17 Best Flies For Ohio Steelhead: Proven Guide Flies

A steelhead with a black stonefly in it's mouth which is one of the best flies for Ohio steelhead
A steelhead with a black stonefly in it’s mouth which by the way is one of the best flies for Ohio steelhead

As a steelhead guide for over 20 years and a fly tryer and steelhead angler for over 37 years, I’ve tested hundreds of steelhead flies under all different conditions. Because of this, my perspective on the best flies for Ohio steelhead might be very different than other anglers.

Even though I’ve tested many flies, I still catch 90% of steelhead on less than a dozen fly patterns. I also know other guides that say the same thing! This is because steelhead fishing guides have figured out which flies are proven and consistently effective.

Make sure you have these same flies in your fly box the next time you hit the Ohio steelhead stream. As a bonus, I’ll list all the flies recommended online so you can stop searching.

Best Flies for Ohio Steelhead

An assortment of the best flies for Ohio steelhead.
Flies for Ohio steelhead fishing should include nymph patterns, egg patterns, worm patterns, and streamers.

When I grab a fly out of my fly box it’s not random. I and other steelhead fishing guides choose flies based on the conditions. And, although I said I use less than a dozen flies, often I only need 4 or 5 fly patterns to get the job done. Except, I do need multiple colors and sizes of each pattern.

Before I tell you what my 5 must-have steelhead flies for Ohio Steelhead are, what makes a good fly is its ability to first get the attention of the steelhead, and then trigger them to bite. To get their attention, you need to use the right size and color based on the conditions.

In gin-clear water, smaller flies and natural colors often work better. When fishing dirty or off-colored water, larger flies and often brighter flies will do the job.

Also, when fishing dirtier water, adding flash to your fly get increase its ability to attract the steelhead, and trigger bites. Flash can an be gold or silver tinsel or wire, or metallic beads, or other shiny materials.

Pro Tip: Often, a nymph pattern with a bead will do better than one without, which is why 90% of the nymphs in my fly box have gold, silver, or copper beads.

So, the four best flies for Ohio Steelhead are:

  1. Egg Patterns: The simple round egg pattern known as the Glo Bug or Yarn Fly will be found in just about every steelhead guides box. This indicates that it’s one of the best steelhead flies for Ohio Steelhead. This basic Yarn Egg has accounted for more steelhead in the net than any other egg pattern. Make sure you have multiple sizes and colors, which I will discuss below.
  2. Stonefly/Mayfly Nymph – Steelhead are opportunistic feeders so a well-presented nymph pattern like a Stonefly Nymph Fly or Pheasant Tail Nymph in black, brown, or tan will often get the job done. Add some flash, a bead, make it bushy and buggy-looking, and it could be even better.
  3. Worm Fly – A three to four-inch San Juan Worm tied in pink, red, or brown is hard for most steelhead to pass up. Presented well, the worm fly has resulted in thousands of steelhead in the net for me and my clients, and under off-colored or green water, this is always my go-to fly.
  4. Woolly Bugger – I’ve caught thousands of steelhead on Woolly Buggers. This is a fly that just triggers a strike response in steelhead. I’ve used Buggers when nymphing with an indicator, swinging, and stripping them in. Have them in three or four colors. Add a hint of flash, and have them from 1 inch long to 4 inches long, and you will catch steelhead anywhere.
  5. Hoh Bo Spey – If you swing flies, you will need a fly that gets the steelhead’s attention and has what it takes to trigger a strike. Most guys overthink flies and despite the many spey flies, the Hoh Bo Spey fly presented well will catch fish as well as any other fly. Have a few different sizes, multiple colors, and some with and without flash.

Based on my experience, if there are steelhead in the pool, one of these four standard steelhead flies will get the job done in any conditions and at any time of the year , especially if you have the right size, color, and most importantly, you fish it well.

Other Great Steelhead Flies For Ohio Steelhead

There are times when a fly with a slightly different look, or some flash will out-perform those four basic flies.

Prince Nymph

The Prince Nymph is a great attractor nymph pattern and due to its buggy profile, golden bead, peacock herl, and the white wing contrast it is a good fly for Ohio steelhead.

I do better with this fly when fishing for spring drop-back steelhead.

