Fishing single eggs
Good single eggs = steelhead hookups.
If your main presentation for steelhead is natural bait fishing then read on.
A successful fishing trip for steelhead begins with good eggs - fresh/raw salmon eggs that may be treated first or not. Then those loose eggs are "cooked" to give them that stay on the hook toughness while maintaining a soft texture that milks scent into the water.
Creating good single eggs is no easy task. The process requires an article all to itself so click here after you finish reading this post.
Experienced anglers know what to do when they have good eggs. If you don’t know what to do next because you have never fished single eggs, what follows is for you.
The basic tools are these. You need a small float/bobber, a section of 4# or 6# fluorocarbon leader that is equal to the depth of the stream you are fishing. You will use a size 16 or smaller hook - one of those hook styles that are designed to hold a single salmon egg. You add, to your presentation, enough split shot to drift your egg at the same depth as the steelhead. Seems easy enough right?
With that basic setup, you are ready to fish single eggs. Keep in mind that short casts make controlling a drag-free drift easier. When your float is close by, you can monitor the float for any movement that would indicate a fish has taken the egg. It is those two presentation fine points that separate the catchers for the complainers.
Once you develop the ability to detect subtle strikes your hookup numbers will increase. I lived that learning curve so what I say is based on experience. There was a time when I watched successful angler catch steelhead while I went fishless neaby. My pride would not let me accept that I was getting out fished because of something I was doing. Fact was, it was something that I was failing to do - see the hits.
Hits or strikes may be a misnomer when it comes to fishing single eggs for steelhead. Steelhead seldom "hit" a single egg. They open their mouth, accept the drifting egg, close their mouth or reject the egg in what seems like one smooth action that get unnoticed by the majority of steelhead anglers.
If you and I were standing along Elk Creek at the access area when small pods of steelhead are holding near the rocks, I can prove the point. Put on your polarized shades and toss a single egg upstream of the fish. They see it coming, they reposition and intercept the "freebie". We can repeat that test for several more eggs. Now when, you replace the free meal with one on a hook. You may get a look, but they seem to notice the drift change, hook, line, or your float so the egg floats past the fish. On several past "experiments, I have downsized the float, gone to 2# leader and tied on a size 22 hook. That gets me a fish or two.
Not all steelhead in your tributary are as hook-shy as the ones infront of the lawn chairs lined up at the Elk Creek access. Most of the steelhead are, at times, more hungry than smart. It is those fish you will have a chance to catch if you can recognize the "hit".
How to notice the soft take of a feeding steelhead if you cannot see the fish's action is a skill you need to deveIop.
I was on the stream bank sitting behind an angler who was catching steelhead on a 10 to 1 frequency compared to other anglers fishing nearby. The steelhead were not visible in the water - too deep and nice green flow. I watched the cast, drift and his float track down the seam of water he was fishing. Never took my eyes off his presentation. When he would set the hook into anoter fish, I did not notice any idication that a fish "hit" his single egg. He could do what I was only starting to learn - detecting that a steelhead had accepted his egg. His hookset was deliverd a split second before the fish rejected the meal. Fish on!
I got to know that anlger and we became "steelhead friends". I have fished with that angler many times since my streamside lesson. He still continues to amaze me, but I now understand what he was seeing. His tall, pencil-thin float was not getting dunked. The only idication that a fish had stopped the egg was the a slight down-stream tilt to the top of his float. Once a steelhead stopped the egg he saw that telltale motion.
Don't get me wrong. When steelhead are actively feeding, they will dunk your float. More times than not, the only idication will be a slight dimple movement of the float so you need to watch closely.