Fishing Information

Erie Steelhead Flies

As we stated in our article on Pacific Steelhead flies, the steelhead fisheries of the Great Lakes region has developed differently. First off the Erie steelhead has only been around a little over a hundred years. First planted in the 1880's, the steelhead nearly died off in the 1950's due to pollution in Lake Erie. But since the 1980's, intense stocking efforts by Ontario, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have been the reason for this area being nicknamed Steelhead Alley.

Erie steelheaders use a wide array flies in their pursuit of this most worthy game fish. One can classify them broadly in the same way trout angler's classify flies. In general the Erie steelheader carries a variety of streamers, egg patterns, and nymphs.

Steelhead feed heavily on schools of shad, smelt and other fish in the summer months. And when they first enter the river they have fish on their brains. Streamer patterns are the thing to start off with, when steelhead are first stacking up to make their run. Primary patterns used are the Woolly Bugger, Mickey Finn, Muddler Minnows and other streamer patterns. Dead drifted or swung they are deadly in the early months.

Steelhead consume lots of eggs in their lifetime. Especially in the winter, when suckers move up the rivers to spawn. The most popular egg pattern is the Sucker Spawn, with the Crystal Meth a close second. Egg patterns are generally bounced along the bottom. And are a good choice all winter long into March.

The last class of patterns fished for Erie steelhead is the basic nymph and beadhead nymphs. Like trout, steelhead consume lots of nymphs in their lifetime. The same nymphs that are popular for trout fishing are used in Steelhead Alley. With Hare's Ear, Prince, caddis larva and stonefly imitations being the most popular. Buggy nymphs seem to work best, and although bug life is fairly dormant in the winter these are never a bad choice.

Some classic steelhead patterns from the Northwest are used as well, including the Green Butt Skunk. And in murky waters the Popsicle is popular along with other bright streamers.

After reaching the water, use some of the same techniques discussed on out other steelhead articles, clearer water go smaller and more subtle colors, high, murky water go brighter and larger. All flies mentioned in this articles are available at

About The Author

Cameron Larsen is a retired commericial fly tier and fly fishing guide. He now operates The Big Y Fly Company - He can be reached at

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