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Steelhead vs. Big Brown Trout

We are fortunate in Michigan that we have the ability to target so many different fish in varying types of water on the fly.  The opportunities here are seemingly endless in regards to the species we can catch and the type of water we can catch them in.  In my opinion, the 2 greatest sport fish we have available are Steelhead and Large Brown Trout.  I have, over the years, waivered back and forth as to my answer to the question: “if you could only pick one fish to fish for, what would it be?”  So, I thought I’d weigh out many of the deciding factors that go into it for me.  These attributes are just my opinion on the matters – would love to hear what everyone else has to say about it though!

steel v brown

STEELHEAD BROWN TROUT                           REASONING
Availability

   √

It’s reasonable to expect that you would be able to find a brown trout pretty much all 12 months out of the year.  Great Lakes steelhead are typically only available from October through April (sometimes May).  Edge Brown Trout

   √

Photogenic qualities This is a really tough one for me – giant slabs of buttery goodness are not exactly a dime a dozen, but steelhead go through several unique transformations of coloration and composure once they enter the rivers.  In a close call, I’ve got to say Edge Steelhead
Watersheds found in

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Most of the rivers that steelhead can be found in will also hold a population of large brown trout.  However, there are several areas that browns are found in that steelhead don’t have access to, including some of the most beautiful/pristine stretches of river this state has to offer.  Edge Brown Trout
The take

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As the saying goes, the tug is the drug when it comes to steelhead.  While I will admit that the ‘jolt’ a steelhead on a swung fly is exciting, for me the visual experience of catching a big brown on a pulled streamer or on a dry fly can’t be matched.  Watching a buttery brown propel itself towards the boat at Mach5, and open its mouth to inhale a streamer makes me weak in the knees.  Edge Brown Trout
Tactics they are targeted with

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Swing and bobber fishing for Steelhead vs. Pulling streamers and dry fly fishing for Browns.  I’m an extremely visual person and watching a bobber all day while visual, is far less interactive than pulling a streamer or manipulating your line for a drag free drift of a dry.   Edge Brown Trout

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The Fight This one isn’t even close.  Rarely, in my experience will a brown put up nearly the fight or require the amount of skill to land once hooked that a steelhead requires.  Edge Steelhead
Crowds

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Uggggghhhhh…..steelhead brings people out of the woodwork, people come from all over the country to experience the great fishery we have.  Many people you encounter will be utilizing questionable tactics as well.  You’ll often times spend as much time searching for a spot to actually fish than you will fishing.  Edge Brown Trout

    √

Success Rates Steelhead, when they are available are for the most part more easily caught than large brown trout.  Steelhead success rates are measured in #’s, browns are measured in inches.  Being that steelhead are typically easier to encounter – Edge Steelhead
Tying the Bugs

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Steelhead fly tying, whether it is for swinging or nymphing gets very monotonous, it feels like full on production mode.  Tying streamers for trout allows me to flex the minimal creativity that I possess, and I enjoy it.  Not to mention you only need a few streamers and a few dries and you’re all set.  Edge Brown Trout
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3 responses

  1. Glad someone tackled this issue head on and settled it for good lol. Couldn’t agree more with most of the comparisons…except maybe that brown trout are less photogenic…there’s something about those colors that just seem right.

    Like

    March 13, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    • Ian – I know! Definitely the hardest of all for me to decide between.

      Like

      March 13, 2015 at 1:37 pm

  2. Disagree with #2. I’d prefer a pic of a big nasty brown trout every day of the week.

    Like

    March 13, 2015 at 2:48 pm

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