There are two strains of Steelhead: winter-run and summer-run, but spawning migrations often overlap. Many rivers contain both, but some have only one or the other.
Closely related to Rainbows are two other species of trout native to BC: coastal and westslope Cutthroat trout, commonly called “Cutts.” Both species are opportunistic feeders, but their diet tends to favour small fish over aquatic insects. Coastal Cutthroat are present in most lakes and rivers along the coastal mainland and offshore islands, and wherever accessible to saltwater they are often anadromous. It is not uncommon for anglers to encounter these heavily-spotted trout while fishing for Steelhead. Although popular with fly fishers, large lake-dwelling Cutthroat – a few up to 5 kg (11 lb) or more – are usually taken by deep trolling with plugs.
Steelhead were at one time considered to be a trout species but have been discovered by scientists to be more closely related to Pacific salmon. They are legendary fighters and for many anglers represent the pinnacle of river fly-fishing. Unlike some other Pacific salmon, some steelhead live to spawn more than once giving them the opportunity to grow in size and the wisdom to outwit the most expert angler. Steelhead differ from other Pacific salmon in having a shorter anal fin containing less than 12 supporting rays. When in the ocean their body is mainly silvery with a blue back. At spawning time, a red band develops along each side of the body.