Let’s face it, there are times when steelhead just go off the bite. Maybe they’re getting pounded by boats or are reacting to a something like a sudden change in barometric pressure. Whatever the reason for the lull, you can sometimes turn stale fish back on by showing them a little something different.
One of our favorite old tricks under these circumstances is side-drifting with F7 Flatfish. I know, sounds kinda crazy, but it works!
We drift these little plugs pretty much like you would a chunk of bait: A Slinky or pencil lead for weight, a 3- to 4-foot leader and then the lure. F7’s are very well suited to boondogging and freedrifting and you can be pretty sure that nobody else on the river will be fishing with them. Don’t expect a typical plug take-down when a steelhead picks up a drifted Flatfish, however. You’d think the fish would murder them like they do Hot Shots and Wiggle Warts, but the take is really a lot more like a bait bite – soft and spongy. That’s not to say that you won’t get your arm yanked off from time to time, though!
This technique actually works well in most conditions – even when there isn’t a lot of other angler pressure. It is also worth trying when big native steelhead are present. These fish are generally much more aggressive than their hatchery-reared cousins and will angrily chomp down on a plug when nothing else is working. Just be sure to replace the stock hooks with a size No. 2 or 4 Gamakatsu siwash hook attached via a quality barrel swivel — or run the risk of potentially losing the fish of a lifetime.
Silver, gold, chartreuse and fluorescent red are all good basic colors to have onboard though F7 Flatfish come in a huge assortment of patterns, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
Most grabs come as the plug starts swinging down and away from the boat. Make sure the plug is still wobbling as it swings…hold it back a little with a crank or two if it starts to stall out.