Winter run steelhead are probably one of the hardest fish to catch in this state for no other reason than that there aren't very many of them and they run the rivers in the most in-hospitable time of year. Fishing for winter steelhead evokes images of cold and dreary days in swollen rivers with clouds hanging around the mountain tops like a fresh blanket of snow. The river water is generally very cold, high and often dirty. That having been said, the right conditions for winter steelhead fishing do occur and there is nothing more special than hooking a chrome bright fish on a sink tip and a colorful fly of your choice.
Most of the rivers on the westside of the Cascade mountains contain winter-run steelhead. Hatchery fish generally run the rivers from mid-November to late February. These fish are smaller at around 6 to 10 pounds, and they are often motivated only by reaching their hatchery of origin or their smolt release point in the river. The true winter-run jewels are the native steelhead that return during the January through April time frame. These fish spread throughout the river and when conditions are right, they take flies well. They are thick bodied fish that run from 6 to 20 pounds. The Skykomish, Skagit and Sauk rivers hold the best remaining runs of these fish, which are now required to be released in all our rivers, except those on the Olympic Peninsula.
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