By Jaron Janas | 01/08/2012
For those of you who fish winter steelhead in Northern British Columbia like I do you’ll probably agree that even tougher than catching fish is keeping your fingers warm.
I’m a big egg fisherman and a few weeks ago on a below freezing day at the Kalum River (which is near Terrace for those of you from the USA) my fingers felt numb after a few hours of re-baiting my clients and washing my hands off in the water. I was worried about getting frostbite. That night I vowed to try other methods that didn’t require me constantly putting my wet hands in the frigid water.
What I wanted to do is represent an egg, but use something dry. I had a bunch of Pautzke Fire Bait in my garage and knew it worked well on trout so I figured why not try it for steelhead? I knew dough bait is easily form-able and figured I could actually blend colors I thought the steelhead would be into.
Most people believe dough bait is only for trout, but I’m here to tell you otherwise. And, it’s actually made winter steelhead fishing more enjoyable. Not only is it easier to use Fire Bait than eggs, it’s cleaner. I can use one jar, make 25 dough balls, go out in the cold weather and I don’t have to have my hands all stained in pink and freezing. You don’t want to be dipping your hands and washing your hands in egg juice when it’s as cold as it is up here.
Using the Fire Bait for steelies can’t be easier and requires much less preparation than eggs. What I do first is take a chunk of Fire Bait the size of a quarter out of the jar and roll it out so it looks like a worm. Doing this I’m trying to make it easier to work with. It’s simple and takes about a minute to do. I then make three of these
worm-like tubes approximately four inches long. Normally, I’ll use orange, pink and natural Fire Bait.
I roll them together just like Play-Doh and make one big round tube, which blends those colors. Sometimes I’ll even twist them, just like you’d do a twist tie. That puts a swirl into it. Once I make the tube I cut them into little pieces and roll them into marble and smaller size balls to represent a small egg. I’m after a single egg pattern. Blending these colors represent a true, natural color of an egg, which all steelhead will grab.
Then I take the ball and put it on a size 1 or 2 Gamakatsu single prong octopus hook. At this point you aren’t done, though. If you just fished it like this you’d have to re-bait often as constant casting would cause the bait to fall off. To keep the Fire Bait on longer tie an egg loop on the top of the hook and attach a piece of orange, white or pink wool. That wool is going to be the anchor for the dough ball. I swish the wool on to the dough to secure it. It’s good for about 10 casts.
It’s kind of funny, but even when I’m guiding in the winter if you look at my kit I have when I go steelhead fishing there’s a few pieces of yarn and Fire Bait dough balls. And, I do this for a living, so if it didn’t work my clients wouldn’t be using it. Last week we did a comparison fishing Fire Bait side by side with Luhr Jensen Gooey Bob Egg Clusters and Fire Bait outfished it 8-1.
I don’t plunk it, though. I cast it and drift it just like it’s bait. It’s been a shock to me because I don’t use these kind of dough baits much, but it’s been refreshing how well it’s worked and how easy it is.
Still, I’ll always believe eggs are the best steelhead bait, but using this method is an alternative. Even when the eggs weren’t working I found the Fire Bait to always catch something. I’ll catch trout and steelhead on it. It has to be the scent added into it (which Pautzke later told me is their krill recipe and pure salmon egg juice). Honestly, at times, it’s been outfishing roe and it’s been keeping my hands from getting frostbit.
Jaron Janas owns and operates Terrace Sportfishing Adventure in British Columbia. To learn more about his guide service please visit www.terracesportfishing.com