I'm not sure how deep your rivers are but if you have 9-12 feet of leader/tippet after the fly line and you still need to get down deeper than 5-8 feet of water than sink tip it is. I had 20 feet of sink on the end of mine and cut it in half. Still didn't need it, though. Start with the line as is, I guess, and if you think the water isn't deep enough cut back and so on. Trial and error my friend, trial and error. Have fun and I hope you nail one!
Oh, here's a copied thread I wrote for morphius, a Steelheader who wasn't catching anything:
Two years...hmmmm. Sounds like you're fishing over their heads. I've seen steelhead caught on muddlers, streamers, egg patterns, spoons and plugs, jigs and maggots, woolybuggers and a couple of em hit my shiner imitation but I didn't hook any yet. The Rocky River (Cleveland) Steelhead are hitting everything this Fall. It's been crazy so far. My only comments would be to make sure you are getting down and I mean drag the bottom down so you're bumping the bottom. Rule of thumb: Faster water, heavier weight be it split shot or weighted flies. Second, mix it up, try eggs, wooly buggers, streamers and bead heads in different colors. I find myself getting stuck fishing the same fly in the same spot for 2 plus hours. If the Steelhead didn't hit it the first 20 casts chances are they're not going to hit it the next 20. Third, watch your speed...remember the lower river current is much slower than the top water. Keep your line and/or strike indicator from yanking your fly. You have to keep the speed relative to the water flow. Steelhead are smart this way. Smarter than me for that matter! Good luck and let me know when you get one.
#1 rig is a 10 ft 7 wt Orvis, Ross Reel, weight forward line, hand tied leader to go with my own flies. Fly selection depends on water conditions and temps. Fall I like streamers for active fish. As the water cools the flies get smaller, and I primarily fish egg patterns and nymphs.
# 2 rig is a 9'6" 8wt, which is usually the rod I use when streamer fishing. This is also the rod I will pick if fishing for salmon.
I agree on the streamers...when they are fresh in or early in the year I have had some fantastic days with white or orange (or both). Last year I tied a few white zonkers with an exaggerated long tail...I had a ton of fun for a few days with those.
I use a Nine Three, a Grey Ghost, or a Whitlock Sculpin all in #2s and 4s for sea run Rainbows / Steelhead here in AK.
The closer you are to the lake down east where you live the better the chance they will still be thinking Smelt. When I fished for Great Lakes Steelies I sight fished and dead drifted a size 4,6,or 8 black Comet to them in the deep troths and swung well balanced feather wing streamers to them in the riffs and tails of the runs and pools.
Probably sounds a bit eccentric but it has always worked for me. I'm still doing it, just to different fish in another place. I was always a traditionalist, never one to run with the herd. If you use the feather wings, use a heavier leader and show them the fly not the leader. To do this you might try the greased line style of wet fly fishing with extra attention paid to sighting the fish and controlling the "swim" of the fly.
I am a little late but here is my Steelhead setup.
ROD: Sage Graphite III RPL 9'6" 4 piece 8wt or Sage Graphite III RPL 9' 2 piece 8wt
REEL: SA System II 7/8 (made in England) 2 Spare Spools
LINE: SA Steelhead Floating, SA Sink Tip, SA Full Sinking
LEADERS: Subsurface, 4' or 5' Salmon leader and I may add a tippet.
Surface, 7.5 or 9' depending on water depth.
Woolly Bugger, Black or Purple
Freight Train, with some flash
Burlap, one of my favorites
Green Butt Skunk, with some flash
Thor, this is a brown and red fly
Egg Sucking Leach (Alaska)
Wool Head Sculpin (Alaska)
Subsurface I fish with a indicator some of the time. I have always used a yarn indicator but I may switch to the Thingamabobber.
Shakespeare 5/6 wt Fly Rod 8'
Shakespeare 1094 reel
Unknown floating fly line
7.5 feet P Line Fluorocarbon tapered leader (2X)
Swivel (black). Light split on top.
3 feet of P Line Fluorocarbon tippet 6lb
Egg Pattern or Woolly Bugger...once I find them.
I may add on 4 lb test tippet material to the 6 lb. Any suggestions to maybe change things up?? The wters I'm fishing are smallish creeks with waters ranging in depth from 2-3 feet...okay flow and the occasional pool and undercut banks that go from 6-8 feet.
(LOL...I know I'm an infant boy among men with my gear, knowledge etc)