Nymph Fishing for Steelhead on the Rogue River

The Rogue river is famous for Steelhead fishing. It has good-sized runs of both summer and winter steelhead.

The best months to steelhead fish on the Rogue are September, October and November. During these months there are both late summer steelhead and early winter steelhead.

During the month of October, most of the Rogue is fly fishing only. This means steelhead can only be fished with artificial lures, this means no bait, and no weights.

The most productive method for catching steelhead is to nymph fish. Dragging streamer flies on the surface can also be effective, but I have much more success nymphing; particularly when the Salmon are spawning and working the redds.

Here’s how it’s done: use a nine foot leader made up of 6 pound test. Tie on a heavy “ugly bug”, or something dark and fairly large. Then tie about 18 inches of 6 pound tippet onto the shank of the fly and attach another, smaller fly pattern to that. I like to use a number 8 or 10 Prince nymph. I’ve heard of fisherman tying the second fly from the eye of the first fly, but I’ve never tried it. It seems like it would get tangled easily.

Now you’ll need to attach the strike indicator. Decide what the approximate depth of water you’ll be fishing is, and put the indicator about a foot higher up the leader than that depth. For instance if you think the water is 4 feet deep put the indicator 5 feet up from the highest fly.

My new favorite indicators are thingamabobber indicators. These are air-filled balls which are extremely easy to cast and easy to attach to the leader. Yes, they resemble a bobber in every regard, but since were steelhead fly fishing were calling them indicators.

These indicators are easily seen and float high on the water. When the bright-colored ball gets yanked beneath the surface, it’s either the bottom or a big fish, so pull back on the rod and see what you’ve got.

The Rogue is full of great steelhead fishing water, but my favorite drift is from Dodge bridge to Touvelle park. It’s about 6 or 7 miles and every bit of it is likely holding water for steelhead.

When the days are still warm you can catch steelhead in the faster moving riffles, but when things cool down it’s best to fish the slower, deeper holes. Be sure to adjust your bobber, I mean indicator to the proper length for each spot you fish. If  the indicator is too far up the leader, you’ll hook the bottom of the river too often.

If you’re fishing in October you’ll definitely see a lot of spawning salmon. They’ll be finning all over the redds, spreading their eggs and sperm. Avoid wading through these areas, but fish just downstream of them. Disturbing the redds will anger the fish gods not to mention the local fish and wildlife department. However, steelhead love to hang out downstream of the redds and eat any stray salmon eggs that drift by. You can capitalize on this be making your leading fly an egg imitator. Remember, it’s artificial flies only so you can’t put real eggs on your hook. The egg imitators do a fine job though.

As with most rivers, steelhead fishing on the rogue is usually better in the morning and in the evening. In my experience the morning outperforms the evening slightly.

Once you’ve fished the rogue and tapped into the power of a big steelhead, you’ll be hooked for life. You’ll find your own best methods for catching these marvelous fish, but the above method will get you started on the correct path.

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