Size 8 to 14. I will downsize to a size 14 in the winter months when the steelhead are less active.

A great variation of the Prince nymph that has been very hot for me is called the “Fly Formerly Known As Prince“.

Hare’s Ear Nymph and Variations

A standard Bead Head Hares Ear Nymph is one of the best trout flies.
This is a standard Bead Head Hares Ear Nymph from Region Fishing Store. Click the pictures to see more of their great trout flies.

The Gold Ribbed Hares Ear nymph is an absolute classic for steelhead fly fishing, but it’s also a fantastic Ohio steelhead fly.

It used a rough hares fur for the entire body and with a brass gold beaded head.

This fly pattern imitates a variety of aquatic life, such as sow, scuds, caddis larvae, light brown Stonefly, and mayfly nymphs.

This is the Region Fishing Tungsten Soft Hackle Hares Ear Jig Head Fly
Hot Tag Hares Ear Nymph
Hot Tag Hares Ear Nymph with a pink or orange tag is a very effective winter steelhead fly.

Two great variations of the traditional Hares Ear Nymph that have been great for Ohio steelhead is the Region Fishing Tungsten Soft Hackle Hares Ear Jig Head Fly. (top fly) and the Tag Hare’s Ear (bottom fly)

With the tungsten bead head, this fly is heavy and is great for getting down deep.

I use it in sizes 8 and 10 mostly but will occasionally go to a size 12.

Copper John

The Copper John Nymph is a super effective fly for Ohio steelhead.

This fly pattern imitates Mayflies and Stoneflies and with the added flash and weight of the copper wire, it gets down to the steelhead and triggers them to bite.

Use sizes 8 to 12 for steelhead, and I like the natural copper body as well as the black body, and sometimes the red body.

Egg Patterns

Bllod Dot Steelhead Fly is one of the best flies for Pennsylvania steelhead
Click the picture to see Jeff Blood using the Blood Dot fly in action.

Egg flies are often the most effective flies for Ohio steelhead any time the steelhead are in the river.

I already mentioned my go-to egg pattern, the Glo Bug or simple Yarn Egg, but when the water is off-colored, or when the fish become accustomed to glo bugs going past them all day, other egg fly patterns can work.

I use steelhead eggs in sizes 8 to 12 and will change sizes and colors based on the conditions. In dirty water, I go bigger and use a lot of Chartreuse and Red.

I will use light pinks, light oranges, peach, and yellow in clear water, and I will use size 10 and 12. White can be very good in winter. One of my favorite colors for clear water steelhead fishing is known as Oregon cheese.

Steelhead Worm Fly

The Best Fly For Steelhead is the Worm
The Best Fly For Steelhead is the Worm Pattern – Tied by me.

The San Juan Worm is one fly that tends to be incredibly successful and it has been my go-to fly for many years.

Other worm patterns are the:

  • Squirmy Wormy
  • Bead Squirmy Wormy
  • Squirminator – In Fluorescent Green and Chartreuse, as well as Hot Pink and Roe.

I tie my worm patterns in 3 to 4-inch sizes but I will usually have some 2-inch worms for very clear water and pressure steelhead.

My most productive fly in all water clarity is the pink seen in the picture. However, there have been days when the red or brown will be more effective.

Beadhead Pheasant Tail Nymph

The pheasant tail nymph is a great winter steelhead fly
The pheasant tail nymph is a great winter steelhead fly and I use it with and without the bead head. Click the image to watch it being tied.

If someone said to me I was only permitted to fish with three flies for steelhead in Ohio, I would choose a cheese-colored egg pattern, a pink worm, and a Beadhead Pheasant Tail Nymph in a size 10.

The pheasant tail nymph never lets me down when steelhead are feeding, and it is a great Ohio steelhead fly.

There are variations like the flashback pheasant tail, as seen in the pictures above, the No-bead pheasant tail nymph, The very effective Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail Jig Head Fly, and the Soft Hackle Straight Pheasant Tail.

There is one other variation that I discuss below.

Rainbow Warrior

The rainbow warrior is one of my favorite attractor patterns
The rainbow warrior is one of my favorite attractor patterns all year. There are times when this pattern will fish better than exact imitation flies even during a hatch. Click the picture to watch the video.

