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Steelhead bobber fishing tutorial

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Christopher Heller

About this article: A bobber fishing tutorial from Christopher Heller and All Around Angler, LLC and Allaroundangler.com and Portland’s Fishing Examiner….

No matter the time of year if you’re a drift boat angler on the hunt for steelhead with finesse tactics then sometimes the easiest method is also the most productive. As a professional small river guide I’m always looking for a technique that encourages my student anglers the valuable confidence necessary for success in their float presentations. Sometimes a ton of line mending isn’t the ticket. After all, during the summer solstice time of year the water has lowered and cleared on most of our rivers and streams compared to prior season’s winter flows. The importance of distancing yourself from the target water you covet is crucial. Especially since the summer steelhead by nature is drawn to holding water less than three feet in depth.

What’s the best way to separate yourself and your float set up from the micro-environments you intend on invading? And with stealth? That’s right: Distance. The best way is distance. Ask yourself when the last time was you hooked a steelhead, laterally, with a tremendous distance. Well? Exactly. Probably never. Much like the typically west coast nymphing techniques for trout with a single-handed fly rod…the lateral forty five degree cast and subsequent upriver mend limits you, the angler, from accomplishing a great deal of distance between yourself and your fly, lure, jig, bead etc.

So what’s the solution to this need for separation? The Grandpa Technique. So what is this technique you ask? How does it work? Again, it’s very simplistic in nature. It should be very natural to any angler who is comfortable reading the very basic elements of reading water. It works quite well on free flowing rivers both small and large and can be very effective all times of the year with some very basic adjustments to the presentation.

Since this isn’t an article about specific riggings under the float/bobber we’ll veer away from describing exactly what you’ll be floating/fishing but rather how.

The keys to a successful Grandpa presentation:

1) Locate your target water far before you approach it with your drift boat. Much like you might ‘plugging’ water. Look for seams (current collisions) no matter how subtle, water disturbances such as boulders either breaking the surface or slightly there under, or changes in water speed created by turns in the river itself.

^These are all micro-environments that steelhead will gravitate towards…summer steelhead especially will tend to surprise you in the shallowness of depth compared to their winter cousins. So first identify them.

2) Prepare your float set ups with an approximate depth based on water nearby your location of start. Keep in mind it’s always better to start shallow or ‘short’ rather than deeper or ‘long’. The steelhead sees up and out like a radar wave as opposed to down and across like us humans. My basic recommendation for depth is always two to three feet on average but don’t be afraid to start at eighteen inches.

3) Position the drift boat directly above the target water you’ve selected….remembering to start farther away than feels natural as you can always ‘drop down’ easier than rowing back up. In fact rowing back up pretty much isn’t an option unless you are prepared to wait a time before fishing as you’ve now disrupted your approaching target water. (Keep in mind water conditions will always dictate the degree of stealth required. Clear water and high sun vs tinted water and low light, etc.

4) As the oarsman lining the boat up it’s your job to decide whether you are anchoring your vessell or rowing in place. My typical Grandpa Technique is most effective when completed on anchor versus in transition. So choose your first location, conservatively, and drop the hook.

5) Communicate to your passenger anglers which ‘line’ or current seam you’d like them to travel. Make sure you either have them stagger their releases or keep them spread wide enough apart so they’re not taking away from each other’s presentation due to proximity.

6) Send them! Keep in mind even though it may seem you have little control over the down river path your float will take you actually have more than you think. How? Simply lift your braided line (float methods always work better with braid) with the tip of your rod and flick it to the side. Let the natural current of the river grab that mended portion close to you and it will translate down your line ultimately to your bobber.

How far to let it ‘Grandpa’?

The answer to the above question depends on both the confidence of the angler performing the technique and of course the reasonable distance to the ‘BREAK’ you will be trying to reach. With the one to two percent stretch offered by braid you’re in pretty good shape to go FAR. Couple basketball courts isn’t out of the question for a beginner with this technique. Another thing you can do with this technique when retrieving your rig is to STOP at any point that looks fishy and REDO!

I hope this float tutorial helps you improve your overall steelhead small river game. Lastly I’ll leave a question for you hardcore AAA commentors out there….How can you do this technique from the bank!?