Top 10 Flies for Lake Erie Steelhead

Written by: Jim Lampros, fishing manager, Orvis Cleveland

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You wanna catch one of these? Try Jim Lampros’s Top 10 patterns.

photo by Mike Daley

Anglers chasing steelhead on the Lake Erie tributaries are faced with constantly changing water conditions. Though fish are not typically pattern-selective, finding them and getting them to actually see a fly can be a challenge. With that in mind, here are 10 flies that I fish with confidence throughout the fall, winter, and spring seasons: 

White Buggers

1. White Beadhead Crystal Bugger (Sizes 6-10): Given that the vast majority of an Erie steelhead’s diet is composed of baitfish, such as emerald shiners and smelt, it is no wonder that white is such a productive color choice. When I tie this fly, I typically wrap an underbody of ice dubbing in colors such as chartreuse, blue, pink, and olive to help the fly “show up” under a variety of water conditions. 

Micro Nuke

2. Micro Nuke Egg (Fluorescent orange and pink, size 12): Egg patterns consistently produce the highest number of hookups on the tributaries. The contrasting colors and translucency of the Nuke, I believe, are the keys to its effectiveness. 

Jellystone Nymph

3. Jellystone Nymph (black, chartreuse, pink, size 8): A great, easy-to-tie stonefly nymph in highly visible colors. Fish it down and deep without fear of losing it. 

Lynch's Double Dot

4. Lynch’s Double Dot Egg (tangerine, orange, pink, size 12): A twist on the venerable Blood Dot Egg, the contrast of this two-tone egg pattern increases its underwater visibility. (Are you noticing a theme here?) 

Psycho Prince

5. Psycho Prince (orange, dirty pink, sizes 10-14): This is one of my favorite flies for fishing low, clear water. Under these conditions, I like to fish the Psycho Prince behind a small, pale-colored egg pattern in a two-fly nymph rig. 

BH Flash Zonker

6. BH Flash Zonker (white, olive, sizes 6 & 8): Another staple baitfish pattern. A versatile fly that works equally well whether drifted below an indicator or swung on a tight line. 

Ice Man

7. Senyo’s Ice Man Minnow (blue/pink, chartreuse/olive): A baitfish pattern that presents well when fished under an indicator with weight (split shot, sink putty, etc.) ahead of it. Tied on a tube, the fly is durable, and dulled hooks can be replaced without discarding the fly. 

Psycho Spawn

8. Vitso’s Psycho Spawn: A flashier version of the local staple sucker-spawn fly. An example of the tried-and-true formula of taking a good fly, adding some flash to it, and ending up with an even better steelhead fly. 

Al Green

9. Al Green: A great leech pattern for swung-fly presentations. Check out noted tier Kevin Feenstra’s Grapefuit Head Leech for a flashier alternative, which I like during high water or during the winter when fish are sluggish. 

senyo's shaggy minnow 9

10. Senyo’s Shaggy Minnow: Baitfish profile, movement, and flash: a perfect recipe for a successful swinging fly.


10 thoughts on “Top 10 Flies for Lake Erie Steelhead”

  1. Pingback: New 8wt and steelhead fly questions - The North American Fly Fishing Forum
  2. Pingback: Tips & Tactics: If your lucky enough to be near Lake Erie - it's steelie time | Fly Life Magazine
  3. Thanks for the pattern tips. It’s cool to compare all of the different patterns for steelhead and A. Salmon. So many different things that are effective. Do you do more nymphing or swinging for steelhead in the great lakes?

  4. Another overlooked fly for these tribs is the baby rainbow streamer (size 8). Some days egg patterns can’t be beat but we’ve been tying and using these small streamers for years and I’ve probably caught 70-80% of my steelhead on 18 Mile, Canadaway and Little Brother on these easy-to-tie flies.

  5. These choices of patterns are more than just a little biased…self promotion over actual performance of the patterns. There are far better flies than these, I live in the “alley”, innovation in producing patterns that should be on this list ….

  6. Hello, my son and I are going to try catching the steelhead trout that comes out of lake through the rivers in northern Ohio. This is our first year doing so, what recommendations would you suggest on the flies? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

  7. I am sorry I see the nine patterns, are these still the patterns and where can they be purchased. I would as soon from Orvis!

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