Jigs are one of the most effective lures in fishing.

Being completely unique and virtually universal, jigs can be deadly to salmon and steelhead.

However, there is more to a jig than just some feathers on a hook like there is more to a fly than feathers and flash. Presentation is key and the type of jig you use for different species and different techniques is ultimately what will bring you jig fishing success. The benefit of tying your own jigs not only means you get to have patterns and color combinations that no one else on the river has, but it lets you get creative and is fun! It’s like the scrapbooking, sewing, or painting of fishing. If Martha Stewart fished, she would be the ultimate jig creator!

Before you head to the river, play around with the jigs in the water to get a feel for what materials give certain actions and either get more volume, or lose their volume (sometimes this is good as it imitates a worm). When you get to the water, let your brand new jigs soak a minute so the feathers can absorb the water. If the purpose is to have the marabou snake down, it may take a few casts before the water completely absorbs into the feathers and you wouldn’t want to waste a caste or two.















To shed some light on the different jigs, we’ll explore the basics of tying with different materials, different patterns and a when to use what.

Types of material:


This is one of my favorite materials to tie with because it keeps the volume even when in the water, not to mention super quick and easy to tie with! It comes in every color (including UV!) you can imagine and can also be used with scent if desired without ruining the material.


Hackle is great for collars, wrapping around the body, or using as a tail. While I don’t use scent with any feathers (the oil ruins the volume), I do still tip with prawns.


Very delicate and soft, but full of body and volume. A necessity when tying a twitching jig.

Rabbit fur

Also very easy to tie, and VERY voluminous. It keeps its volume while in the water and the fur isn’t quite as delicate as feathers. Cons: it doesn’t come in many colors and is short but instead of wrapping, you can use as a tail or straight along the backside of the jig body.


there are several different types of flash (straight, crinkled, ultra-thin, or thick) and SEVERAL colors. There are different levels of the boldness and flash can be used virtually anywhere on the jig. Mixed with the tail, the body, as a collar, freely off the body, anywhere, anyway. It’s easy to tie, but be aware that less is more. You don’t need a large chunk, just one or two strands goes a long way when reflecting in the water.


Perfect for wrapping the body and collars. It adds a lot of flash, without being too gawdy.


Use beads to slide up the body of the jig. you may have to use a drill to make the holes large enough and glue to keep them at the top.

Plastic worms

Tie a collar around the top for extra action, or simply slip a worm up a jig to fish under a float.

Rubber strands

Use around the collar to look like “antennae” for extra volume and action.

Winter steelhead

Fishing a jig under a float for winter steelhead tipped with piece of prawn is truly my favorite and most successful way of winter steelhead fishing. The good and bad thing about winter steelhead jigs is that the water conditions can change drastically and with short notice. You may think because the water is low, that it will be clear or vice versa but this is not always true. There is a time and a place for every size, every color, and every type of material used when choosing which jig to choose.

The most important thing is to have a variety of different jigs; different sizes, patterns, and colors. You’ll quickly find your favorites and learn what you are confident in and what you know you won’t tie again.  Below is some pictures and instructions on tying one of my favorite winter steelhead patters that works great in both high and low visibility. I use 1/8th oz and ¼ oz for winter steelhead depending on the clarity and depth.

Summer steelhead

Typically the water levels are very low and clear so not only is it better to tie smaller jigs, but use smaller jig heads. You don’t need ¼ or 1/8th ounces, I usually use 1/16th for summer runs. Also think, not usually as bright as colors as you might for winter runs. This is where you want to use more neutral colors. Summer steelhead are truly more like a trout than winter steelhead and do breach the surface to feed on bugs. Think about using bright colors in the morning to target the aggressive fish and using a bit more natural of a jig after the morning bite. I use a lot of blacks and browns also because the sun doesn’t reflect off them like it would bright pink or orange. Use marabou more often than yarn because it does snake down and creates less profile that is not necessary in low water.

Twitching Silvers

Coho are a strange type of salmon. They like hardware, bright/flashy lures, fast baits and will chase your size 5 spinner all the way to the boat until it gets a glimpse of you. Twitching jigs through logs and in slow, deep water is a great way to capture the attention of the aggressive silver. Think long, full, marabou. You need big jig heads (3/8 – 1/2) ounce as they will need to fall quickly. Think flashy and not only on the upside of the jig. The fish often come from beneath so remember to be aware of what your jig looks like on the bottom side as well. Use contrasting, bright colors as the water area is often dark and the water has low visibility. Slip a pink worm on the jig beneath the feathers to give it a different type of action.

Twitching for Pinks

Smaller jigs and add a hoochie skirt. ALWAYS pink and the action is going to be longer and bigger action than twitching for coho. You usually twitch in the salt water so you also want to a bit of a heavier jig so that it falls even in when the tide is moving.


Yes. I even use jigs for chum. In the salt water, the chum swim on the surface and are still bright! The eggs are AMAZING and they’re very fun to catch in all that open water. Use BRIGHT, contrasting colors and I always tie them with yarn tails as they are usually just sitting. There isn’t current to give them action like in a river so profile is essential. Bright green with orange and black and sparkles. Bright pink is one of my favorite and I always add scent or bait to the jig. Tip with prawn or a chunk of anchovy and squirt some scent on the yarn tail!

Here’s a quick video I created to show you some mechanics of tying: