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Drift Fishing for Clearwater River Steelhead

February 7th, 2011 @

Drift fishing is an art form practiced throughout all steelhead rivers, also known as “corkie” fishing. Possibly more fish are caught on this technique in the Pacific Northwest than any other fishing method. An angler that masters drift fishing is considered a 10-percenter, in other words, 10 percent of fishermen just seem to have a knack for catching 90 percent of the fish. It’s how I learned to catch my first steelhead.

Luck has little to do with this approach. It can be taught in a short time period by an experienced instructor or it can take years of frustration, time, and money to learn on your own. Don’t give up! You can learn this method too!

Drift Fishing Pays Off!

Drift Fishing Pays Off!

Drift fishermen today have an advantage with the newer graphite rods available. They are more sensitive than ever and improve the fisherman’s chance of feeling even the smallest tug. The following rules must be practiced to produce success in a steelhead holding area.

Let’s talk about proper rod and reel set up for the beginning drift fisherman. Start out with 8.5 or 9 foot rod rated at 8-12 pound test line. Use quality line like Trilene Big Game, Maxima Ultra Green or P-Line with your choice of reel that will handle 200 yards of your choice of line. Ten- pound test is a good place to start for coastal streams. Maybe use a 12-pound test line for larger steelhead like we have on the Clearwater River here in Idaho.

I use a black #7 barrel, sliding swivel above a black #7 crane swivel tied to my main line. I then attach the appropriate amount of pencil lead or a buck shot slinky to the sliding barrel swivel. (See the photo example.) At this point, I use 30 inches of leader and tie on a corkie and yarn with a size #3 octopus hook. Smelly Jelly will increase your success; just rub a little on your corkie and in the yarn.

Jeff Morris With A Whopper

Jeff Morris With A Whopper

If I am using bait, such as shrimp or a cluster of eggs, I use a #1 octopus hook with a slightly larger corkie to float the bait slightly off the bottom of the river. You can buy egg loops already tied at your local tackle store or try to get a friend to show you how to tie an egg loop. Good luck with that! The Internet can provide this information as well. Or you can come to one of our training classes and we will teach you how it is done.

Now let’s talk about presentation, presentation, presentation. Did I say presentation? Make sure you cast slightly up stream of your intended target, giving the lead and bait time to sink before reaching the strike zone. At this point, your drift rig should move along at almost the same speed as the river current, slightly slower in off colored water so the fish can see the bait. In clear water you should feel your lead tap every two or three seconds.

Remember steelhead strike at moving objects. Once your line enters the 12 o’clock zone begin to slowly follow your drift rig keeping your line tight enough to feel a subtle bite or if at any time your line stalls during the swing, set the hook. This could be a steelhead holding your bait in its mouth. Jerks are free! As a general rule no jerk, no fish!

Drift Fishing Tackle

Drift Fishing Tackle

Make sure your drag is set at approximately 70 percent below the poundage your line can handle and don’t touch it. Many times when a steelhead is hooked it will panic, other times it doesn’t even know it is hooked. Try to keep your line tight at all times while fighting the fish. Horsing (putting too much pressure on) a steelhead may result in a broken line, bent hooks, and swearing out loud! On the other hand, if you take a few minutes to let Mr. Steelhead do his thing and enjoy every minute of it, you will be able to control and land the fish.

Good luck and for further information or training classes contact Riverside Russ at Riverside Motel & Guide Service, 10560 Hwy 12, Orofino, ID 83544 phone (208) 476-5711.

Category : Drift Fishing &Steelhead Fishing Tips

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Contact Info

Riverside Guide Service
11360 Highway 12
P.O. Box 1369
Orofino, ID 83544

Tel : (503) 871-1339
Email : russiott@yahoo.com