Learn to tie rags!

Making your own rags
The best part of all the rain and high water is having more time to tie leaders! And when you’ve tied until your fingers are cramped, you can take your new leaders and rags and fish that high water to target some winter steelhead.

The ‘rag’ has been used for many years and has proved to be very effective time and time again for winter steelhead. Being able to fish a super buoyant, bright lure will definitely give you an upper hand when you just can’t wait any longer for the water to drop and clear up. Its profile and typical color patterns make it great for water with less than 2 feet of visibility and work well when fished solo, but are perfect when paired with bait. They aren’t the fastest or easiest to tie, but if you’ve got the time, they are well worth the extra effort; and for those of you who always make sure to dot your I’s and cross your T’s when fishing, you know how far a little extra effort goes.


Everyone finds their own utensils and objects to make this easier for them but to start off, here are the basics that I use!
• Foam window insulation (you can buy this at a hardware store or most tackle shops)
• Tooth picks
• Easy Flossers (found in the dental aisle of any drug or grocery store)
• Multiple colors of yarn
• A sewing needle (your standard size will work, you just need to be able to thread the leader line)

When picking your yarn colors, you want to keep in mind that rags are intended for high water with low visibility so contrasting and bright colors work best, but they will certainly work well with any color scheme.

Your first step is to cut about a foot of yarn in both colors you want to use (using more than 2 colors makes it more difficult to thread through). Use the toothpick to create a hole straight across the foam. You will remove the toothpick; this is just to make it easier to pull the yarn through. You can easily tear through the entire foam if you don’t pull carefully and slowly.

There are two ways you can make yarn balls. As always, the easier way and the harder way. I choose the easier way for time’s sake and I don’t think it makes that much of a difference, but if you prefer, I have pictures of both ways.

First method is to thread both colors through just one hole at the same time. This only leaves one hole in the foam and takes half the time; however it’s not as much profile as the second method. If using this method, you can try to blend and mix the two colors together prior to threading or leave them separate for more contrast.

The second method is to thread a single color through one side, and then thread the second color on the opposite sides creating a fuller profile and blending the colors better.

Next, you’ll want to thread the yarn (both colors at the same time if using method one) through the Easy Flosser and push the flosser through the same hole you created with the toothpick. The flosser is quite flexible so you likely won’t create new holes by pushing it through. Before you pull all the yarn through, be sure you are carefully and slowly pulling through so you don’t rip the foam. Repeat for the second color (opposite side) if using method two.

There are many techniques that you can use to make this go faster. I don’t typically cut the foam until after I thread the yarn through and then I cut the yarn to the desired length and repeat. Some don’t cut the yarn until all foam pieces are threaded in a string (like a popcorn necklace) and some cut all the foam pieces first. Use whatever works for you, but remember, rags are extremely buoyant so try to keep the foam as small as but leaving enough room to have the yarn go through without ripping. Mine are generally a half inch long.

Once you have created all the rags, you can prepare leaders to thread the rags onto. I use 10-12 lb monofilament line and a size 1/o hook (using a bait loop knot) depending on the size fish I’m targeting. Again, these are extremely buoyant so you don’t want a leader that too long or it will float straight up. Mine are never longer than 3 feet. Despite how long of a leader you normally use for steelhead, remember you are fishing these in higher, less clear water so spooking the fish with a short leader shouldn’t be an issue.

When you have your leaders tied up, first you want to slide down a small bead to act as a bumper against the eye of the hook and the foam and then thread the other end of the leader through your sewing needle. Don’t pull the leader too far through the eye of the needle because it will create a kink in the line when you pull it through and you won’t want to use that section of line.

Push the hook and line through the opposite end of the rag as your yarn and slide down against the bead.

Drift these the same way you would any drift rig. You can use solo, or rig with a sandshrimp tail, prawn or eggs rigging them as usual. Utilize the yarn and soak it in scent for an extra additive in the low-visibility water! Experiment with your favorite color patterns and bait in different water and put your hard work to good use!