If this is your first time going on a guided trip please let us welcome you to the exhilarating world of Salmon and Steelhead Fishing! Assuming you are new to this sport, a gear trip will be best suited for you. Gear fishing applies some of the simplest and most effective techniques used to catch Salmon or Steelhead with allowing us to specifically cater the trip to you and your skill level. Some of the other fishing styles offered by LPJ’s Guide Service take a bit more one on one time and provide a great challenge, but they are not best suited for children. If your child has an interest in fishing this is the ticket for you! In the following paragraphs you will be given a brief description of the top gear fishing techniques so that you may have a better idea of what to expect during your trip.
There are many techniques that can bring fish after fish into the boat but none take 90% of the angler error out of the equation and put a fish on your rod better than pulling plugs. A plug is a lure that has a similar curve to a banana with two large hooks attached. On the inside bend of the plug ( banana ) there is a swivel attached to a hook and at the butt end of the plug there is another hook on a swivel as well. The front end of the plug or where you would start peeling your banana is a rounded curved edge with an eyelet that your line is attached to. When either the boat is on anchor or while in motion your guide will instruct you to remove the plug from the hook holder along side the rod and place into the water.
When pulling plugs a rod is placed into a rod holder mounted on the boat, the river current pulls the angled lip of the plug down near the river bottom where fish are holding. As your guide slowly rows down river the lure is backed down into the fish and either from aggression or a feeding instinct the fish strike, pulling the rod down violently to alert you that a fish is indeed on your line. At this point it is up to you to remove the rod with the fish on it, out of the holder and bring the fish to the boat for your guide to place into the net.
In-line Float Fishing with Bobber & Egg
Why we fish with Salmon Eggs is a very common and great question to ask. Using Salmon eggs retrieved from previously caught fish uses something that is from their natural environment after the spawning cycle and does not disturb or spook the fish we are targeting, if presented correctly. Float fishing for King Salmon is the most effective way to catch numerous fish and bring in the big ones! The setup for float fishing is fairly simple and throughout the reading we will explain the components that make up our rig from top to bottom.
You will be given a 10’ rod and and a choice of an open faced or level wind reel. Following from your reel to the first guide on your pole is a bobber stop that can be adjusted to the desired depth we are targeting the holding King Salmon. At different places in the river you will be instructed to change your bobber stop to keep the eggs near the bottom but not be in contact with it. Following the bobber stop is a float, which is above an inline weight that your leader with hook and eggs are attached to. Using this method will put a rod in your hand and allow you to cast into places your guide instructs you the fish are. Casting, mending or managing your line and recognizing when your float goes down will be your responsibility and with careful coaching from your guide you will have repeated success. When the float goes down below the waters surface from being pulled down by a fish, reel until all slack line is removed and set the hook with a swift powerful upward stroke. You have just connected with one of the Pacific Northwest’s best and now its time to enjoy the fight and lead the fish to the boat.
If this is your first attempt or have never caught a steelhead and are looking to catch more fish this technique will perform better than any other. The reason for this is the amount of water you can cover and fish effectively with minimal casting. More time in the water = MORE FISH! Bobber dragging is a style of float fishing that is performed while the boat is in motion and not typically on anchor. As you begin your morning and are given a rod to Bobber Drag with the set up may be completely unfamiliar so this will give you a brief description of what to expect. The main thing you need to know is that you are fishing a fixed bobber on a 10’ 6” rod that cannot be adjusted to the depth of the river. Your bobber does not need to be adjusted because there is maximum depth the majority of steelhead hold at and we will not target those fish with this technique. Next, there is a section of line your bobber will move on until it reaches the fixed bobber stop. Connected to that section of line is a three-way swivel with a small straight weight attached. Finally a shorter section of line tied to the swivel with your bait or lure tied to it, called a leader is what will reach the fish. With those moving parts working together and your bobber in the fixed position on top of the water the river current will drag everything attached along the river bottom where the steelhead hold. There are a couple of key components that come into play and need to be managed by you to become an effective angler when Bobber Dragging.
First is casting and placing your gear in a position tight enough to the bank where your gear will enter a steelheads world making it possible for a strike. In the game of steelheading 6 INCHES IS A MILE if you are not close enough to where the fish feels safe. A steelhead will not risk his safety for an easy meal and because of that you will encounter a situation where you have made a cast and immediately your guide will instruct you to reel up a cast again to get closer to the spot the steelhead is holding.
The second part of being an effective Bobber Dragger is being able to mend your line while your bobber is being dragged by the current, giving enough slack to let it fish naturally with the river flow. Not enough slack will move the bobber and gear from where you placed it near the bank or other defined structure. Too much slack will move your gear freely in the river currently but will not give you the ability to have control when either grabbed by a fish or near structure that will break your leader off. Being able to react quickly to whatever the river presents to you is crucial when employing this technique.
