You know how Elmer Fudd never knew whether it was duck season or rabbit season? Daffy would be dressed as a rabbit, telling poor gullible Elmer it was duck season, then Bugs would don a duck outfit assuring him it was definitely wabbit season. Well allow me to remind you, we are squarely in winter steelhead season, even if the warm sun on your shoulders might be saying something else.
Winter steelheading isn’t shooting fish in a barrel. These prizes are few and far between and demand a level of intimacy that only comes from monogamy with a river. Don’t be impulsive, jumping rivers, casting about and then going elsewhere. Winter is a quiet time, a time to dedicate yourself to learning a river. You’ll come to know what levels the river is best at. You’ll learn the underwater topography that comes with seeing a river in many states.
Start at the only reasonable place, the beginning. From the top of the run, start short, slowly working your way throughout the entirety. Over time you’ll come to know the ideal conditions for each spot on the run, but you can’t get there without experiencing all the aspects of the run first. While everyone only has eyes for spey rods, I’d like to gently suggest that you keep a single-handed rod in your tool kit as well. There are many situations where casting far, while fun, is missing fish right in front of you. A well-made, long, modern single-handed rod might very well expand your horizons, allowing you to pleasurably cast short at the top of runs. It’s not outdated or retro, but a specific tool for a specific situation that might open up a run to you in a way you didn’t consider. You can overhead cast, roll cast or even spey cast with a haul and send the line anywhere you desire.
Stay warm, be patient and enjoy yourself. It’s still steelhead season!