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Steelhead- A proven low water setup

a nice steelhead on the bank next to a g. lloomis rod and shimano reel

a nice steelhead on the bank next to a g. lloomis rod and shimano reel

A few days ago I posted about a segment on last weekends show that focused on locating low water steelhead. So if you’re just joining in on the discussion, reading the article and listening to the segment will add some context to what we’re talking about in this post.

The float and long leader set up that I like to employ is really copied from the fly fishing world. As far as I know, the technique as implemented by gear fishermen today, started with guides in Alaska. Bead fishing was/is murder on the AK trout and gear guides simply transferred the technique to a spinning reel. I’m not sure when, but someone figured out that steelhead kinda like beads and from there it’s been off to the races. I was first introduced to the technique by long time AK guide, Ty Wyatt several years ago. I’d done lots light line float fishing, but had never taken the leader lengths out the way this approach will. From there I just began to apply my own twist to the concept. Anyone that’s done any nymph fishing at all will recognize this set up with just a different delivery method. The light set up gets surprisingly deep when needed, but will drag itself comfortably through the shallower riffles.

The setup starts with the one thing I didn’t get into in the segment because of time, but tends to be a pretty important piece of the puzzle.  I know a lot of folks out there are into the one size fits all type of gear, but once you’ve used technique specific gear, you’ll ask yourself why you waited so long. The top float fishing rod on the market right now, in my opinion is the G. Loomis 1262S IMX. The 10 1/2 foot rod offers me tons of control through a variety of conditions. It is extraordinarily light, but exhibits spooky power. It almost doesn’t make sense as you grip something that feels so insignificant in terms of weight and then watch it perform masterfully on even the largest steelhead. I could write about this rod until the cows come home, but until you’ve experience this piece of American Exceptionalism, you’re just not going to be able to truly grasp what I’m trying to lay down for you.

I pair my 1262’s with the Ci4 Stradic (not shown, that’s an older Stradic) from Shimano. This carbon fiber reel offers incredible pick up rates and balances perfectly with the IMX. I use the 3000 size, but I’ve got lots of buddies that like the 4000 for the little bit extra pick up that the larger arbor provides.

My float rods are spooled with #30 PowerPro Super Slick  and when things aren’t low and clear. I’ll run the braid all the way to the swivel, but with low clear water, I tend to shy away from sending the braid subsurface. To accomodate for this, I’ll join a 15 pound bumper of Maxima Ultra Green with an Alberto knot. You’ll want to give the knot a shot of Zap as the Super Slick is, well, like they say, slick.

Now that your mainline is ready you’ll want to get a bobber knot on your #15 Maxima. Make your own for crying out loud. The ones that are sold stink and a nail knot tool accompanied by 25 yards of #30 fly line backing will give you bobber knots for years. My terminal version of a strike indicator is a 1/2 ounce float. I use a couple different brands and find things I like and dislike about all of them. That’s another discussion though. Pair the corresponding amount of lead with the float. I like to use inline sinkers as I’m not a huge fan of egg sinkers for this application.

As I mentioned in the segment, a 7-10′ leader is what you’re after, but you’ve got a couple options as to what type of lin to use. 10′ tapered fly leaders are a great choice for this technique. The tapered leader offers you some bulk on the upper end and then tapers down to the #10 business end that you’re going to be catching all your fish with. I don’t like crimping lead, inline on the leader so I nail knot an 18″ bumper of my pre tied #8 offering to the end of the tapered leader. Allow an inch of leader to remain on you #10 side and then crimp your necessary split shot to this tag end.

So what are we fishing with you ask? And the answer is, everything! This set up is great for micro worms, beads, yarnies and even my favorite, small dime size clusters of eggs.

The beauty about this set up is that you’re going to be able to fish any holding water on the river and in a manner that’s going to catch fish. Mess around with the set up a bit and I’m sure you’ll find variations that work even better for you. I think that’s half the fun.

As I mentioned earlier, if you haven’t read or listened to the segment where I talk about the “where” part of the equation, you’ll want to check out; Steelhead- Finding them in low water.

Would you like to go fishing? Simply contact me with an email or by phone at 503.680.6809.