The Rainbow Warrior is a staple amongst professional fly anglers for trout, but it is quickly becoming a favorite Ohio steelhead fly.

There are days when this attractor pattern will out-perform all other flies, and I always have a bunch in my box from size 8 to size 10.

Frenchie Fly

The Frechie Fly is one of my favorite flies for trout and steelhead. These are weighted Euro Nymphs for steelhead
This tungsten weighted Frenchie Nymph is one of the best Euro Nymphs for steelhead anywhere around the Great lakes region.

The Frenchie is one of the most popular and effective flies used in Euro-style nymphing for trout, but I and my buddies do very well with this fly for steelhead.

This fly is a variation of the pheasant tail nymph and is a steelhead magnet, thanks to its pink or fluorescent orange collar. Size 8 to 12.

A great variation is the Tungsten Bead Hot Spot Pheasant Tail Jig Fly, which looks identical, but the hook point stays up so you get fewer snags.

Polish Pheasant Tail Nymph

Polish Pheasant Tail Nymph For Steelhead
The Polish Pheasant Tail Nymph has been one of my most productive winter steelhead flies.

The Polish Pheasant tail nymph is an exceptional variation that has become one of my favorite Ohio steelhead flies, and it’s an invaluable addition to any angler’s fly box.

I love this fly in sizes 12 and 14 during the winter months, but most of the time, I use it in size 8 or 10.

Micro Buggers

A great fly for Ohio steelhead when nymphing or under an indicator or a float. These micro buggers have a lot of action and are effective Ohio Steelhead flies at any time of the year.

Sexy Walts and Regular Walts Worm

Twenty years ago, I met a guy on the river who was using an almost identical fly pattern to the Walts Worm, and he had over 25 steelhead hooked on this one fly that day.

I asked him what the fly was and he said it was a cased caddis. I went home and tied up 20 of these flies.

Many years later, I found out about a fly called the Walts Worm, and it was identical. Now there is the Sexy Walts Worms which is a flashy version. Both of these patterns have been very effective steelhead patterns on every river that I fish around the great lakes region and are both some of the best flies for Ohio steelhead flies.

Other Great Ohio steelhead flies for Euro nymphing include:

Best Flies for Streamer Fishing

flies for Pa Steelhead

Woolly Bugger

The Woolly Bugger is an excellent all-purpose streamer that has over the years become one of the most versatile and productive steelhead flies. It comes in an irresistible combination of a marabou tail, palmer-styled hackle, and chenille body.

The Woolly Bugger imitates a steelhead’s natural food, such as minnows, crayfish, leeches, sculpins, and many others. This streamer comes in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes with great action.

Ohio Zonker

A steelhead Zonker Fly
Zonker type patterns can be very effective on steelhead in all of the Erie tributaries, or anywhere around the great lakes region.

Zonkers are streamer flies with a fur strip and a shiny body and rabbit fur strip tails which gives this fly fash and action ion the water.

Zonkers are designed as baitfish imitations and is great at imitating the common Emerald Shiner found in the lower rivers and in Lake Erie.

Swing zonker flies across the current in front of some steelhead trout and watch them trigger elbow-jarring steelhead strikes or nymph them. Zonkers are a “go-to” streamer for Ohio anglers looking for a highly productive steelhead fly.


The Sculpzilla is a popular streamer pattern that is designed to imitate a sculpin, one of the steelhead trout’s favorite baitfish.

Sculpins, in turn, are an abundant forage fish for steelhead in tributaries all over the United States.

The Sculpzilla Streamer pattern can be tied in several colors. However, the common variations that exist are black, white, olive, and tan.

Best Flies For Spey Fishing Ohio Steelhead

Here are some effective flies for Great Lakes steelhead:

  1. Ho bo Spey: A simplified version of the Intruder Spey Fly, recommended by a local guide. It’s easy to tie and works well in Olive, Black, White, Yellow, and multicolor.
  2. Intruder Spey Fly: Originally designed for west coast steelhead but effective in great lakes. It’s bigger and bulkier, taking longer to tie. Colors include Olive, Black, White, Yellow, and multicolor.
  3. Woolly Bugger Spey Fly: A simple and effective fly that sinks better than bulkier flies. Easy to tie in Olive, Black, White, Yellow, Chartreuse, Orange, and multi-color.
  4. Egg Sucking Leech: Easy to tie, available everywhere, and comes in various colors like black, olive, chartreuse, pink, orange, and red heads.
  5. Bunny Leech Fly: Effective for steelhead with pulsating movement from rabbit fur. Tie it longer with magnum rabbit strips, or keep it shorter. Colors include Olive, Black, White, Yellow, and multicolor.

