect them. Any moisture will rust and weaken your hooks and sunlight fades the colors quickly. With a fly selection like this and using these tactics, odds of finding success on the water are greatly increased.
Fish The Swing
Photo Credit: Horatio