Homegrown Jigs

When presented properly, Steelhead pay more mind to the color of your offering above anything else. Whether you choose to float or drift (yarn balls, jigs or bait), the Chrome Ghosts are more visually attuned more than you or I can ever comprehend. Yes, a third of their brain is dedicated to olfactory sensor receptors (smell), but, the proper combination of color and scent will ensure a sure fire bite from any cooperative fish.

I've had the great privilege of raising many Steelhead anglers, and have experimented with my approach to helping them land their first Steelhead. Some have accosted their first on the spoon, others have punched number one using jigs, and yet others on bait and yarn balls. Hands down, there is nothing more rewarding than watching one of my students enjoy the fullness of taking their first fish on something they made with their own hands. Powerful, provocative and shaking the inner being. For you latent anglers or weathered folk alike, today you'll be learning how to tie Bead Jigs with Reel Priorities.

Homegrown Jig Constituents

First, we lay out our materials: predrilled First Bite Beads, 1/8th ounce Aerojig heads, Hareline Dubbin Ultraviolet Krystal Flash, 15 pound Maxima Ultragreen Monofilament, Glo Bug Yarn and Singer Scissors. Make sure not to cheap out on the yarn or the scissors, as both are imperative and crucial components of any craft Steelhead related that you take to.

Cotton Candy Pink, the exact Homegrown Jig that enticed my 21st Steelhead, and first Steelhead on something produced by my own hand

About my 20th Steelhead along during season one of Steelheading, I decided the time had come to catch something crafted by my own hand. She was a small, compactly built Hatchery Hen, one that fought it's way into my heart, for the time to come. There's something scared about successfully enticing Steelhead by an offering of your own craft, something that I believe is imperative to pursue, as it positively impacts the personal growth and development of the upper echelon Steelhead angler. 

Thread two (or three) First Bite Beads onto the head of an Aerojig.

Cut a 4" strand of Glo Bug Yarn along with 3 pieces of Hareline Dubbin Ultraviolet Krystal Flash. Place the 4 pieces combined through the center of the monofilament loop, and pull the strands  lightly until they touch the first bead of the jig body.

Measure and cut one 12" strand of Maxima Ultragreen and thread it  through the bead body of the jig. Make sure to created an open loop with the monofilament, at the hook end of the jig.

Pull monofilament and materials through the two (or three) beads until snug against the jig head. Remove the piece of monofilament by pulling on a single end of the line. Wet the yarn and separate the Krystal Flash, trimming each material to desired length.

One thing I find that affects the number of floats taken under the surface each outing is not the weight of the jig head, but rather the size of the jig body along with the approach and angle of the presentation, in relation to where you believe a particular Steelhead to be sitting. Furthermore, it does help to scent your jigs naturally with Shrimp, otherwise make certain to pack along a bottle of ProCure, to mask the scent of the jig; thoroughly coat the head of the jig along with the monofilament of fluorocarbon leader material it is clinched to (thank you, Timothy Kusherets for this invaluable information).

Depending on the time of day and location of your river approach, remember to work the water close, far, fast and slow; I guarantee you'll increase the amount of fish you hook, with the jigs you tie at home.

Rock to rock. Cast by cast.

Curing Raw Prawns

Prawn Curious Steelhead

The fishing reports grown increasingly drab, few and far in between. "Steelhead Green" waters are fading, high water marks are receding, along with your level of confidence, which now hangs by a thread. Thoughts race through your mind "should I use1/16th ounce jigs" and "will the 1/8th ounce still work, though it casts a larger silhouette?" Thankfully, all of the above are valid, real and rationally approachable, despite the increasing difficulty of the pursuit.

Enter the Prawn. If you were an oxygen deprived, riffle seeking, shallow sitting, Energizer Bunny, Summer Run Steelhead, what would you want to see floating over the rock you're sitting behind? Well in the ocean (speaking as a Steelhead) "I've never seen a diced, de-shelled, de-veined, sugar cured piece of Prawn floating past my head before. I must have died already at the hatchery."

When in doubt, revert back to a natural approach, my finned friends! Yes, certain colors on certain days on certain Steelhead and in certain water conditions will always work, but if you're interested in taking the guess work out of your angling career, go natural. As a guide, I always carry a bucket of Sand Shrimp Tails, Cured Prawn and if the season permits, Cured Steelhead Eggs. If you were a Steelhead and I happened to be tossing through your piece of holding water, to your reluctance, I'd be seeing you on the other side shortly.

