When searching for early season steelhead, it's all about covering water, a LOT of water. These fish are few and far between but will move aggressively to a fly if you can cross paths with one. Precise and careful presentation, while always something to be mindful of, is not at the forefront when searching for these early fish. It is not the low clear of late summer so don't treat it that way. Fish are moving hard and the water is up a bit. The job of the angler in these early times is to target specific moving lanes and tail outs. On the North Umpqua there are many of these areas that will produce fish and these places are learned only after many years of observing these early movements. In other words......go figure it out yourself! Recently, my buddy spotted a fish in one of these known early season tail outs. The fish was only in the holding spot for maybe 10 minutes and then gone, spurred forward by the scent of the gravel and waters where he was born.
I like to fish big profile wet flies on a floating line in the early season. When I say big I mean up to 1/0. Don't be afraid to tie them a fluffy. A bigger profile will be seen better by these fish in the slightly higher water. Remember that even though flows may be up a bit, water temps will be too. There is no need to fish a sink tip when waters warm into the high 40's and 50's. Trust me, these early fish will rip your arm off and have no trouble moving to maul subsurface presentations at these temps.