Classic Pro Tips: The Keys to Low-Water Steelhead

Written by: Alberto Rey

It’s a beautiful time of year on the Lake Erie tributaries. But low, clear water can scare many anglers away, as these conditions can produce spooky steelhead that will run for the hills the first time your line hits the water. But never fear: these fish can be caught.

Here are a few secrets to catching steelies in low, clear water:

  1. Hike away from the road and public-access points until you find pods of unpressured fish.
  2. When fishing a pod of steelhead, don’t just cast blindly into the pool. Select one fish at a time and present your fly to that steelhead. Watch the head and see if it moves at all or if the tail begins to wag. If it does, the steelhead is interested and you should concentrate on that fish.
  3. Cast small, unweighted Clouser-type streamers. I prefer those tied with white Angel Hair and a dark lateral line running down the side of the fly, in sizes 10 and 12.
  4. Cast as close to the bank as possible or as far away from the steelhead as possible, mend, and let the current bring the fly in front of the steelhead.
  5. Mend and stop the swing, so that the fly moves directly upstream from that specific fish.
  6. Don’t be too mesmerized by what is happening when you watch the steelhead chase down your fly.
  7. Remember to set the hook.
  8. Hold on.

Alberto Rey is a guide in Fredonia, New York. He’s also a Distinguished Professor for Research and Creative Activity at the State University of New York at Fredonia.


You can still catch big steelies in low water.
Photo by Mike Daley

5 thoughts on “Classic Pro Tips: The Keys to Low-Water Steelhead”

  1. AGH!!! Wish you had posted this earlier…. we were just up at Erie fishing and it was a little tough. I did hook a steelhead fishing into the lake at the mouth of a creek. AND… I Hooked him on a Clouser! He promptly leapt into the air, did a few acrobatics and when he came down he snapped my line. Totally my fault. It left me standing there with my head hung low. A lot of fun for all of 5 seconds.

  2. Water on Salmon River has been low and clear. Recent rains will bring water up and stain the color. However, even then this is such a timely article. So right in getting away from the crowds. Thanks!

  3. Pingback: Tippets: Fishing Low Water, Before & After, Lahontan Cutthroat of Pyramid Lake | MidCurrent

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