Winter Steelhead: Sight vs. Smell

Steve with a winter steelhead caught on a yarnie. Photo by Rob EndsleyAn interesting question came up on my Facebook page the other day that’s often talked about amongst us steelhead fanatics. What’s the most important factor in getting a winter steelhead to strike…sight or smell?

I would say without a doubt that sight, and more importantly presentation, is the biggest factor in getting a winter steelhead to take a swipe at a lure.

Lets talk about presentation first. Whether your chucking spoons, pitching drift gear, floatfishing jigs, flyfishing, backtrolling plugs, hucking pink worms, or slinging bait most winter steelhead are going to want your offering brought in low-and-slow. Flyfishing guide Dennis Dickson has been preaching about this for years and after catching a couple of thousand steelhead myself I fully agree with him.

Now that you’ve got the presentation down the next step in the process of hammering winter steelhead is sight. Winter runs are attracted to brighter colors like pink, orange, peach, cerise, and red to name a few. If you only had a few colors in your vest I’d start with a combination of these colors and go from there. In certain water conditions purples and blacks have their place too, especially for the fly guys.

I guided the spring catch and release fishery for steelhead on the Skagit River system for around 18 years and I can tell you first hand that you don’t need bait or scent to catch steelhead. Don’t get me wrong…bait works great but it isn’t always necessary.That was an incredible fishery in it’s day and it forced me to be adept at catching steelhead using only artificials. If Washington ever went artificials-only for steelhead I wouldn’t miss a beat.

Having said that I will tell you that bait and scents are a great closer though. Steelhead are attracted to baits like sandshrimp, eggs, and coon shrimp at first because of their color. They have a color in their natural or cured state that sucks’em right in.

Once they get a mouthful of any one of these baits we all know what usually happens next…they eat them. It’s the sight of the bait that attracts them at first though and adding a little yarn or a colorful Corkie or Cheater makes this offering even more attractive to a steelhead. Bring’em in with the color and then close the deal with the bait.

Adding scents like sandshrimp, shrimp/anise, or krill to jigs, drift gear, and even plugs can have the same effect. The scent closes the deal once a winter steelhead swings by for a closer look. If I’m adding a gel type scent to a jig I’ll add it to the head only so as not to hamper the jigs movement in the water. Pro Cure has a great line of water-soluble scents that work great on jigs and they don’t matte down the jigs feathers.

If I’m adding scent to a plug, which is rare, I’ll add it to the bill only and not the body of the plug. Part of the plugs attractiveness to a steelhead is it’s metallic shine and scent can definitely diminish that and make the plug less effective. A perfectly clean plug backtrolled at just the right speed, in the right location, will draw just as many strikes as one with scent, however.

Skagit River wild steelhead caught on a swung fly. Photo by Rob EndsleyIf you’re swinging spoons or flyfishing stay away from the scents altogether. Spoons, like plugs, work because of the flash they create and they have a very large zone of attraction.

And, of course, adding scents to a fly isn’t cool at all…leave that one alone and pay your dues. Find the right water type and bring either one of these offerings in low-and-slow and you’ll catch steelhead.

There’s your order of importance for catching winter steelhead. Sight, presentation, and then scent, if need be, to close the dealio. At least that’s how I see it.

Thanks again for stopping by and don’t be afraid to share your steelheading stories over on the Outdoor Line forums. I fish for winter steelhead as much as I can over the course of the season, but on days I can’t fish I’m happy to live vicariously thru others. Good luck to you out there and I hope this was helpful!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

 

 

 

 

Montana Spot and Stalk Mule Deer Hunt

I just returned from a fulfilling mule deer hunt in the Missouri River breaks of Central Montana. Hunting here means hours and hours behind the glass searching for mule deer in the open sage country of the breaks. A great set of field glasses, a spotting scope, and an eye for locating deer is a must in this country.

Glassing the Missouri Breaks - photo by Rob EndsleyMy eyes are accustomed to gazing thru my binoculars for long periods of time and I’ll usually use them to locate deer at great distances before I jump on the spotting scope to take a closer look. In this country a spotting scope gives you a huge advantage in determining whether you want to go after a buck or take a pass in hopes of a bigger one.

I happened to grab the photo below by placing my small digital camera over the eyepiece of my spotting scope. I spotted this buck in his bed at around 900 yards.  It was one of many on this trip.

Bedded Down Mule Deer - Photo by Rob EndsleyAfter you find a mule deer that you want to take comes the hard part…closing the distance. My good friend Jim Heins and I spotted a good 4 point from around 500 yards away and then Jim used the cover of a knoll to close the distance to 250 yards. You can’t just walk up on a knoll like this and shoot your buck though.

Deer that live in open country depend on their eyesight just as much as their sense of smell to detect danger. Even the sight of the top of your hat peaking over a ridge can send them hauling ass for the next county.

