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Float'n Spinners For Salmon & Steelhead

By Vic Carrao, 🕔Mon, Mar 21st, 2011


When you mention using spinners, the first thing that comes to mind is standing on the edge of your favorite lake, pond or river casting and retrieving spinners. There are serveral alternative methods that work well too. Traditional float fishing rigs consist of a float, pencil lead or splitshot and your choice of lure. Most common choice of lure would be cured roe,wool combinations, or corkies and small spin n glo´s

Over the last few years, the rivers edge is getting more & more crowded, as fishing pressure increases so does the amount of lures the fish will see in a day. Trying new methods of fishing can sometimes prove to be rewarding.

There are three presentation for fishing spinners that I like to use, that have all proven to be fruitful. Free Floating for fishing slow or transition water, Down & Across for tailouts or riffles, and last of all Dead Floating for slow deeper pools.

Before I describe these three methods, we need to establish several important facts. Salmon and Steelhead will attack lures at almost any speed. I have found when spinner fishing, that the slower the blade is turning, the more hookups I have. That is not to say you won´t be successful with a faster presentation. Light is another important contributor to success. I‘ve had a lot of hookups on bright cloudy days, or just when the sun hits the water. In order to have a spinner blade flash you must have some degree of light penetration. This factor might be the most important to consider before choosing your lure.

The greater the speed of water the faster your blade will turn, therefore for slow water use smaller blades # 2 & 3, for medium flow # 3 & 4´s, and for fast water use # 5 to 7. There are many variations of spinner´s on the market today. The most popular in the Fraser Valley is the colorado blade. The 3 most popular finishes are chrome, brass and copper. They come in several styles; hammered, plain and teardrop. Hammered Chrome in a # 3 is the most common used for salmon and I prefer the brass or black for Steelhead in the larger sizes.

Free Floating
is used in slow to medium slow water. Set up your rod the same as if you were fishing yarn or bait; float, weight, leader and spinner. Cast slightly up stream and allow your lure to reach bottom. Reel in any slack line, then when your float is directly across from you, free spool and allow your float to freely float down river. Your weight should be fished so you feel the river bottom every 3 feet or so, and presentation should be Dead Drift.

It is important that your float is drifting at the same speed as the current. The bite is often soft, if you feel your spinner stop turning, set the hook, that´s a fish.

Down & Across
This presentation is used for tailouts or riffle water. Often the water is less than 3 feet deep and to Free Float would result in snagging the bottom . Cast your lure upsteam and across then reel in any slack line. When your float is across from you, Free spool. Unlike the Free Floating put your thumb on the drum of the reel and allow slight drag. This will slow your float and allow it to come across the river.

There are several important factors to consider while fishing this method. Anytime you allow drag on your reel, the lure will lift off the rivers bottom. To compansate, try setting your float 3 to 6 inches deeper than the water yo´ur fishing. The second factor to consider is what size of blade to use. When allowing drag on your reel your blade will speed up, the greater the drag the faster the blade will turn, so you may have to increase the size of blade to slow your presentation

Dead Floating
This is one method that I discovered by accident. It was mid January and I was fishing one of my favorite early Steelhead runs. This fellow angler was fishing above me and had been there for a short time. I had noticed that he was snagging bottom freqently, his float was almost laying down flat in the water, not Free Floating through the slot like most anglers would. 10 minutes past and I was ready to move on, when a sudden burst of water broke the silence. Fish on !! he yelled. This was the first of six fish this gentleman had on. The lucky angler who´s name I don´t recall, had never hooked a Steelhead and was experiencing the day of his life. I managed to hook a 12lb Steely on wool, by the time he had his fourth fish on. I sat down and watched him for a while trying to figure out what was taking place in front of me. He was using a large #5 brass colorado under a float rig. His float was set 12 inch deeper than the water he was fishing, therefore he was consistently snagging bottom. He would lift his rod tip to unhook the snag, then drop it and the float would stop, then lift and stop again. Every third time he lifted to unsnag - Fish on!!.

I soon realized what was happening, by getting snagged the blade would stop turning. When he lifted his rod tip to unsnag the blade, it would turn 4 or 5 times then stop. The action he was creating was a slow blade action. I´m convinced he had no idea why he was doing so well and probably didn´t care.

I quickly changed over to a #5 brass blade, set my float 6 inches deeper than the water and proceeded to fish this method. After landing 4 more Steelhead I soon realized he was on to something. During that season I managed to hook a total of 15 Steelies using this Dead Floating method. There are many methods of hooking Salmon and Steelhead that are untried in this area, many are discovered by accident. Adding a few more will only help increase your success.

Goodluck and we´ll see you on the water!

Vic Carrao is a freelance writer and owner/operator of: STS GUIDING SERVICE

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