Steelhead fishing

I was reminded recently that anglers from the area have been heading up to Elk and Walnut Creek to do some steelhead fishing.

When I had my shop, I remember folks coming in procuring noodles rods, mini foo jigs and lots of maggots for that purpose. For many the trips proved most profitable.

Three years ago, I wrote about area angler, Blake Hauser, and his success story concerning catching his first steelhead in those waters. He told me that his fond memories point to fishing in those waters. I’m sure he is not alone.

Even though not all anglers with use proper guidelines, the true blues, as I call them, will try to approach steelhead fishing according to the general rules of thumb, so to speak. Thus, the chances are greater that more fish will be caught. That includes rods, reels, line, lures, bait, swivels, hooks and lead that are geared for this type of fishing.

One of the ways to go after these fish is by drift fishing. Said to be hard to master, it does produce.

Different, I believe, with this approach is that sensitivity plays into the role of determining whether or not one is actually feeling the bite of the fish as opposed to spin or bait fishing where one knows by the tug of the fish, something is on the line.

Thus, the pole needs to be sensitive enough to feel every grain of sand, yet strong enough to set the hook with 40 yards of line across the current. This is the most important piece of equipment one will buy and most expensive. Look to spend at least $85 and above for this tool.

Noodle rods are excellent for this type of fishing because they are long (10 ft. 6 “for example) and indicate at the tip the slightest reaction to the bait presented.

Of course there are other types of fishing for steelheads, so other rod selections may be necessary if one is plunking, float fishing or plugging.

The length of rod must be determined from where one is casting. Will it be from the beach, boat or where lots of brush is found?

As with any type of fishing, reels should be matched to the pole one is using. The most common reel for drift fishing is the bait casting reel, for it is said to have the best form of control.

Choosing the proper line is always a favorite subject. Here again, it should match the rod, reel and the conditions one will be fishing. A good rule to follow is the clearer the water the lighter the line to be used. Some anglers will use 2 lb. test while others will prefer 20.

Artificial attractants that wiggle or wobble are popular. Roe bugs, spin-n-glows, minifoo jigs, vibrant colored lures and spinners and corkies are have been known to work well.

A steelhead has an excellent sense of smell. When the water is so stained one can’t see in two inches into the water, the steelhead can find the bait by movement and smell. Common baits are sand shrimp, roe, maggots and night crawlers. Minifoo jigs tipped with maggots are a definite ticket.

It is my opinion that more people use snap swivels more than barrel swivels because they are easier. But the latter is preferred when steelhead fishing. They are used to attach a lighter leader to a heavier main line. This allows one to quickly adjust a rig to water conditions and minimize mainline loss to snags.

Hooks should match the type of lure and bait one is using. They should be strong enough to hold a running fish without bending out. Make sure the hooks are sharp for better penetration. Always carry a point file with other fishing tackle.

Pencil lead is the most common and economical type of lead used for drift fishing. Sensitivity is the key here. Using this type of weight will alert anglers as to hooking fish much more than standard weights used in spin and bait fishing.

Slinky weights are also practical when it comes to steelhead fishing. This is comprised of a bunch of split shot incased in a piece of parachute cord. In weighting down the line, it can bend around the rocks without getting hung up as often as other weights.

As for presentation, casts can be made slightly upstream and allowed to bounce along the bottom to the tail out of the hole. When the lure is felt to stop and the fish picks it up, set the hook. Then let others know you have a fish on and commence to battle.

Article by:
Paul J. Volkmann (August 20, 2007)
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