Jig Fishing Winter Steelhead
There's nothing more relaxing than spending a day outside in the crisp morning air surrounded by snow covered mountains beside a briskly flowing river. Nothing can elevate this scene with adrenalin filled action for the winter angler faster than a chrome winter steelhead!
Fishing jigs for steelhead is not new but something that every serious angler should have in their bag of tricks. There's nothing quite like a rabbit fur or marabou jig pulsating in the chilled winter water to turn on lethargic steelhead holding in the slow choppy runs. The site of a shiny bead and rippling feathers will at times turn on the stalest of steelhead and turn the fishermans rod into a dancing wand in no time at all.
I like to fish brightly coloured bead head jigs about a foot off of the bottom under a float using a dead drift in the winter months to entice a prime steely. Top producing colour combos for me are pink/white or a cerise beaded jig through the tempting pools of a winter river. Steelheading can be a hunting game more than any other river fishery and I tend to fish through the pools quickly but systematically. Starting close into shore at the head of the run and working my way down in a grid fashion covering the available holding water. A pink/white rabbit jig is my usual go to lure to start the day off but I wont hesitate to try other combos of colours if the fish are choosing to be picky. Beaded jigs are quickly becoming a favourite of mine as the addition of beads above the pulsating fur really adds some eye appeal to an otherwise very effective technique when the standbys are not turning the fish on. Another favourite is to use a pink worm jig! Yes that's right, a pink worm on a jig. Sliding a 3" section of pink worm under a white or pink schlappen collared jig can really drive those cold water metal head crazy at times, particularly the more aggressive wild fish. This is also a very effective set up when the water gets some good colour to it as the bright florescent worm will be quite visible to the fish in the limited visibility conditions.
It is very easy to get set up for steelhead using jigs. Only a minimum of gear is required and is easy to assemble. To start off you will need to attach a float to your 10 - 15 lb mainline. I prefer a slim profile float about ½" x 6". Under the float I will attach 3 or 4 split shot and a swivel. To the end of the swivel about 18" of 6 - 12lb leader line and a pink/white 1/8oz jig. That's it. See how simple it is? Although it would be possible to fish the same set up all day long I like to come prepared with several different styles of jigs and a few extra floats should I happen to make an errant cast or 2 during the course of the day. A dozen jigs, 2 floats, a hand full of split shot, a spool of leader line or two and its off to the river for a days work. No bulky bait boxes or leader boards getting in the way and no aching back at the end of the day carrying too much gear that will never get used anyways. Hopefully the only thing that aches at the end of the day is your arms from the fight of a good fish!
Catching a steelhead can be just that easy. Covering lots of water with a highly effective lure while keeping the overhead costs and burdens to a minimum. Now that's my idea of a good time on the river.