Rushing, crashing, thundering, raging rivers. Look for the pocket water, where the current is blocked by outcroppings, points, and inside bends. Steelhead will be there this time of year. The salmon are gone, and the big 'bows that followed them upriver will be moving into the current after rain events. And, boy, have we had rain events. My friends and family in Alaska are taking inventory after what might be the worst storm since records were first kept there (113 years). A few weeks ago it was snowing in Virginia. And, after more than a decade of low, bone-dry rivers during late autumn in Michigan, the rivers are up and steelhead fishing is on fire.
In pocket water on fast rivers, bait is seldom required. This is where the yarn fisherman excels. The best way to fish yarn is with an egg loop, also called a bumper knot. Select a color, cut a 1-inch piece of yarn, slip it into the loop, and pull on the leader. Trim the yarn, fluff it into the shape of an egg cluster and start fishing. Easy to change colors this way.
The knot selected here is from Fintalk.com, one of many great sources for finding knot illustrations and videos on the internet.
The egg loop is ideal for fishing with skein — salmon or trout eggs still adhering to the meniscus that holds them together inside the female until she's ready to spawn. Skein is toughened up with some kind of cure, generally involving borax. My good friend Mark Chmura (despite the fact that I'm prejudiced, Mark is easily one of the best salmon-steelhead guides on the planet) uses Pautzke Bait Co.Fire Cures. "I like the pink," he says. Ok. He likes the pink. Mark ties an even easier egg loop but doesn't post a diagram of it. You'll just have to call him up and climb aboard his river jet on the Big Manistee River. He'll show you the knot, but there are better reasons. I've had some of the best steelheading days of my life on Mark's boat. When fishing is tough, you can count on him to find fish other guides can't.
Whatever egg-loop knot you settle on, try it in fast water. No need to kill fish for bait in these situations. Add some scent, maybe (I use Dr. Juice from Blue Fox most of the time, but some new, space-age scents are popping up that I'll be blogging about shortly). And don't mat the yarn down with it — just put a drop on the knot and apply some of that to the hook. No need to waste bait here. Yarn's the ticket in rushing, thundering, crashing...'nuff said.