Walking A Tight Llne For Steelhead

Walking A Tight Llne For Steelhead

Notice how red the tag alder is? Mornings have been cold, but the afternoon sun is activating plant growth, creating snow and ice melt, sending water levels upward, and driving intelligent anglers upstream.

Creeks rise, carry muddy water, and dump it into the river. The farther downstream you go, the cloudier the water gets. So the reverse is true, suggesting a sojourn upstream, where trout can see whatever you're offering from a greater distance.


The previous post revolved around color selection in spring conditions, when water is often rising or higher than normal. In spring the goal is often described as creating a visible target, but the "tightline" is a matter of size: How big of a target will they accept?


The answer, often enough, is "surprisingly big" in rising, cloudy water. As examined here in the past few months, steelhead will take hair jigs, flies, and minnowbaits in excess of 5 inches long even in low, clear water. But those presentations are actively worked, triggering through reflex. Float fishing is different. It's a form of seduction. Steelhead can swim along with one of our presentations for 100 feet — often twice that.


Vision is only a small part of the equation. Triggering scents, motions, profiles, displacement, and other factors come into play. The discussion on triggering strikes from steelhead by teasing a certain action through puppetry with a float is long, and deserves an article in print.

The discussion on optimum size is equally important. Lures and flies that trigger with size, flash, thump, and water displacement can be much bigger than anything presented in a manner that might be called natural. Natural presentations drift at the speed of the current in that segment of the water column that the bait is travelling in. Not, in other words, at speeds exhibited by the current on top of the stream. Where the float is.

Which suggests manipulation. Steelhead can stare at objects suspended under floats for much longer periods of time. And the things being duplicated by whatever is being drifted under a float are not expected to snap forward, speed up excessively, jerk, or otherwise misbehave. Worms, nymphs, free-drifting eggs and such are somewhat to severely limited in mobility. Best to keep motion to low-energy quivering and twitching.


Did I mention how important puppetry can be? A deft hand at long-distance line and float control is the 10% solution. A dead drift at current speed is the 90% solution. Still, 10% means 10 more steelhead over every 100 opportunities.

If the water is too cloudy, head upstream, above inflowing creeks, monitoring clarity at bridges and along river drives on the way. I stop when I can see my foot 18 inches to 2 feet below the surface. Nice to have some cloudiness. Steelhead allow you to approach much closer. If they can't see you, you don't exist.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

Spring walleye fishing often means large numbers of fish concentrated in small areas. Walleye

Spring Walleye Fishing Tackle Choices

Steve Ryan - October 19, 2017

Spring walleye fishing often means large numbers of fish concentrated in small areas.

Catfish is meaty, juicy and holds up well in this soul-satisfying fried fish recipe with homemade chips and tartar sauce. Fish Recipes

Catfish Dinner with Homemade Chips and Tartar Sauce Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Catfish is meaty, juicy and holds up well in this soul-satisfying fried fish recipe with...

This is not your run-of-the-mill fish recipe! Buttery, savory pecans are seasoned up to make an irresistible and addictive crust for catfish fillets Fish Recipes

Pecan-Crusted Catfish Fillets Recipe

Emilie Bailey

This is not your run-of-the-mill fish recipe! Buttery, savory pecans are seasoned up to make...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Lure Lock Options Includes LED Light Boxes & More

Lure Lock Options Includes LED Light Boxes & More

Pro angler Jonathan VanDam showcases new offerings at ICAST 2019, including the ultra-thin, big bait boxes, LED-lighted boxes and backpack-able gear lockers. With Game & Fish Editorial Director Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2019 in Orlando.

What

What's New from Cummings Nets?

There's more than meets the eye with new Cummings Nets Red Line. Find out what. With Mike Powell of Cummings and Game & Fish Editorial Director Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2019 in Orlando.

Spawntime World Class Crappies

Spawntime World Class Crappies

Doug Stange and Brandon Fulgham illustrate spawntime crappie patterns on one of North America's most famous fisheries.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

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...

It was an August evening and I was wading the flats in Brewster, MA with my cousin. Here you can Other Fish

Must-Have Striped Bass Tackle

Rick Bach - May 04, 2017

It was an August evening and I was wading the flats in Brewster, MA with my cousin. Here you...

To guide your carp quest, we've lined up the best carp baits that are easy-to-fish natural baits and commercial options. Other Fish

Best Carp Baits Today

Dan Johnson - June 29, 2018

To guide your carp quest, we've lined up the best carp baits that are easy-to-fish natural...

See More Stories

More Trout & Salmon

We can spend a lot of money on a fine fly rod and reel, but in the end it's the fly that catches Trout & Salmon

Matching The Hatch For Selective Trout

Cathy Beck - May 05, 2015

We can spend a lot of money on a fine fly rod and reel, but in the end it's the fly that...

Lefty Kreh passed away March 14th, 2018.

In the world of fly-fishing, Lefty Kreh stands out as the Trout & Salmon

Lefty Kreh: The Man Behind The Legend

King Montgomery - May 05, 2015

Lefty Kreh passed away March 14th, 2018. In the world of fly-fishing, Lefty Kreh stands out...

Several methods are available to estimate the weight of a fish. Some use length as well as girth Trout & Salmon

Chinook Salmon Weight Conversion Chart

Dr. Rob Neumann - January 03, 2016

Several methods are available to estimate the weight of a fish. Some use length as well as...

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.