This simple little technique has helped me catch more steelhead off the bank. Give it a try!
If you’ve ever dealt with loose, soft roe that just won’t stay on the hook, this video is for you!
Making spawn sacks is a quick and easy solution for soupy eggs. Spawn sacks (aka “egg bags”) are also extremely useful when you are fishing in an area that’s loaded with bait stealers like chubs, smolt, trout and squawfish, etc.
Fishing jigs under floats is a deadly way to catch more steelhead this season. Here’s how to do it!
Note: This is a excerpt from my nearly 300-page book The Ultimate Guide to Steelhead Bank Fishing which covers this subject and just about everything else you’d ever want to know about catching steelhead in great detail).
First off, why fish a bobber? Well, a float rig will fish in places regular gear just can’t touch. Bobbers will keep your bait above the snags and right up where the fish can see it. As an added bonus, a float allows you to fish distant seams and holding lanes both above and below your position that would be difficult or impossible to fish with other methods. You can also extend your drift with a bobber by simply letting more line off your reel. Plus, you’ve got a great built-in bite detector!
The Drag-Free Drift
Before we get too far along here, let’s cut right to the meat of this technique and discuss the number one thing you have to master to be successful: The drag-free presentation.
When fishing a float, your gear needs to travel downstream at the speed of the current. While there are times when steelies will grab a bait that’s traveling a bit slower than the current (more on that later), you generally want to keep your gear moving with the flow of the river.
To keep the proper speed going, you have to keep as much line off the water as possible. When a belly forms in your line between the rod tip and the float, the current will grab it and drag your line downstream too quickly. Similarly, a bow in the line can also occur upstream of the bobber (in eddies and calm spots behind rocks, for example) and that will make your bait slow down and lift off the bottom.
To keep the belly out of your line, you’ll have to lift and “mend” it to keep it from being influenced by grabby sections of current (using floating braided line here is a big help!). When a bow starts forming in the line on the water, gently reel towards your float and then, just as you come tight to it, lift the line in the opposite direction of the belly. Take care to avoid violently jerking the float as you mend, as that can cause your bait to drift unnaturally.
When a steelhead picks up your bait or lure, the type of “bobber down” you get depends a lot on the speed of the current. In swift water, the float goes under more quickly, while it tends to go under somewhat slowly and methodically in softer flows. Either way, remember this: Reel until you Feel. In other words, reel any slack out of the line and then, when you feel resistance, set the hook.
It’s critical that you to try to keep a reasonably tight line between your rod tip and the float when fishing so that you don’t have to reel up a bunch of slack before setting the hook.
The two basic styles of floats commonly used for river fishing are fixed and slip.
A fixed float is attached to the line via tight fitting rubber fittings that hold it in place wherever you set it. You can change the depth at which you are fishing by simply sliding the float up or down the line.The type of float you run – fixed or sliding – is part personal preference and part necessity.
Slip floats slide freely up and down your line and the depth is controlled by placing an adjustable bobber stop on the line above the float, which can be moved up or down, depending on the depth of the water.
Fixed floats are incredibly responsive and easy to rig. However, they are usually very lightweight – which makes them tougher to cast on anything but spinning gear.
Fixed floats are not infinitely adjustable depth-wise, and deeper the water you want to fish, the longer you need to make the distance between the float and the weight. Even with a 9- to 10-foot rod, the rig gets pretty cumbersome for casting once you get about 6-7 feet of line between the bobber and the business end.
The two main jig styles I use are marabou and plastic worms. I generally like the 1/8 size the most but sometimes bump that up to 1/4 in heavy water.
For general purpose steelheading, I feel the best all-around jig colors are cerise/black and cerise and white, but it’s always good to have a few other patterns on hand as well. As with most steelhead fishing, go with brighter colors when the water has reduced visibility and then tone everything down as the clarity increases. In really low, clear water, it’s hard to beat the odd-looking “Nightmare” pattern which features a white head and black and red body.
When it comes to fishing pink or nightmare worms under a float, I prefer 3- to 6-inch Mad River Worms
To learn more, check out my book, The Ultimate Guide to Steelhead Bank Fishing at AMAZON
Here’s what some of big names in the industry have been saying about it…
So, you caught some hatchery hens this season and cured the eggs up for future salmon and steelhead fishing missions…But do you know how to make sure your bait is ready to go this winter or next fall?
It’s actually one of the questions I get asked most often — what’s the best way to freeze egg baits?
Well, there are a lot of ways you can go here and the short answer is: I vaccuum seal my wet cure eggs in Mason Jars. For dryer eggs I’m going to use for drifting, I’ll go with the burrito method.
