20 years experience

Best Rods For
Ontario Steelhead

Your Trout and Steelhead Specialists.


The Best Rods for fishing Ontario Steelhead

I get asked all the time what I recommend for steelhead or what steelhead rods do I use and real answer is, “it depends”. It depends on the rivers you want to fish and it depends on the preferred methods that you want to use.

The Rivers: Many steelhead rivers in Ontario are fairly small compared to west coast steelhead rivers so the rods we use here might be very different from the rods that are being used out west. Many of our river average only 20 or 30 feet wide but there are a few that may be much bigger, with the biggest being the Niagara river as an example. You should consider where you will be fishing most and that means will you be stomping up and down heavily bushed creeks that are 15 feet wide or hanging out on the Maitland , lower Saugeen or Niagara river.

You also have to consider what type of Steelheading you want to do. In other words, there are four or five different methods of fly fishing for steelhead that you need to consider before buying your rods.

An Ontario Steelhead river called the Saugeen River
The Nottawasaga River

Nymphing / Indicator : Although some guys will disagree with me I personally think nymphing for steelhead will produce the most fish, most of the time and on most rivers, so if you plan on doing a lot of nymphing on small to medium sized rivers a steelhead rod of 10 feet in the seven weight size is ideal. With that being said I have used a 10 foot, six weight rod for almost 20 years and loved it. The lighter rods are easier on the arms and shoulders after long days on the water and although the shops like to recommend eight weight rods I believe that on many of our smaller clear and shallow rivers where you need to use lighter tippet you cant use and don’t need all that backbone of an eight weight rod.

So in a nutshell, if you plan on nymphing on most Ontario rivers of 50 feet or less wide then a good all around rod is a 10 foot , 7 weight rod.

Fly Fishing on the Nottawasaga River

Euro Nymphing for steelhead – A slightly longer rods works better with this style of nymphing and personally, for this style of nymphing I use an eleven foot 6 weight rod but an eleven foot 7 or 8 weight rod would be just fine too and you can also use a 10 foot 7 weight rod.

Therefore a 6 or seven weight rod is easier on those lighter tippets meaning less break offs. However, once you start getting onto bigger rivers that are more open, windier, and wider that require longer casts, then yes, an eight weight may be more ideal.

Streamer Fishing: For streamer fishing using your single hand seven to nine weight , ten foot nymphing rod will work just fine but many guys would agree that casting streamers all day for steelhead works better on a nine foot, eight or nine weight rod.

Swinging Flies: Probably the least effect method but still a ton of fun and very challenging is swinging flies for steelhead. If you’re an angler that wants to do it all, nymph, through streamers, spey cast and swing flies then consider a six to eight weight switch rod. The bigger the river, the bigger the rod weight. Personally I use a 7 weight switch rod when I’m multi tasking these different methods. Most switch rods come eleven to 13 feet, the wider the river, the longer the rod is my suggestion when considering a switch rod. Just make sure that if you plan on spey casting with it, do your research and use the manufactures recommended lines.

Spey Rods: If you want to start getting into Spey fishing and swinging flies, most rivers of 30 to 50 feet you can get away with a spey rod in the 11 to 13 foot , 7 weight range. For much bigger rivers you may want to bump up to an 8 or 9 weight. I use my 13 foot 7 weight Spey rod on larger rivers like the Maitland or lower Saugeen river all the time with no real issues getting my fly to the fish.

An Ontario steelhead


What Brands: That’s a question I wont give you a straight answer on. I’m not going to name brands, all i will say is use what ever brand of rod that you can find in your price range that is in the suitable weight and length for your needs. Just spend a bit of time Google searching for reviews on the rod you want to buy to see what the majority of anglers have to say about it or visit your local fly shop like Drift Outfitters because these guys not only know what the best rods are to sell, but they use them to, and if they’re good enough for them, they will be good enough for you.

Summary: I use a 10 foot, 7 weight single hand rod 90 percent of the time. For Spey fishing I use a 13 foot, 7 weight rod most of the time.