The simplest and sometimes the hardest part of Bobber Dragging is self control. The control you will need is to REEL UNTIL YOU FEEL! Meaning, when your bobber is pulled down by a fish you must have the self control to NOT SET THE HOOK and reel until your line becomes tight to the fish AND THEN swiftly set the hook allowing the barb to penetrate. Setting the hook does not need to be done with all the power you would use float fishing to hook a large chinook or coho. The hooks we use to catch steelhead are much smaller and if the hook is set too hard you have the possibility of pulling the hook out of the fish shortly after the strike.
Once you have connected with the fish of your dreams get ready for the fight of your life! A steelhead is the most powerful fish that swims from river to ocean and back again. They are very, very fast and often catch air showing their acrobatic skills when above water. If you can keep your excitement contained while watching this show keeping your line tight and navigating them around structure you can let out all your joy when they hit the bottom of the net. At this moment you have just landed one of the worlds most beautiful creatures and now have the chance to take a photo with your prized catch!
Twitching Jigs & Casting Spinners
When in search of the hard fighting and great tasting Coho Salmon and sometimes the surprise Chinook no technique is better than Twitching Jigs or Casting Spinners. Both techniques allow you to fish water that is not fished effectively using the others mentioned. Being able to fish whatever type of water the river may present to us is the key to success and at LPJ’s Guide Service we use everything that will get the job done! Below you will be given a short description of the top coho catching techniques and what will be asked of you when the rod is in your hand.
Twitching a jig is done with our shortest rods, a 7’ 6” fairly stout bass style rod you may have seen in the past and a spinning or open face reel. Tied to your line there is a heavy weighted jig that has feathers or rabbit fur attached to it for attraction. You will be instructed by your guide to cast into water where coho typically hold and allow it to either fall to the bottom or get fairly close. Once the jig has reached the desired depth you will need to “TWITCH” the jig. Twitching the jig requires you to hold your rod at the 10 O’Clock position and very quickly snap the jig from the bottom and then allow it to fall back to the bottom freely as if no line is attached to the lure. 95% of the Coho will grab the jig as it freely falls back to the bottom and at the second you feel the strike you will need to set the hook swiftly into the fish. Usually when a Coho is hooked it immediately does a death roll that resembles what you may have seen a crocodile do on the Discovery Channel. It is very exciting to see a chrome fish roll under the waters surface but the upcoming moments are important and there are still a couple of things you will need to do. With the fish now on the end of your line you will need to keep the line tight by lifting your rod while also reeling to not allow slack in the line. This is necessary so they do not roll the line around their body potentially pulling the hook out of their mouth. After a couple of fast paced minutes the fish will tire and you will be able to lead the fish to the boat for your guide to place in the net.
Casting Spinners is done with the same rod used for Twitching Jigs and letting it fall near the bottom is similar as well. The difference between a Spinner and a Twitching Jig is that a Spinner is dragged though the water slowly as the blade turns while a Twitching Jig is jerked though the water swiftly. After the Spinner has reached the desired depth you will need to point your rod directly to your lure at the 8 O’Clock position and slowly reel it back to you until it reaches the side of the boat. On one of your retrieves a coho will grab your Spinner and act in the same manner as if hooked with a Twitching Jig. When fishing a Spinner there will be no doubt that a fish is on your line so all that needs to be done by you after the strike is to lift your rod setting the hook into the fish further and bring the fish to the boat.
Fire up the Grill!
Of all the techniques used for salmon fishing Back Bouncing may be the most difficult for a new angler to employ because of the recognition of the Salmon bite but can work when all others will not. The advantage of Back Bouncing is that it can reach and stay in some of the deepest holes in the river where the largest fish hold. The back bouncing set-up is fairly simple and only has a few parts to the system. This technique is performed with an 8’ very stiff rod and a level wind reel. The stiffness of the rod is required to allow you to lift up and back down the heavy weight that will be attached to the end of your rod down the river. First, attached to the main line coming from your reel there will be a three-way swivel and a short piece of line that is connected to a weight on the eye of the swivel facing down. On the other end of the swivel directly in-line with the line coming from your reel there will be a leader with a hook and eggs attached.
Now that we have covered the basic set-up of back bouncing there are a few important things the angler with the rod in his hand must do. After placing your weight and eggs in the water along side the boat there is a button on your level wind reel you must push to release line that will allow your weight and eggs to fall to the bottom of the river. When you feel the weight reach the bottom you will need to place your thumb on the line and lift the weight up off the bottom then gently remove your thumb from the line but with light contact still letting line come out. The river current will pull the weight and eggs down river to where the salmon are holding. You will wait 5 to 10 seconds between every lift of your bait and on one of your moves down river or while it is sitting stationary you will feel a slow pull from a fish or a hard grab. When you can feel either situation happening on the end of your line you will need to engage the reel by turning the handle and swiftly set the hook with a powerful upward stroke. Following the hook set you will feel head shakes from the fish you have hooked and with heavy line tied to fairly large hooks you should have no trouble bringing the Salmon to the boat. You have just mastered one of the most complex techniques in Salmon Fishing.