Here’s how I do it:
First, you’ll need some paper towels, plastic wrap and vaccuum sealer bags…
Then, stretch out a length of plastic wrap and place the burrito on it…
Wrap the plastic around the burrito tightly, trying to squeeze as much of the air out as possible. Just be careful to not smash the eggs…
Next, get a vac bag ready. Be sure to label it with a Sharpie so you know what’s in there when you pull it out weeks or months down the road…
Now, fill the bag with as many burritos you think you’ll need in a session. I use the Oliso brand because they have a zipper end that allows you to take stuff out and then reseal the bag up to 10 times…
The next step is to place the bag in the freezer (unsealed). When the baits are frozen solid, put your vac packer on the “moist” setting if it has one and suck the air and then seal the bag shut. If you vacuum the eggs before they are frozen, they will turn to mush.
On a similar note, be sure to either open (or cut a hole) in the sealer bags when you take the burritos out to thaw. If left in the sealed bag, the eggs will expand upon thawing and you’ll end up with mushy goo (not good).
Follow these easy steps and you’ll have good eggs ready to fish when you need ‘em.
For more Steelhead fishing tips and techniques, check out my massive eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Steelhead Bank Fishing
Like many steelheaders, I have become a firm believer in the effectiveness of beads (especially when fished under a float) over the past several years. There’s no denying that there are times when they work better than anything else.
Up to this point, all of my bead use has been with the hard plastic variety…but I have been noticing more and more anglers using soft plastic beads as well. I’m always game to learn some new tricks, so I decided to dig a little deeper into this whole “soft egg” concept and recently talked with Brandon Wedam of BnR Tackle.
Wedam is a die-hard steelhead fisherman and his outfit manufactures and sells a wide array of soft beads that have become very popular in the coldwater world. I asked him what he thinks the advantages of using soft beads are.
“Hard beads work great but I think there are times when the soft ones can work better,” he says. “It seems like they have an edge on pressured fish — especially in low, clear conditions.”
He believes that the soft feel of the beads in those situations may contribute to the fish hanging on just a bit longer.
“Im starting to hypothesize that with beads there are lots of nips and near misses, says Wedam. “With the soft ones they are more likely to carry it around for a longer period of time. Catch some trout on them and you’ll see that first hand. The bobber will dance and the trout will be down there just chewing away — they really hold on.”
Wedam says that soft beads are neutrally buoyant so they drift in a more natural fashion than the hard ones do, which can help produce more bites when the fish are being difficult.
Another cool advantage of soft beads, particularly the ones in BnR’s system, is you can switch out sizes and colors without having to do any cutting or retying. That’s pretty sweet considering I normally have to cut my leader at the swivel and then side the bead and stop off if I want to switch.
“I like to fish some small, tight water where you know the fish are going to see your bead,” he says. “If I don’t get bit on the first cast or two, I can easily switch out colors and give the fish another look.”
There are plenty of rigging and fishing options for soft beads. Of course, bobber-doggin’ is one of the deadliest methods, but some folks are also finding that drift fishing with them (pegged) is really effective also. You can also use them as a dropper behind a yarn ball.
BnR’s rigging system is pretty nifty. With the basic method, you start by sliding a rubber bobber stop down the line 2-3 finger widths above the hook. Then you slide one of the clear plastic bead sleeves (included) down on top of the stop. Thread the hook through the hole in the bead and then slide the bead up over the stop and sleeve and you are done. Reverse the process if you want to change beads.
Wedam is always tweaking and improving his technique and has found that adding a small sequin between the bobber stop and bead will help keep the bead from sliding down onto the hook in heavy water — particularly when you are using larger sizes, from 12mm on up. That rigging takes the quick change aspect out of play but is sometimes necessary when fishing in strong current.
So, when do beads shine? Wedam likes them when the water is getting a little too clear to use yarnies — say 3 feet and up.
“Having said that, however, a lot of guys are now telling me that they are catching fish on the huge 14mm and 16mm beads in clear water,” he says. “That’s messing with my mind a bit!”
Those same 16mm soft beads are also gaining a loyal following among anglers fishing in high and off-color water. He says that adding scent in those conditions isn’t a bad plan. You can put some soft beads in a Zip-Loc and marinate them overnight in your favorite stink sauce and the plastic will soak a lot of it up. Most of the time, however, Wedam goes scentless.
As I mentioned earlier, the drift fishing crowd is reporting excellent success with pegged soft beads and more and enterprising anglers seem to be coming up with all sorts of cool new applications al the time.
In recent seasons, I have been finding that kings and silvers will also gobble up larger hard beads fished under floats. I asked Wedam about that and he said that he’s getting the same story from quite a few of his customers. Of course, the smaller sizes also work great for stream trout.
I’m excited to experiment with soft beads this season and see how they work for me. They sure seem to have several really attractive attributes.