It was nearly a year ago, while drifting Oregon’s Wilson River, when co-worker Jarod Higginbotham hooked two steelheads on a double-rig, fished below a float. The bite was off that day, but those two steelhead and several cutthroat hadn’t gotten the message and were pulling Jarod’s float down in rapid succession while friend tackle rep Randy Woolsey and I couldn’t raise so much as a sniff.
At the time, Jarod was using a Maxi steelhead jig with a 24-inch leader extending from it to a bead rigged 2 inches above a small red hook. As he explained, with a double setup it’s important to allow your non-buoyant egg imitation to nudge bottom occasionally while drifting along in the river current.
It was only after I suggested he try a Corky drifter with its buoyancy offset by rigging it in combination with a larger hook that Jarod employed it for his two-timing steelhead rig. I remember him being more than a little excited when explaining to me how the buoyancy of the Corky helped float the hook point up (meaning he got hung on the bottom at lot less often) and how the larger hook seemed to produce more hookups per strike due to its larger point-to-shank gap.
The first time we tried it together on the Klickitat we landed four steelheads; three came on the Corky as compared to one on the Nightmare colored Maxi Jig located just 2 feet up the line. With success like this, we wondered, why not add a leader and Corky to your steelhead jig when float fishing?
Float fishing is like drift fishing in that you cast out, across and slightly upstream, pick up any slack line, and allow your float to drift through the holding water. You may need to mend your line upstream to prevent your float from skating on the surface and moving through the drift too fast. Realize that you are not fishing if your float is skating downstream, so line mending is important. If you’re a boater, you can cast to the side too, but you may find better success and eliminate all line drag by anchoring above the spot and maneuvering your bobber directly downstream from your craft.
Float fishing works best when the rivers are medium to low in height and clear in color. And although float fishing will work anywhere fish hold and is especially effective for fishing current edge. Steelhead like to hold where fast and slack water meet.
Most anglers will suspended their jig half to three-quarters of the way to the river bottom when fishing areas where the water is 8 feet or less in depth and within a few feet of bottom in deeper water.
The two-timing rig means adding a 24-inch leader to your jig — just tie it to the bend of your jig hook and slide the knot up the hook shank toward the jig head, which allows the jig to suspend below your float in a horizontal position (the fish like this jig presentation best).
Corky drifters float so it’s important when fishing one under your jig to offset the buoyancy of your Corky with a hook large enough to make it drift below your jig and the hook to tap bottom occasionally as it drifts downstream in the current.
In more turbid water or at times when fish might respond to a larger egg imitation, try a size 10 or 8 Corky rigged in combination with a size 1/0 red hook. The key here is to peg your Corky 2-3 inches above your single hook with a round tooth pick. The buoyancy of the Corky floats the hook point up so you get hung up less with it as compared to using a bead or other non-buoyant egg imitation.
This is the time of year when winter steelheads are ascending many Northwest rivers including the nearby Hood and White Salmon. Why not double your chance of success by using Jarod’s two-timing steelhead rig?