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David Johnson

Guiding in the NW and Alaska for 19 years, Degree in Fisheries, long time ifish guide

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January 29, 2016

Steelhead Hacks and Tricks

by David Johnson

Steelhead Hacks and tricks

Wow! Steelhead fishing this year has been "Off the Hook" all up and down the Oregon and Washington coasts and inland too. The early returning steelies were in the best numbers I've seen in a long time and now the brood stock fish are starting to show in great numbers too. When we can actually get clear water between all this record rains it's been game on!

We've been limiting on over 80% of our trips and there have been some nice big ones too.

As we are getting into our peak steelhead season I thought I would share in this blog n this blog a few things that will help out in little ways.

In steelhead fishing I don't like the idea of leaving a lot of lead on the river bottom if I can help so when I side drift or drift fish I usually use slinkies since they hang up so much less than pencil lead. But when it comes to float fishing I want my gear to get down fast so I stick to the old steelhead rule that says, "Nothing cuts water like lead and monofilament."

And when float fishing we don't get our lead hung up very often at all because our gear is hanging straight down from the float instead of being drug sideways like it would be with side drifting or drift fishing.

When I use pencil lead it's for float fishing and since the lead is hanging down it rarely hangs up. In fact on most days we can use the same piece of lead all day as long as it doesn't get cast into a tree.

If you want a good way to cut pencil lead without closing the hole pick up at toe nail clipper for dogs. It works great.

I have been taking a small piece of line and looping it and crimping the lead to make pre made sinkers that I can just clip onto my 3-way swivel.

When to use and when not to use fluorocarbon: Of course floro is nearly invisible under water so you have that going for you but in a lot of our fisheries that isn't too important unless we have ultra-clear conditions. But one other important property fluorocarbon has is its density. It sinks. So when I want my stuff to get down faster I tie on fluorocarbon.

I like fluorocarbon when I'm fishing from the top down, that means that most any time I'm float fishing with light gear.

If I am fishing from the bottom up (drift fishing or side drifting) I prefer mono, mono doesn't sink as fast. Maxima Ultra green is my preferred monofilament.

Ten pound usually as low as I go for winter steelhead and a lot of the time I'm using 12 or even 15 for floro.

Mark the dates on your bottles of scent so you can keep track of when they are getting old. If they are made from natural bait they can spoil and if they are of a synthetic nature sometimes they're scent can fade. Also, make sure you keep them out of sun light and keep them cool. I store my bottles of scent in the bait fridge when I'm not using them and I keep them in the cooler on the boat.

Too often I see bottles of scent in other guy's boats that are all sun faded and look 100 years old.

Under low/clear water conditions, especially if fishing pressure is heavy, don't overlook micro jigs like the 1/16 and 1/32 oz. Maxi Jig. You might think it's too small but believe me they will take these tiny jigs.

While fishing I like to pre cut my eggs and layer them between paper towels inside of a kids pencil box. It makes for easy access and closes up to keep the rain off the bait or keep the east wind from drying them out. This is also a good time to add scent if you want to.

Under most conditions my favorite eggs are bright red, the exception is in the clearest of conditions (and sometimes even in the clearest conditions too, that's why I'll carry several colors and cures) and I like orange and natural eggs in the very clear water.

I used to use those little fish pills with my eggs for color and floatation but they just added one more step to baiting up and I didn't like leaving Styrofoam pieces along the river so I started tying small yarnies to provide color and floatation to my eggs.

Want a good way to keep your leaders nice? Pre tie them and wrap them on pool noodles from the dollar store and then vacuum pack. You can make what color and leader you used and you can re-use the bags.

If the water is muddy and you just have to get out, go plunk a spin glow and shrimp or eggs in the mouth of a clear water tributary where fish will pull into.

I hope some of these things will help you out, there are a lot of fish out there, go catch some when the water is in shape.

Give me a call if you would like to book a steelhead trip. I only have a couple days left open in late March and in mid April, my personal favorite time to fish steelhead. 503-201-4292

Comments (4)

john.ishy wrote 1 year ago

Good reading, thank you for posting.

mitch184 wrote 1 year ago

Kinda curious how you tweak your yarnball so the bait sits below the yarn.

David Johnson wrote 1 year ago

mitch, hopefully in the next week I'll be doing a short video on showing how. Basically I hook the eggs on and then I wrap the loop around the back of the eggs and yarn

Frazier wrote 1 year ago

If you are not booking a trip with David you are missing out! I went last week and he put a clinic on including that beast at the top (and i am sure you were wondering....of course I let the other guy in the boat catch the big one....that is just the nice type of guy I am).

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