Let’s face it low, clear water for steelhead fishing is not ideal. Fish become spooked easily, making it difficult to present your bait. While these conditions can be challenging, there are several ways to increase your hookups and catch more fish. Here are some tactics to help catch steelhead in “bath water.”
Light line. If nothing else, downsize your tippet or leader. While you may land less fish, you will absolutely have more hookups throughout the day by downsizing leaders. Typically a 3-4 pound fluorocarbon leader, like Seaguar Grand Max Fluorocarbon Leader Material will suffice. Any lighter than this and it requires you to fight the fish for too long, which can be harmful to the fish.
Single eggs and small beads. Single eggs in clear water is one of the most effective methods. Simply bury a small hook in the egg and use the smallest float leader size possible. The Daiichi 1150 Heavy Wide-Gape Hooks in a size 16 or 18 are excellent for use with single eggs. Small beads, such as Troutbeads, in low clear water are very effective. Typically adding some scent to the beads such as Pautzke Liquid Krill Fish Attractant helps catch fish, especially when there is little-to-no current.
Go big or go home. For the guys that know this uncommon trick – sorry for giving it away. While small presentations are king when it comes to targeting clearwater steelhead, sometimes big 3-4 inch jigs like the Anglers International Jiggy Bugger Steelhead Jigs with smaller heads can be deadly. Still make sure to downsize the hook and leader, though. You will miss hooksets for being undersized on the hook, but you will land more fish in the long run.
Change it up. In this situation, I change my baits up 5x more than normal circumstances. The fish have seen your bait multiple times and you know that because you ran it right past their face. Changing your color or presentation will help your trip go from mediocre to a success.
Small, light cranks. This may not be the most productive method on the list, but it is definitely the most exciting. Small cranks like Yo-Zuri Pin’s Minnows and Rapala Original Floaters in 1-2.5 inch sizes work best. Other crankbaits in similar sizes work great also. The best way to fish them is in front of a pod of fish, throwing it ahead of the pack. Eventually, an aggressive fish will leave the group to bite. Don’t stick to one fish just because it showed some interest your bait – some fish are just curious and might not be willing to take your bait.