First, scoot your boot on down to Safeway, and pick up a tray of Raw Prawns (preferably a 41-50 count). Lay them out on the counter, make sure the window is cracked and the wife is off at book club enjoying a few glasses of Fourteen Hands.

Next, lay out your Prawns on the table, as we'll begin to remove the shells from them. Pinch the tail of the prawn between your thumb and index finger to remove the tail portion of the shell, and the latter portion of the carapace. After that, simply unwrap the portion of the shell with the legs attached, from the head (think unwrapping a Jolly Rancher).

After that, it's time to cube our pieces. Depending on how you decide to fish with your Prawns (tipping jigs, floating or drifting), you'll want to cut different sizes. Beginning from the tail, cut the pieces you intend to use to tip jigs, into four even cuts. Likewise for the cubes that you plan on using alone on the drift or float, cut each Prawn accordingly into 3 even sections; the size makes quite a difference in regards to proper presentation.

Now if you haven't diced off a finger or two by now, you have my admiration, since the fun part begins. Rummage around for a  quart sized, zip sealing bag, some cane sugar and 20 Mule Team Borax. Toss the diced Prawn in to the bag, pile on two tablespoons of cane sugar and shake it like you shake your Camouflage Shake Weight. After that, pile on the Borax; make sure each cube is completely saturated. Let the strange concoction sit for 10 hours in your refrigerator.

After the 10 hour saturation period has ended, separate the sugar and Borax mixture from the Prawn. Toss the old mixture, grab a fresh zip sealed bag and place a fresh bed of Borax, along with the single cured batch of diced Prawn into the fresh bag. Let mixture stand in the refrigerator until ready to use. Personally, I enjoy the double Borax process due to the fact it makes the Prawn "rough neck" tough, and creates a consistency that increases the efficacy of each Prawn fished. I repeat, these things are tough.


Raw Prawns, 41-50 Count

De-shelled, Neatly Stacked Prawns

Precision Cut, Raw Prawns

Cane Sugar, 20 Mule Team Borax  & 10 Hours

There seems to be some discrepancy between "fresh Prawn" and "cooked Shrimp;" I've personally caught on both of them, and simply enjoy this version the most. Find what works for you, and fish what you're confident in. Of more economical and effective ways to fish for Steelhead, there are few. If you take these few extra steps of preparation, prior to your next outing, I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Systematic Jig Fishing

Eighth Ounce Aerojigs

You walk up to a fishing line. Guys are throwing pink, orange, cerise, nightmare and a combination of all of the colors, thereof. How are you supposed to approach this situation? A valid question indeed, one which we're going to explore.

When you fish a line of anglers, I guarantee you there are Steelhead that are sitting there, nearly always. Whether or not anyone is going to catch those Steelhead is a completely different story.  This is when people start catching on strange things, like green headed, yellow and cerise bodied jigs, and excessively large offerings. Why?

First, let me tell you how to approach the water, and why.  I've tuned into the following colors, to systematically work water and with an extremely high success ratio; in the medium flows of summer, I'll fish 1/8th ounce jigs, while later on in the season, I'll use longer leaders and 1/16th ounce jigs.  The order goes like this: white, nightmare and cerise or orange. That's it. We start with white, because it is an extremely noninvasive color, and Steelhead love white. What does it represent in the ocean? Possibly a food source, though I do know they love the color. Oh yeah, and remember to tip your jigs with either cocktail or sand shrimp tails.

After that, I believe in throwing the nightmare pattern (my favorite is a peach head, red body, peach yarn tuft and black tail) in order to generate more of a curiosity bite. If they're not hungry, throw them something leaning towards the neutral side, that will stoke their curiosity. Since Steelhead do not have hands to feel, guess what they use instead?

Number 2 Laser Sharp Octopus Hook, Small Glass Bead, Holey Worm 3.5", 3" Offset & 10 Millimeter Hematite Bead

Now, when all options have been exhausted (every jig color, spoons, drift gear, floating bait, drifting bait, spinners) it's time to activate the aggravation bite. In my experience guiding, this is when the almighty, trip saving pink worm comes out. They do not want to eat this. They are not curious about this; the worm is extremely invasive, and they will do everything in their power to remove it from their territory.  What this oftentimes results in is pulling stale fish, and picking the most aggressive fish out of the bunch. Get ready and hold on, because you're about to have your arm wrenched off.

Early Morning Chrome Ghosts

If you're an advanced jig fisherman, give this technique a shot on your next outing, and stick to 1/16th ounce jigs. If you're a neophyte, pick up a bucket of sand shrimp and 1/8th ounce jigs and pound away your favorite known water; remember that depth is very important here as well.