The steelhead is a rainbow trout that migrates from the river to the sea and back again, with much size and power to show for it. Rainbow trout and steelhead are the same species, but completely different animals.

Considered one of, if not the most noble of sportfish, the steelhead is famous for its beautiful shape and color, its unrelenting, aerobatic fight when hooked, and the extreme weather and water environments it often inhabits. These factors combine to make the pursuit of steelhead a serious challenge and an addiction unto itself. Their fanatics, like the fish themselves, are wanderers, searchers, hunters. They are some of flyfishing’s most serious devotees and will go to any length, through any weather, at any cost, just for a chance. The tug is the drug, it doesn’t come often, and you don’t get it by staying home.

A steelhead is a rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) which is born in a river and then, after a juvenile period, migrates to the sea like a salmon. Eventually, after usually 2 or 3 years, they return to their natal streams to spawn. While most steelhead will die after spawning, some will return to the sea and survive to spawn again. What triggers a salt water migration in some trout but not in others remains a thing of a mystery, but whatever the reason, their oceanic journeys are legendary. For instance, a tagged steelhead of Columbia River, Oregon origin was once recaptured off the coast of Japan; and unlike salmon, which maraud the high seas in schools, steelhead swim solo. These unique characteristics add to the intense mystique ascribed to them, but ultimately it’s the size and power of a steelhead, gained in the ocean, that is the draw to flyfishers. This “transformation” from rainbow trout to steelhead – from meager river origin to the supercharged energy of the sea – is like that of Superman before and after stepping into the phone booth.

Historically, steelhead were found in most river systems of the North Pacific Rim, from Kamchatka, Russia to Baja, Mexico. Today, habitat loss in their southern range makes their northern range a very important focus. British Columbia’s Skeena River watershed, the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak Island, and the west coast of Kamchatka are especially excellent places to go for steelhead.

Ayakulik Outpost

Alaska

For many years Dave Jones has been operating this isolated tent camp operation on the banks of Kodiak Island's Ayakulik River, the only outfitter licensed to operate on the upper stretches of this watershed.
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Babine Steelhead

Canada

Babine Steelhead Lodge is situated on one of the best trophy steelhead stretches of water in the world. Helicopter access from Smither's adds an extra half day of fishing to the week and guests can plan on shaking hands with some of the...
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Bulkley Basecamp

Canada

Frontier Farwest has created the perfect mix of comfort, camp atmosphere, and expert staff at their semi-permanent camp on a private tributary of one of the most exclusive rivers in the Skeena system. Guests fish the Bulkley,...
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Copper Bay Lodge

Canada

This is winter steelhead fishing at its best, and a trip tailored for fishermen whose principal interest is silver-bright, salt-fresh, wild Canadian steelhead on rivers that are rarely, if ever, fished. These small coastal fisheries have a healthy steelhead...
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Frontier Farwest

Canada

This is an over-the-top experience run by a talented crowd of hard-core steelheaders with permitted access to a super slice of the finest steelhead fishing in the world. Their skills and work ethic is accented by deluxe lodging, a menu of great fishing...
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Hoodoo's Sandy River Lodge

Alaska

For the hardcore fly-rodder that wants immediate access to some of the best swung-fly water on this storied Alaskan river, Hoodoo's small lodge fits the bill. The Sandy River is the perfect size to access from the Lodge with jet boats and is easily waded.
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Kamchatka Steelhead Project

Kamchatka

Flyfishing for science... and the biggest, brightest steelhead that'll ever grab your fly! Kamchatka is home to Asia's only population of this magnificent fish, and the only way to study them... is to catch them, tag them, and then let them go...
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Skeena Spey

Canada

The Steelhead in the lower Skeena River are something to write home about. Down in the water around Terrace you get first crack at all of the fish headed to the most famous steelhead rivers in the world, like the Kispiox, Sustut, Babine and the Bulkey...
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Suskeena Lodge

Canada

Rated by veterans and steelhead experts as among Canada's best, the lodge is located just above the confluence of the Sustut and Skeena. It is more than a hundred miles from any road and separated from civilization by an impenetrable wilderness...
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