Once Jim got to the knoll he was going to shoot from he slowly pushed his pack and rifle up to the edge of the small ridge to get in position for a shot. There’s also plenty of cactus here, which can literally be a pain in the ass when you’re putting the sneak on a mule deer.

Spot and Stalk Mule Deer HuntingLuckily I was along to range this mule deer at 245 yards before Jim took the shot. He used a Kimber .300 WSM with a Leupold VX-3L that was nothing short of a tack driver. This load carries plenty of energy to knock a muley down at great distances.

Kimber .300 WSM with Leupold VX 3L Rifle Scope - Photo by Rob EndsleyHere’s a little better view of the ravine Jim was shooting across. The mule deer was standing at the top of the dark patch that looks like “Z” on the right side of the ravine. This is a chip shot for a .300 WSM!

Mule deer hunting in open country means long shots - photo by Rob EndsleyJim made a perfect shot and the mule deer went down immediately. Off we went to go check it out.

jim_mule_deer_ravine_webThis deer was down alright…all the way down in the bottom of the canyon. Here’s Jim looking down to the bottom of the canyon where his first deer is laying.

spot and stalk mule deer hunting - outdoor line rob endsleyJim “Bucket” Heins first deer turned out to be a heavy-bodied 4 point with a single eye guard. All that time at the rifle range payed off for this happy hunter. Not too shabby Mr. Heins!

Jim Heins with his Montana mule deer - photo by Rob EndsleyJim cutting his Montana deer tag before we field dressed his muley and hauled it out of the canyon. It took some work but before too long we had it back up to the road where we could pick it up with one of the four wheelers. Well worth the effort if you ask me and Jim was more than happy with his first deer.

Jim Heins cutting his Montana deer tag - photo by Rob EndsleyI’ve hunted deer most of my life but I hate to admit that this was my first out of state deer hunt. It definitely won’t be my last though. The hunting was very challenging and on average I would see around four to five bucks a day with a couple of good shooters in the bunch. For the guys with little to no experience hunting deer that daily buck count can quickly go down to a single buck a day or less. These animals blend into their environment perfectly and more often that not if you see them…they see you!

Thanks for stopping by and good luck on the remainder of your hunting season everyone. Go get’em!!!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

 

SHOTLOCK™ INTRODUCES SOLO-VAULT BUILD FOR AR PLATFORM

THE WORLD’S FIRST SOLO-VAULT FOR AR PLATFORM RIFLES

ShotLock, maker of the only solo-vault for shot guns and handguns, is introducing a solo-vault made specifically for full framed AR platform rifles for release mid-November ‘13.

Designed to hold a single AR style tactical rifle, the ShotLock AR Solo-Vault is perfectly sized and adjustable to house most AR platform weapons that have a carry handle or tactical rail mounted optics and up to 30 round magazines. The solo-vault can be mounted on a wall, or any other stable surface either vertically or horizontally.

“The ShotLock AR Solo-Vault is the perfect security solution for someone who owns an AR style personal defense weapon,” stated Don Fenton, Sales & Marketing Director of TruckVault, Inc., owner of the ShotLock brand. “With this product, you can keep your AR close at hand, quickly accessible and secure at all times.”

Just like the original ShotLock designed for pump and semi-automatic shotguns and its sister products made for handguns, the CCW Solo-Vault and the 1911, the AR ShotLock is constructed of 14-gauge steel and stores a single firearm with room in it for spare magazines. It can be mounted securely virtually anywhere in the home. “With its 5-button inline programmable lock, the ShotLock Solo-Vault can be opened while allowing you to put a loaded weapon in your hand in less than 3 seconds,” explained Fenton.

Marketing plans to support the ShotLock Solo-Vault family of products include print advertising, television spots, Internet/Social Media ads and sponsorships, an aggressive pricing strategy, and sleek, contemporary packaging. ShotLock Solo-Vaults available online at www.shotlock.com  and at select retailers.

SHOTLOCK™ AR SOLO-VAULT FACTS

Size: 15.5” x 10.875” x 2.675”
Weight: 11.4 lbs
Suggested Retail: $219
Website: www.shotlock.com

•    Accommodates one AR platform rifle
•    Secures trigger, safety, and charging handle
•    Pistol grip adjustable hangar
•    Accommodates top rail mounted optics
•    Room for additional magazines up to 30 round
•    1000+ combination programmable
push-button mechanical lock
•    2 year limited warranty
•    14 gauge steel construction
•    Mounts on a wall vertically or horizontally
•    Made in the USA

About TruckVault, Inc. For more than 15 years, TruckVault has been building secure in-vehicle storage solutions for sportsmen, law enforcement, and commercial use. TruckVault has been recognized throughout the years as a leader in firearms safety and as a producer of top-quality products, including being granted the shooting Industry Academy of Excellence Award for Accessory of the Year in 1999 and Safety Product of the Year in 2004 and 2006. In 2008, TruckVault was awarded the Cygnus Innovation Award.