STEELHEAD FLOAT FISHING by Jim Butler

STEELHEAD FLOAT FISHING by Jim Butler

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Steelhead, ranging in size from four to over 30 pounds, are one of the finest game fish to be found in the entire world. They are very strong and fast, with a desire to jump spectacularly when hooked, which places them at the top of the list of the most exciting fresh water fish in North America. As migratory fish steelhead force the angler to become a hunter with a rod. The better informed you are concerning steelhead biology, habits and needs, the more successful you will be. Steelhead Float Fishing treats in depth some of the finest angling techniques available for steelhead throughout their entire range--creeks and rivers from Alaska to California and in many of the famous tributaries of the Great Lakes, where steelhead are also very abundant after having been imported from the Pacific Coast in the last century. If you take the author's lifetime-learned steelhead information to heart you have the potential of seriously increasing your steelhead hooking success and becoming a master of the sport. Steelheaders are a breed apart, enjoying a sport that can be compared with the most challenging hunting in the world, but its wonderfully rewarding experiences are as close as the nearest appropriate river.

8 1/2 x 11, 80 pages

Excerpt from "Steelhead Float Fishing" by Jim Butler

Perhaps one of the greatest goals that a steelheader can achieve is obtaining an intimate working knowledge of the rivers he frequents.

Steelhead rivers both large and small seem to adhere to a regime of pools, riffles, runs, and flats, and they generally meander through valleys until reaching their final destinations.

These physical features are found within all watersheds and are primarily developed by two principal forces. These forces are gravity and friction. As water moves downstream (gravity) it slows and bounces (friction) off in-stream obstructions such as boulders, rocks, fallen trees, and the riverbank itself. This, of course, carves out pools, riffles and runs which steelhead utilize for holding, migration, and spawning.

It is the peak discharge in spring though that forms the actual river features and the base flow that maintains them.

As a river flows downstream it generally does so with side-to-side and lateral movements which shift from one side of the river to the other. This is visually apparent at most river bends or meanders as the main current (thalweg) can be seen crossing over to the opposite shore.

(This stream feature can also be identified by the floating bubbles, twigs and leaves that ride on its surface.)

Generally speaking, the deepest water will occur at most river bends (pools) where the thalweg rides along the stream bank. The lateral movement of water within the pool (transverse flow) picks up and redeposits fine sands, gravel, and leaves onto the opposite shore forming a point bar. This point bar is often what we anglers are standing on while float fishing a pool.

As the river progresses downstream from the pool, and proceeds to cross over, there is a rising in the riverbed and an increase in flow.

This is generally referred to as a riffle, and in some instances, a flat.

Within the riffle, pool, run regime lies a host of additional steelhead waters which fish utilize as migrating and holding areas throughout different seasons, conditions, and water temperatures.

Once water temperatures become suitable for steelhead the window of opportunity opens and steelhead migration can occur at just about any time during autumn, winter, or spring.

Making the transition from its large lake hunting grounds back to its comparable smallish river of natal origins must be met with some uncertainty by steelhead.

The river environment with its myriad of shallow flats, riffles, and obstructions is quite unlike the deep-water sanctuary that lakes provide.

However, the urge to migrate and spawn appears stronger than a fish’s apprehensions so it proceeds upstream with both vigor and discretion. Those which the urge seems strongest in are willing to migrate during low flows under the cover of darkness, while those less willing seem to await the arrival of rainfall or snow melt (freshets) making for a more concealed migration.

Fish here tend to sporadically proceed upstream under the cloak of darkness during the early morning and evening periods. This scenario will become redundant as steelhead move upstream during periods of low light then hold throughout the majority of the day.

Typically, this also holds true for the upstream areas of larger flowing streams, as well until a freshet levels the playing field and allows for easier all-around access.

Therefore, in order to determine what physical areas of a river fish will utilize one must first assess the current river conditions. Once the general river and migratory assessment are made, then the entire watershed can be broken down into smaller increments conducive to steelhead utilization.

Understanding the basic areas of a river that steelhead will inhabit during the different phases of migration is a skill that can be easily learned in time without much hardship.

For the novice, books and periodicals provide a great general starting reference however, your real education will come when you combine armchair reading with on stream experience.

One of the quickest ways to identify potential holding water is to first eliminate all of the non-productive water that surrounds it.

Generally speaking, shallow water is of little value to a migrating steelhead already in a low-water...

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