Steelhead Floats Q & A

Steelhead Floats Q & A

It's that time of year again. Rivers swollen with warming rain bring steelhead charging into the flow to close the circle of their life cycle on gravel bars and rocky riffles. Like the river above, brown water water is the norm in spring. When rising, brown water results from rain, we find big trout in pockets, at the heads of pools, on the insides of bends, in the places where anglers normally wade to fish, or on the break into the pool on the inside of the bend.


Rain can warm the water, apparently triggering fish to run. Unless snow persists on the banks. When rivers are swollen with snow melt, it's a different story. Snow melt cools the water. Though the water rises, fewer fish are triggered to run. Most of the fish we catch are holdovers with dark backs and bright red highlights on flanks, bellies, and gill plates — like the fish above. And they like to hold in the center of a pool, along that inside break, or in the tailouts.



In those conditions, when the water still measures 37°F or less, few tactics work so well as suspending a bead, a plastic worm, or a small baited jig under a float. Bait could be fresh steelhead spawn, wax worms, or maggots.

Every spring, I field a barrage of questions about this process. I introduced you to my good friend, Stan Blood, this winter by covering our adventure on his drift boat (Sidney). He just e-mailed to ask if I ever use slip floats for steelhead in rivers? (As opposed to piers and breakwalls, where we often use them because slip floats: 1/ Create a tighter package that cast farther, allowing  you to cover more water in expansive harbor environs; 2/ Have a bulkier profile that catches wind and slight currents, allowing the float to cover more water; and 3/ No way are you getting down 15 feet or deeper with a fixed float, unless you have a 15-foot float rod and don't have to cast very far.


Here's my answer to Stan:


Yes, we use slip bobbers in the deep runs (over 10 feet) on the Muskegon and Big Manna (two of Stan's favorite rivers) when we're on shore. No need in a boat if you have a 12- or 14-foot float rod. But a 14-foot float rod makes it hard to land fish in a boat. I say, "so what?" I still land plenty of fish. I like a fixed float because when you move it the bait moves in an arc. When you move a slip float, the line (and bait) goes straight up. Doesn't allow you to sweep baits back under the tips of fallen trees as well, doesn't reveal "up takes" as well, makes jiggling the jig (giving movement to the jig can be critical some days) problematic, and I think it makes your presentation less effective overall. Slip floats are not designed for current, but work "well enough." They're bulky and force you to use more weight than you would with a more efficient design. They get carried along by the current too fast and they're harder to "check," and checking is critical every day (slow that float down under surface current speed). But when the water's high and the fish are deep, using a 9- to 10-foot rod with a slip float is less hassle and plenty effective on a dead drift.

I always have a few Thill Pro-Series slip floats in my float vest (because they have brass grommets for easy line passage), along with the usual array of Thill River Masters, Turbo Masters, Raven, Grayling, and custom stream steelhead floats (with sleeves already slipped onto the stem, top and bottom, for stream-side efficiency). But when the water's cold and ice is forming in guides, slip floats are miserable. Ice forms on the line and won't allow passage through the float. Too many wasted drifts.

But slip floats are a tool you need to have along when rivers rise in spring.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

Blackened fish ready to serve with a side of okra and cucumber-red onion salad. This recipe is a treat! Fish Recipes

Blackened Fish Recipe

Tommy Thompson

Blackened fish ready to serve with a side of okra and cucumber-red onion salad. This recipe is...

These secrets will put more and bigger bass in your boat! Bass

Topwater Lure Secrets for Bass

Jim Edlund - April 26, 2018

These secrets will put more and bigger bass in your boat!

Balance is the goal when tipping jigs with trailers. Bass

Rigging Soft Bass Baits Correctly

Matt Straw - May 15, 2018

Balance is the goal when tipping jigs with trailers.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Berkley

Berkley's New Terminal Tackle

OSG's Lynn Burkhead and Chad LaChance, host of World Fishing Network's Fishful Thinker television show, talk about Berkley's new innovative terminal tackle being introduced at ICAST 2019.

Minn Kota's Brad Henry shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead that there's much to like in the new Minn Kota Riptide Terrova saltwater trolling motor that comes with I-Pilot and an 87-inch shaft.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is simply a matter of putting a good bait in the right in front of them. Catfish

The Best Catfish Rigs

In-Fisherman - January 11, 2018

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is...

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a powerplant that best fits your personal needs and preferences. Boats & Motors

2- Vs. 4-Cycle Outboard Motors

Dan Johnson - April 16, 2018

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a...


Spring is prime time for pike. The Prespawn and Postspawn periods offer excellent odds at catching Pike & Muskie

How To Catch Pike In Spring

Dan Johnson - April 26, 2016

Spring is prime time for pike. The Prespawn and Postspawn periods offer excellent odds at...

See More Stories

More Trout & Salmon

The In-Fisherman staff goes in search of stocked trout. Trout & Salmon

Stocked Trout Tactics

Jeff Simpson - January 01, 2016

The In-Fisherman staff goes in search of stocked trout.

The In-Fisherman staff takes you on a mission for monsters, as they cast for shallow late-season Trout & Salmon

Hawg Nation Lake Trout

Jeff Simpson - August 09, 2016

The In-Fisherman staff takes you on a mission for monsters, as they cast for shallow...

A look at the best lake trout waters on the planet. Trout & Salmon

World's Best Lake Trout Waters

Matt Straw - September 07, 2017

A look at the best lake trout waters on the planet.

See More Trout & Salmon

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×