A few years ago the only time I would tie a spoon on the end of my line was when I could not find a fish with the normal drift gear I had gotten so used to using. Needless to say I did not have much faith in these lures but I did give them a try once in a while. This all changed in late January of 2000, while fishing for winter steelhead on the Carbon River near the town of Orting, Washington. I had been consistently hooking fish in a little riffle I found early in the season, on jigs drifted beneath a float. Early one day I had worked my jigs through this riffle hard without a bite. After fishing upriver with the same results I returned to the riffle I had fished earlier, and on a whim tied on a 2/5 oz. brass Little Cleo spoon. On my first cast, as the lure was swinging across the riffle, it was abruptly stopped, followed by several heavy head shakes. I was caught with my waders down and missed the fish, as it swirled just under the surface.
That one brief encounter was all it took to make me a believer in the effectiveness of spoons. I made up my mind that I would concentrate the rest of the winter steelhead season fishing with spoons. Only occasionally did I switch back to jigs & floats. The Carbon River remained on the low side most of the late winter, but I continued to hook big native steelhead, when most anglers left without a bite. My confidence in spoons increased with every trip, and I ended that winter season hooking more steelhead than I had in the last several winters. And this was in a year when alot of the steelhead anglers I know had been having horrible seasons, complaining about the lack of fish. Most of the fish I hooked that winter were from only one river, the Carbon. I did make a couple of trips out to the Hoh and Sol Duc Rivers in March. Under marginal river conditions I hooked numerous big natives, all on spoons.
Rod lengths for spoon fishing are pretty much a personal choice, though I prefer a longer rod with some backbone to it. The extra length and backbone are needed to help drive the larger single siwash hooks I use into the bony plates in the jaws of large steelhead. The extra length also helps keep your line up out of the water, while fishing soft current seams on the other side of the river.
I stick with heavier test lines for spoon fishing, usually fifteen pound test Ande. I may go heavier when making a trip out to the coast for large natives in March. These fish can really test your tackle, and are not the least bit line shy. The heavier test lines will also help drive the hooks home. Heavier line will help get these natives in quicker, increasing their chance of survival upon release. It is always a good idea to land these fish quickly, instead of fighting them until exhausted.
Good quality spoons can be found anywhere, but I usually get mine from rvrfshr Products, a mail order tackle shop in Seattle, Washington. They are high quality and are a much better value than buying your spoons from a sporting good store. You can purchase these spoons ready to fish, or buy the components and do some minor assembly to save a few bucks. Give Joe Hart a call and tell him you heard about rvrfshr Products on Steelhead Notebook and he will take care of you. You can find a link to Joe's web site on my tackle links page. If you prefer to shop at a local tackle shop, pick up some 2/5 oz. brass Little Cleo's. I have had good luck with these spoons. The only recommendation I have is to replace the cheap treble hook that comes on the spoon with a good quality wide bend treble or single siwash.
As far as finishes for my spoons, I prefer the brass or copper in clear water, and go with a genuine silver spoon in off color water. Don't be confused into thinking that genuine silver and chrome are the same thing. The chrome finish available on most store bought spoons appears almost black in the water, reflecting very little light. The genuine silver finish provides the most flash available, almost appearing white in the water. The genuine silver finish can only be found from mail order shops such as rvrfshr Products.These two finishes are all you need for most winter steelheading conditions. The exception to this rule is during extended cold snaps, which can drop the river levels to summer low, gin clear conditions. During these conditions the water temperatures can drop into the low 30's, and you will need the extra flash of the genuine silver plated spoons to entice these lethargic fish to move from their holding position to take your spoon.
Spoon fishing for steelhead can be very productive, if done properly. The biggest mistake most first time spoon fisherman make is working the lure too fast. Try to present the spoon as slowly as possible, it should just be wobbling, not spinning. I try to fish my spoons much like standard drift gear. Cast across, let the spoon flutter down to the bottom, and then slowly work it through the drift. Don't be too quick to reel in the spoon after it completes its swing. Sometimes a steelhead will follow a spoon a long way before striking it. After the spoon swings into the slower water directly downstream from your position, let it hang there for a minute before slowly reeling it back in. Many times a steelhead will hit the spoon as it is fluttering in the slower water below you, even though this water may only be twelve to eighteen inches deep.
Give spoon fishing a try this winter. If you take the time to learn how to properly fish these lures, you will hook more fish this season. If you need any additional information on fishing spoons drop me a line using the link below.
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