These flies have proven successful for Great Lakes steelhead fishing, but check out more great flies in my article Best Spey Flies For Great Lakes Steelhead and Salmon.

Recommended Flies From Other Websites

So, what do others recommend for Ohiode Steelhead flies and Lake Erie steelhead flies? This is a list of flies being recommended on other websites. I’m not necessarily in agreement with all of these, personally, I think many are mediocre at best. But, I’m just listing them so you don’t need to keep searching.

  1. Stone-fly nymphs
  2. Clouser minnows
  3. Bleeding Shiner patterns
  4. Emerald shiner
  5. Yarn flies
  6. Egg-sucking leech
  7. Sucker spawn
  8. Pheasant tail,
  9. Dark hare-eared nymph (that’s how they wrote it – Which is why i say becarfull who you get your info from) Also, known as a Dark Hare’s Ear Nymph
  10. Egg Patterns (Various)
  11. Stoneflies (Nymphs)
  12. Streamers (Wooly Buggers)
  13. Beadhead Nymphs (Copper John, Prince in sizes 10-14)
  14. Sucker Spawns and Single Eggs (Yarn, estaz in various colors)
  15. Articulated Leech (Black with a silver head)
  16. String Leeches (Grapefruit head versions)
  17. Black Stoneflies
  18. Minnow Pattern Streamers
  19. Prince Nymphs
  20. Pheasant Tails
  21. Sexy Walt (Fire orange thread, silver tungsten bead, size 14 jig-style hook)
  22. Sexy Walt (Purple Micro UV Polar Chenille collar, gold tungsten bead)
  23. White Hare’s Ear Nymph
  24. Y2Ks (Size 12, Pink/White, Pink/Cheese, Chartreuse/Orange)
  25. Eggstasy Eggs (Size 10, Fluorescent Oregon Cheese, Fluorescent Salmon Pink, Chartreuse, White)
  26. Glo Bugs with Blood Dot (Size 12, Late Pink, Cheese, Pale Blue)
  27. Nuke Eggs (Sizes 10 and 12, Chartreuse, Cerise, Orange)
  28. Estaz Eggs (or Cactus Eggs) (Size 12, Chartreuse, Pearl, Hot Pink, Salmon, Orange)
  29. Crystal Meths (Sizes 12 and 14, Pearl, Orange, Hot Pink, Chartreuse, Blue)
  30. Egg Sucking Leeches (Black/fire orange/red head, black/chartreuse head, purple/shrimp pink head, size 6)
  31. Squirminator (Fluorescent Green, Chartreuse, Hot Pink, Roe)
  32. White Beadhead Crystal Bugger (Sizes 6-10)
  33. Micro Nuke Egg (Fluorescent orange and pink, size 12)
  34. Jellystone Nymph (Black, chartreuse, pink, size 8)
  35. Lynch’s Double Dot Egg (Tangerine, orange, pink, size 12)
  36. Psycho Prince (Orange, dirty pink, sizes 10-14)
  37. BH Flash Zonker (White, olive, sizes 6 & 8)
  38. Senyo’s Ice Man Minnow (Blue/pink, chartreuse/olive)
  39. Vitso’s Psycho Spawn
  40. Al Green
  41. Senyo’s Shaggy Minnow
  42. Antron Egg
  43. Milky Nuke Egg
  44. Ultra Maggots
  45. Egg Sucking Worms
  46. Flash Candy Fly

Best Flies For Ohio Steelhead Q&A

If you have any questions or personal insights to offer about the best flies for Ohio Steelhead fishing, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Tight Lines,


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One Comment

  1. Great info and article. Living 5 minutes from the beautiful chagrin river I always enjoy reading about someone’s knowledge about our steelhead fishery. Tight lines. See you on the water. I agree usually 4 patterns catch 90 percent of the fish. Olive woolly bugger up there also.