Many avid fishers love the challenge of Steelhead because they put up a long and spectacular fight, making them a well-earned reward for patience and persistence.

There are two main runs of steelhead, the summer run and the winter run; both spawn in the spring, but enter the river at different times.  Oregon Fishing Guides can target returning summer steelhead in the Portland area as early as April in the Willamette and Sandy Rivers and its tributaries. The summer steelhead run begins their migration in March and April near the coast, and remain in Oregon’s rivers for several months before spawning. The steelhead count at Willamette Falls is an early indicator of steelhead moving up the system into tributaries.

In the early summer months, anglers target steelhead in the Columbia River before they have a chance to get to its tributaries. The section of the river below Rainier produces good runs of summer steelhead from May or June and continues through the summer.

Most Oregon steelhead fisheries get going after the first of the year.  Some of the best steelhead fishing is after a high-water event, when water levels begin to drop. In the softer water, the fish often hold in pockets, away from the main current.


Regardless of the type of gear you use, here are some tips to increase your chances of catching an elusive steelhead:

A stealth approach is best.  Low water conditions require quiet placement of small, pale flies and lures.  Anglers catch Steelhead mainly on spinning and fly fishing gear.

Become familiar with the river you are fishing.  Your knowledge of the water and how to fish it will help you land a steelhead.  One of the advantages of a guided fishing trip is that your experienced guide will know the river very well.

Cover the water in a methodical pattern. Keeping your lure near the bottom and moving in a way that helps you fish every part of a run or pool, will help you attract the fish.

Use the right tackle, bait or lures.  Researching which tackle, bait and lures are most effective with steelhead will give you confidence that you are using the right gear.

Have patience, determination and a positive attitude.  Be vigilant and stay alert for potential strikes. Again, using a guide will assure that you are in the right location at the right time.  For more information about steelhead fishing in Portland, Oregon, contact Buddy Dupell, guide and owner of Columbia River Fishing Adventures – (503) 490-3099 or [email protected].


  1. Bruce Smith

    Do you drift the Sandy or Clackamas rivers?

  2. […] Recreational steelhead and shad fishing remain open on portions of the Columbia under permanent rules, and the fishery managers again made a plea to anglers to stay close to home, to observe social-distancing, avoid crowding and maintain sanitary conditions. […]

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