Winter steelheading can be a test of patience and fortitude. There will be days with no bites, there will be days when you dont see a single fish. On the bright side you tend to have the water to yourself.
Downsize in winter..a lot. A tiny bb sized bead , a number 10 hook and a piece of shimp the size of a pencil eraser or a wax worm gets hit in wintertime.
Dont fish when its bitter cold. Ive done it. You spend too much time jackin around with frozen guides, line thats iced up, gear that wont cooperate, frozen hands that cant tie frozen line....its not worth it. I tend to winter fish when its 30f or warmer. I tend to fish mid day too.
Here I look for eddies...preferably w some back current, and shallow gravel bars. in the winter they will come up to shallower, slower, warmer water. Ive had several fish bite 2 feet offshore in a foot or two of water. Slow back current off a seam can be really good too. If I can find a place where I can drop my float rig in and let it circle around all on its own...those can be really good spots.
Pay Attention! I have lost quite a few hooksets in the wintertime because I was asleep at the wheel. Wintertime can mean loooong periods of nothing happening. If youre not paying attention when the float goes down, youre probably going to miss the only fish that bites that day. Nothing causes more self loathing than standing in the cold for 4 hours, only to have a steelhead spit the hook out.
Dont lose faith. If you know youre fishing a run where fish most likely are...dont give up on it. Sometimes you have to cycle through a few bait offerings and spend some time on a spot.
You never see a fishing boat parked in front of a psychiatrists office .....