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Float-fishing: 10 tips for catching more steelhead
I'm by no means the best trout angler but I've been around the rivers for over 25 years and I guess I've learnt a thing or two along the way. I've noticed there's a few newbies on the forum requesting tips and in the spirit of goodwill I thought I might share some tips that have helped me.
Here are my Top 10 tips for catching steelhead float fishing.
10.Give to the river
It's good Karma. Whether it's donating your time or money to your favourite association or picking up some garbage each time you fish, give and you shall receive.
9.Hire a guide
It's worth the money. What you'll learn from a knowledgeable guide will fast track you on the path to success.
8.Learn the centre pin
It takes a bit of getting used to but you'll hook and catch way more fish.
I like to stand on a rock if I can to get a good vantage point of the drift. In general I try to position myself in such a way that I get the most natural drift possible in the areas I expect there fish to be holding, i.e. usually the top or bottom end of a pool.
Holding back or trotting at the beginning of your drift can make sure the fish see your bait before the rest of your rig. Following the bubble lines with your float straight up and down can ensure you have the most natural presentation possible.
5. Right rig.
I tie my high vis mainline to my shot line via a micro swivel and then my shot line to the my leader with another micro swivel. I start with larger weight (size AB or BB) closer to top of my shot line and get smaller as a go down (no. 1 or no. 4 shot). I'm careful to match the amount of weight to the size float I'm using. My float is attached by tubing above my first weight and I'll slide it up or down above or below the top swivel depending on the depth I'm drifting. I'll use bulkier floats for faster/choppier water and longer/thinner floats for slow water. Medium bulk floats are good for most conditions. I'll also adjust my weights, for example, sliding most closer to the bottom swivel in faster water when I want the bait to get down faster. I usually use 0.20 mm diameter fluorocarbon for the leader but if conditions are clear I'll go 0.18mm or in dirtier water 0.22 mm. I also use fluorocarbon for my shot line, a thicker diameter than my leader but less than my mainline . My shot line is usually about 3-4 ft in length and my leader about 12-24 inches, again depending. I'll sometimes tie a second leader directly onto the hook of my first leader to drift 2 baits simultaneously i.e. bead/fly at the top and bag/worm/pinkie at the bottom to increase my odds at success. I like using sedge hook in sizes 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16, generally fishing smaller hooks and smaller baits in clearer conditions.
I use fresh roe often brown or speckled trout roe which you can buy on-line and I use a variety of scarf colors, more natural in clearer conditions. Cotton candy pink, white and chartreuse seem to be my best producers. I generally use small roe sacks about dime sized but in other waters golf ball sized roe sacks can be most productive. I also carry many types of beads in various colours and sizes. A 6 mm peach bead is my best producer in clear waters. I also have a variety of flies, plastic and lives worms on me at all times. Chumming a pool with excess roe can stir the fish into action.
If I know I have the right presentation I generally won't try one bait for more than 5-10 drifts. This could mean changing to a different size/color roe sack or bead for instance. I make multiple adjustments to weight distribution and distance between float to bait to make sure I have that perfect drift before moving on to a different bait. Having a 'tackle tamer' with multiple pre-tied leaders helps to change baits quickly and smoothly.
I find if a particular pool is going to produce a fish or more it usually does so early on. If you've tried a few different presentations and adjustments and no fish, move to the next spot it might just be where most of the fish are that day.
Knowing one or two rivers very well and how they fish under various conditions may be better than river hoping and not really understanding any particular river very well. Timing runs, especially in the fall, is key. Know your flow charts (google Ontario River Data) so you can predict when the river becomes fishable after a heavy rain, just as it clears up is generally the best time to fish.
I hope this helps. It would be cool to hear your tips and please feel free to add any questions, comments, or criticisms.
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