21 Best Flies For Pennsylvania Steelhead: Plus Guide Flies
Ask five anglers what their best flies for Pennsylvania steelhead are you might get five different answers. We did the research for you to find the most effective flies for Pennsylvania steelhead, and these include flies that are used by guides and veteran fly anglers.
The best flies for steelhead fit into four categories which include egg patterns, nymphs, streamers, and Spey flies. Some of the most effective flies for PA steelhead include the glo bug, the blood dot fly, the pheasant tail nymph, the wooly bugger, and the zonker fly.
Keep in mind, you DO NOT need to be a fly angler to use flies. You can use flies under a float when float fishing, when bottom bouncing or drift fishing.
There are a lot more great flies that guide and veteran anglers will use and I will cover them in this article.
The Best Flies For Pennsylvania Steelhead
The best flies for Pennsylvania steelhead are egg patterns which I will show you a few great patterns.
Also, nymphs like stoneflies, mayflies, and caddis can be deadly and even more effective than eggs pattern under the right conditions.
I can say enough about worm patterns which many would think only work in late spring, but the truth is that worm patterns will work year-round, and if I was only allowed to fish one fly pattern for steelhead, it would be a worm.
Then there are streamers which can be effective and a whole lot of fun.
There are versions, sizes, and colors of each of these types of flies that work best for PA steelhead.
Eggs Are Often The Best Flies For Pennsylvania Steelhead
Most of the time it’s hard to beat egg patterns for steelhead anywhere you fish steelhead around the world. This holds true for PA steelhead too.
But not any egg file will do, and some egg fly patterns will work better than others.
Bright And Flashy Eggs
When steelhead first enter the river, they have not been pressured by anglers.
They are aggressive and curious about new things in their new environment, and therefore they will eat all kinds of fly patterns.
This is when flashy egg flies like an Estaz Egg pattern, or a Crystal Meth egg can work very well. It’s also when a bright egg fly can be better than a more natural or more subtle colored egg fly.
These flashy and bright flies also excel anywhere in the river when the water is high and dirty or stained. This is also when bigger sized egg patterns will work. Think half an inch to 1 inch (Dime and Nickel Size).
Best Flashy Egg Flies:
- Crystal Meth Fly
- Estaz Egg
- Breaking Skein Glitter Fly
Natural Egg Flies: Glo Bug Patterns
There are times when more natural colors and sizes will work best.
These times are when steelhead are pressured, or when the steelhead have been in the river for a while, or when they are way up the river in clearer water.
I change sizes and colors based on the conditions of the river and the mood of the fish.
Aggressive fish will hit bigger and brighter eggs where as less aggressive fish will want salmon egg size or rainbow egg size and they will usually prefer more natural colors like peach, light pink, off-white, and pale yellow.
This is when smaller egg flies the size of a steelhead egg, or a salmon egg (4mm to 8mm) will work best.
It’s also when more subtle and natural colors work best. Peaches, light oranges, light yellows, light pink, and whites will also work well.
Light blue, is also a surprising color that actually works well in clear water.
Best Flies For Clear Water:
- Glo Bug Fly
- Sucker Spawn Fly
- Blood Dot Fly
- Scrambled Egg
Local guide Jeff Blood has come up with an amazing fly called the Blood Dot fly.
It was Bill Spicer from the New Flyfisher Show that introduced me to this fly on a film shoot I did with them and I was amazed at how well the fly worked.
Watch Jeff work this fly on a local Lake Erie stream HERE.
Tying your own flies saves you money and lets you tie custom flies that will probably work better. If you already tie your own flies, check out The 7 Best Fly Tying Hooks: For Dry Fly, Nymphs, and Streamers, or if you are thinking about starting to tie your own flies, check out 5 Best Fly Tying Kits From Beginner to Advanced.
Nymphs For PA Steelhead
Nymph patterns can be the best flies for PA steelhead at times.
Nymph flies imitate the natural aquatic insects found in the stream.
These nymphs can be Stoneflies, Mayflies, Caddis, and scuds/isopods. Even very basic nymphs like the walts worm can be very effective.
I will often run two flies if the laws allow it. Usually, one fly will be an egg pattern or a worm pattern, and the other will be a nymph.
I do this to try and determine what the fish want that day.
For nymphs, there are 3 or 4 that work well most of the time, and there are times when a Gold, Silver, or copper bead-headed version will work better.
Best Nymphs For PA Steelhead:
- Stonefly Nymphs: Black, Brown, Yellow, size 8 to 10 ( favs are the B.H Stone, and the Midnight Intruder Stonefly
- Pheasant Tail Nymph: SIze 8 and 10, size 12 to 14 in very clear upper stretches.
- Caddis Larva: size 10 and 12
- Hares Ear Nymph: Size 10 and 12 ( Alternatives: Walts Worm, Sexy Walts Worm, Egans Tungston Surveyor, Hare’s Ear Blowtorch)
- Prince Nymph: Size 8 to 12, good on the lower river or high water and when an attractor pattern is required.
- Michigan Wiggler: Size 8 and 10: Orange, white, black, and, chartreuse belly
If you want to learn more about the tactics and setups guides use to nymph, check out Nymphing For Steelhead.
It is rare not to see a worm pattern at the end of my client’s leader. As mentioned above that I generally use two flies at a time one of those flies is either a worm or egg.
I would guess that over the last 10 years, 75% of the big steelhead I’ve landed, (FYI, that thousands) were on a pink, red, or brown worm pattern.
I like my worms to be 2.5 to 4 inches long.
Also, as you can see in the above image, I tie my worms differently than store-bought worm flies (which still work well) or traditionally tied flies. Most anglers tie the hook in the middle of the worm, I tie it at the end of the worm.
I do this for two reasons. First, tying the hook in the middle allows the worm to fold in half when it is pulled by the current. It is more prominent with long 3 to 4-inch worms.
I think that a folded worm looks unusual in the water and can make the worm profile smaller.
My pattern will NOT fold in half, it stays elongated and provides a bigger profile, which I like.
Second, tying the hook at the end gives the worm more tail-end movement and I think it looks more natural in the water.
Guide Tip: For some fly tyers and on store-bought worms, the ends of the worm material are melted to give the worm a more natural look. I save myself time by NOT doing this because honestly, the fish don’t care if it’s melted or not.
So as long as you are using ultra Chenille that doesn’t fray or split, don’t bother melting the ends.
Streamer flies can be used in two ways. You can use streamers while nymphing or you can cast streamers and retrieve them with a stripping retrieve or you can swing them across the current.
The best streamer patterns for nymphing will be a half-inch long to 3.5 inches long and include streamers like egg sucking leeches, wooly buggers, and zonkers.
In the Steelhead Alley area, a local guide reports that white zonkers are often one of the best streamers for both nymphing and stripping or swinging.
White Wooly Buggers are also very effective flies for Erie tributaries.
Both of these flies can be nymphed, swung, or stripped in.
I also do well nymphing micro streamers such as half-inch and 1-inch long Wooly Buggers.
If you want to use the stripping or swing methods of streamer fishing, 2″ to 5 inches will be best. I use large Zonkers, Muddler Minnows, Marabou muddlers, Zoo Cougars, Circus Peanut, and many other large streamer flies commonly used by trout fishermen.
If streamer fishing for steelhead is something you want to learn more about, check out Streamer Fishing For Steelhead.
Best Flies For Pennsylvania Steelhead
That wraps up this article for the best flies for Pennsylvania Steelhead. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for good flies, let us know in the comments section below.