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Steel Yourself: The Run's On

Steel Yourself: The Run's On

Steelhead Chronicles

My good friend Stan Blood e-mailed me today. He was on Michigan's Big Manistee River yesterday and popped  "nine incredibly bright silver steelhead."  (Lucky son of a...)

They're starting early, boys. All this rain in the north country has river levels up for a change. Silver bullets are making their way upstream already. Time to repair waders, put new line on the reels, sharpen some hooks, and paint some jigs. Being a float fisherman, I rely on premium hooks or small jigs a lot. Jigs keep plastics, wax worms, or spawn bags down in the flow. They work in all conditions, but especially when the water gets cold and steelhead stop moving to intercept baits.

The box shown here is a Plano model #3582. It's a fly box with a clear top that lets me glance inside without having to open it. That way I can see if the color I want is in there. Steelhead are the most color-conscious creatures I know of. Martha Stewart has nothing on these guys. Every jig in the box is custom made to my specs by TC Tackle (406/683-5485). I use 1/64- and 1/32-ounce ball-head versions with size #8 to size #6 hooks for the most part.

Every jig in the box is painted with nail polish. That's one thing I do to get ready this time of year — put nail polish on jigs. Easy stuff. Paint on a coat, let it dry, paint on a second coat, let it dry overnight, and put on a clear coat like Sally Hanson's Hard-As-Nails. Nowhere can you find more shades to color jigs with than in the nail-polish section of your local department store. Caution: You will never know when to quit trying new colors. Even skin tones with goofy names like Taupe Drawer can become the hottest colors in your box. Shades of mauve that steelhead cannot possibly find in nature will score double-digit catches when those primary colors you buy at the tackle shop are sucking tailpipes.

And have fun at the store, boys. (The help will be curious, believe me. Just have fun with it. If you're not married, it's better than a dating service. If you're married, enjoy the fact that a beautiful young woman wants to talk to you. If you're gay, you're probably more familiar with that isle than the help anyway.)

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