The steelhead trout provides the fisherman one of the most enjoyable fights of all species. It's an extremely acrobatic variety that combines sudden spurts and sprints with energetic leaps into the air when engaged with the angler in a battle of wits.
Though it has family relations with the trout, the dry fly fishing techniques employed for regular trout aren't applicable to steelheads. These require a different discipline and a different style that must be painstakingly learned, preferably under the supervision of an expert.
Often the steelhead will take you on a blindingly fast pursuit, and you must be fully prepared to do what it takes not to run out of line, specially if you're fishing in a body of water that offers an unlimited run to the fish. At other times it will pass under your boat to the other side, and you must know how to take care of that situation. It also has the habit of wagging its head furiously from side in an attempt to get off the hook.
After you have survived the initial yank that is sometimes almost enough to take your arm off, it'll take all of your skill and concentration to land a prime specimen. This is one of the reasons why the steelhead is considered by many anglers worldwide to be the greatest species of gamefish, ideal for trophy fishing.
One of the most frustrating parts of steelhead fishing is to learn to tell when one has bitten the lure. Unlike trout bites in dry fly fishing, steelheads do not announce their presence so clearly. All you may feel is a slight thump or even a peck, and most of these times you'll find yourself wondering whether it would have been right to set the hooks or not. And while you sit thus in a pensive mood, the steelhead is probably swimming away with your lure. You need someone to tell you how to look for that typical 'soft' feeling that almost invariably precedes the peck or the thump when a steelhead is interested in what you have offered.
Steelheads normally enter the rivers in winter, after the salmon runs have finished. And their numbers are nowhere near the great thick surge that salmon form. Cold blooded creatures as they are, steelheads tend to settle down in certain spots along the current and forage from there. To be a successful steelhead angler, you shall need to identify these 'sweet' spots of the current and cover all of them during your fishing trips.
Catching salmon is a lot less work because you can sit relaxed as the thick stream of fish swim past you and some of them bite your bait. But to catch steelhead you need to travel along the circuit of sweet spots. And since they are rather sluggish to move at first, you shall need to present your bait or lure within six inches of the river bed, where the species tends to congregate. It is how you present your bait that is the most important thing in steelhead fishing, and not what bait or lure you use. Almost any kind will work as long as you can make the fish think that it looks like dinner!