the use of jigs & floats for steelhead
By James Isdell
I would like to discuss the use of jigs and floats for steelhead. The use of jigs is very popular in Canada and is gaining popularity in the Northwest as well. Several books and articles have been written on the use of a float and jig for steelhead. Guide, Dave Vedder (Float Fishing for Steelhead Techniques and Tackle) as well as other guides will agree, that this is an exceptionally deadly terminal tackle for steelhead at certain times of the season. Actually, I have used a float and jigs while guiding on the Situk River in Yakutat Alaska. This was one lure the native run of steelhead there thought were the best thing since eggs. We were averaging 13 native steelhead per person per day with the jigs. Some days were better, some days we got a couple less, but the jig far outperformed other conventional terminal tackle, hands-down.
So, how do you use a float and jig? The best method I used is a main line coming down to a barrel swivel, tied to a leader which in turn it is tied to a jig. At the swivel, connect it with a float. If necessary, you can hang a split-shot or two between the swivel and jig to get the jig down and keep it at the desired depth. The depth of the jig is also adjustable by adjusting the position of the float on the mainline.
Jigs come in all designs, materials and colors. Floats also come in
different materials, designs and configurations. I use a plastic bobber since I
pay for the terminal tackle my clients use while I'm guiding and a 1 ¼ to 2 inch
diameter bobber works fine and is relatively inexpensive. You should experiment
with various colors and sizes of jigs. The main thing is to ensure that the
size or weight of the jig does not drag the float down into the water. The
float should act as a strike indicator as well as give the jig buoyancy in
order for the jig to move naturally through a drift. If your float is moving
ahead of your jig you need to adjust it so that the jig is drifting ahead of the
float. If you get a strike, your float will rise up in the upright position
before it goes under. This is the time to set the hook and hard. This
presentation is almost foolproof for setting the hook. If the float goes down,
more times than not, the fish has hooked itself. I have also used this method
successfully for salmon too.
By the way, the float method can also be used when you want to drift bait in drifts where there is too much trash on the bottom which won't allow a normal drift with a slinky or surgical tubing and lead. The presentation is as normal as the current itself. The main concern with this method is to get the bait at the correct depth (just above the bottom) and that the presentation is as natural as possible. The float will need to be moved up or down the mainline or through shortening the leader to correct for the length between the float and bait for a natural presentation.
By James Isdell