Pegging a bead to the leader (upper right corner of photo) is nothing new for most beads for steelhead fishermen that have been to Alaska. We first tried it with friend and guide Dennis Daily at Bernie Golling's Rocky River Lodge and later on the Anchor River , both in Alaska.
On the Rocky, with pinks and silvers running, we could step into the flow anywhere, bend down, scoop up some gravel in our hands, and find salmon eggs. We then matched the eggs in our hand to our bead box to select the closest hue.
The steelhead at right was taken with a bead on the Anchor River. Hard-fighting steelhead often force the bead up the line by racing upriver at 26 feet per second, as the photo demonstrates.
Single eggs are what steelhead see most of the time when hovering under broken water just downstream of spawning salmon. Imitating the size and color of the most prolific eggs in the system just makes sense.
Using a toothpick or a plastic peg, the bead is pegged about 2 inches above a size #8 to size #4 hook (my favorite is the Owner Mosquito Hook). In Alaska I used a 10-pound Ande Fluorocarbon leader. The leader was about 3 feet long, connected to a small SPRO barrel swivel. Enough Thill Soft Shot was applied to the line above the swivel to properly balance with a Thill River Master Float.
The river was low and clear. Steelhead were hugging a narrow trough of deeper water along the far bank, and I managed to hook 5 and land 3 in the run I was fishing.
Many Midwestern steelheaders wondered if the tactic would work in their home waters. Well, too many guides work in Alaska during summer and Michigan during winter for the tactic to be ignored in the Wolverine state. Guides and their clients are doing it already. Successfully. We hooked a number of fish by pegging single beads to our leaders on Michigan rivers a few weeks ago. More on that tomorrow.