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Native Steelhead

Float fishing has changed steelhead fishing forever. Gone are the days of chasing steelhead for days, weeks, or even seasons on end without landing a fish. And for those of you who have depended on bouncing lead with corkies and yarn to catch these prized fish, gone are the days of a thousand casts between bites. It doesn’t matter if you are new to the game of steelhead fishing or a seasoned steelheading veteran, without question you will catch more fish under a float than any other technique.

After 25 years of chasing steelhead, designing flies, jigs, and floats it boils down to these basic rules:

Fish where the fish are: Do some research before you head out. Steelhead University, Northwest Wild Country, Piscatorial Pursuits, and IFISH are all great resources for fishing reports, what’s hot, and more importantly what rivers are producing fish. Call local sport shops in the region you are looking to fish and ask for fishing reports. If the fishing is slow, go somewhere else. Look at it this way, would you rather drive 3 hours and catch fish for 5 hours or fish 8 hours and never see a fish?

Once you know the river you are fishing is loaded with fish, you need an understanding of how to “read” the water. We will review this in depth with upcoming how-to articles, but for now we will make it simple. Find structure, a big rock, submerged branch or log–steelhead love them. Fish the seams formed where fast and slow water meet. Lastly, don’t forget to hit the frog water, especially for the winter steelhead.

Have the right tools for the job: You have heard the saying don’t bring a gun to a knife fight? Same concept applies to float fishing. You will save yourself a mountain of frustration if you ditch the bait rod you have been using for years and step up to a 9’6 – 11’6 spinning rod with a small to mid-sized Shimano or Okuma spinning reel. If you want top of the line look at GLoomis or Lamiglas. Both make great rods but DON’T think for a minute you need to sink $500 bucks into a rod and reel. If you are not a “purest” type float guy yet, find a spinning rod you like (stay away from the noodle rods!) with line weights 4-8, 6-10, with a 1/8- 3/8 oz rating. This is all you need for a cross-over rod that can be used for summer or winter fishing. Reels are a little different story. Most of the time you get what you pay for. A good bet are the Shimano 2500’s. Great reel in the $70 range. They are just about bulletproof and we have landed 30 pound Kings on them without issue.

Not all line is the same: The most overlooked and confusing part of getting setup for float fishing is the running line (line on your spool). Choosing from mono, braid, high vis options, bonded vs unbonded line, molecular coatings, bonded hybrid lines… it can be overwhelming to say the least. Let me make it simple – there is NO perfect line. We currently run 20-30 lb high vis Power Pro or Berkley high vis Fireline in 14 -18 lb. Yes, I said 20-30 pound Power Pro! This line is so thin the heavier weight reduces line knots and guide tangles with absolutely no chance for breaking off fish. The Fireline has a coating that forces a reduced line weight, but it is very easy to mend and cast.

A properly weighted float catches more fish: Attention to detail separates the good fishermen from the great fishermen. Floats are one of these details you should be looking at to make yourself one of the greats. Look for a float that when weighted and rigged (balanced) will go under water at the slightest touch. You want the float to go under without the fish feeling the resistance of the takedown. This gives you an added second or two to set the hook before the fish can spit the hook. Every Aero-Float we build is designed and built with this concept in mind.

Jigs, eggs, prawns, shrimp, pink worms, flies – what’s a guy to use? When in Rome do as the Romans IF THEY ARE CATCHING FISH! Going back to step 1, doing your research, you should have a decent understanding of what is working and what’s not. Always have your go to lure of choice with you but if the bite is on an Aerojig Nightmare series or a Beau Mac SMJ 2 or SMJ 10 you better be loaded up.

If you are not losing gear you are not doing it right. This was the saying when we were all fishing pencil lead and slinkies and it applies to float fishing as well. Granted you shouldn’t be losing 20-30 rigs a day, but you should still be pushing your gear and skills to the limit. Get you jig bouncing off submerged boulders and rocks a few times, make that extra-long cast to virgin water even if it means you lose a jig or two. Make sure you are as close to the river bottom as possible without dragging your jig or bait. This ensures you are in the strike zone every time you pass through the hole. This is not so important with summer steelhead but for the winter fish it is vital to your success.

**A side note to the new guys. Tie your leader to the jig with a polymer knot and ensure the shank of the hook is horizontal with the river bottom. There is sometimes confusion on this topic with guys wanting the hook to point down similar to your bait rigs. This is incorrect. Your jig should twist and twirl as it hits the different water currents.

If you have further questions please feel free to email us here at info@hawkenfishing.com. One of our Pro-Staff will be glad to assist you.

Dead Serious Fishing