Steely Beads

Steely Beads

Published January 8, 2014

Bead fishing has been commonly used for quite a while in Alaska and the east coast, but has been making its debut in the Pacific Northwest more recently. While it’s not a complex process, it’s deadly.

For one of the same reasons we use bait, we use beads. Fish are very curious creatures and eat some fairly strange things in the river, including their own eggs and flesh! As smolt, salmon and steelhead feed on single eggs floating down the river when they are making their way to the sea and as adults, when they return, they are enticed by the same thing they fed on as a juvenile. This is the same reason we use krill, shrimp, herring, etc as bait. This is exactly what they are eating in the salt.

Steely Beads

Steely Beads has a VERY wide selection of plastic beads that range from a size 8 to 14 and comes in every color you would need. Each bead is hand painted for the finest detail and most natural pattern. After many conversations with John Duma, he taught me everything I needed to successfully slay fish with Steely Beads!

The colors range from the gentlest, palest peach/yellow to the boldest, brightest orange and all the reds and pinks in between! Steely Beads has all of your bead needs covered! Contact them today!

The basic set up:

Beads can be fished using a few different techniques, but most commonly drifted and under a float. In either technique, you want to “peg” the bead just 1”-2” above a bare hook. This is primarily a low, clear water technique and should be used with the lightest gear you can get away with without compromising the strength needed to bring in your targeted fish. 8-10lb line and a size 4 hook.


When fished under a float, you’ll want to use a 3-4 ft leader and when drift fishing, you’ll want to use a 3-5 ft leader, depending on the clarity.

To peg the bead, insert a small piece of the peg, crimp the tag with a good pair of pliers and push the rest of the tag through. Be sure to trim the tag end so that the peg is completely hidden. BE VERY CAREFUL NOT TO KNICK YOUR LINE.


The mechanics:

Steely Beads plastic beads have semi neutral buoyancy, much different than a very buoyant Corkie, and are designed to move freely. When you’re fishing a Corkie, you normally leave the Corkie sitting right above the hook, and maybe have a small piece of yarn tied on the line. The reason we peg the beads just slightly above the hook, is to help keep the fish protected and unharmed when hooked. The fish will quickly inhale this bead, and when the bead is sitting on the hook, the hook and all go down with it. When you have the bead slightly above the hook, when it’s inhaled, the hook is imbedded just slightly inside the mouth, in the corner of the mouth, or sometimes slightly on the outside of the mouth. This doesn’t mean you’re flossing, especially when fished under a float, it simply means it was a smaller fish that turned before the bead had time to get in the mouth very far. If you find this is common, move the bead a little closer to the hook.

When fished under a float, they should be able to swirl and move with the current or boil much like a single egg would move. When steelhead fishing using a float, I typically am fishing a jig and the head of the jig is heavy enough to get down to desired depth quickly. Since the bead is semi buoyant and your leader should be fairly long, the bead itself won’t get down without extra weight. Stagger split shots (no more than 3) up the line to create a small belly with your leader and help keep the bead moving freely. You should start with a smaller splitshot about 2 ft above the hook, and add more as you get closer to the swivel, each one gradually getting to the next size weight.

When drift fishing, you want to be careful not to let your leader get too long. There really is no reason to have a leader longer than 5 ft and the longer leader you have, the more difficult time you’re going to have casting and getting tangled as it swirls in the current. Remember, Steely Beads are only semi buoyant so they move freely. If you’re drifting through a boil, your bead may be swirling all over the place. Again, unless the water is unusually clear or the fish are abnormally spooky, you shouldn’t need anything longer than a 5 ft leader for drifting.

The bite:

No matter what your technique, you want to give the fish a chance to fully commit to the bead. You don’t want to set on a tap or a bump, but let the fish hit it and essentially hook themselves or wait for your float to be completely submerged before setting. These fish won’t be nibbling or bumping with their nose; if they are going to eat it, they will eat it with the confidence that it’s an egg and they will swallow it.

Get creative!

Change your presentation often and try new things! If the fish isn’t picking it up in 7 passes, try a new color or size! The fish may only be interested in what they see coming down the river all day. Maybe they are chum eggs that are turning yellow, or fresh, bright red coho eggs.

Try pushing a small (very small) piece of yarn in the bead to hold scent. When pegging, before pushing the peg through, use the peg to push the yarn through. If you’re fishing for steelhead, try shrimp, anise, or herring; when fishing for salmon, try garlic, sardine, or krill.

Float fishing tips:

Terry Wiest’s latest book, “Float-Fishing for Salmon & Steelhead” comes out in February, but is available for pre-order right now! Terry has been fishing for over 38 years and grew up fishing a clear, small local river where he has mastered float fishing. This is his second book and he has written hundreds of published articles and given countless seminars. Find the variety you need to learn if this is a new technique, or find a new perspective on a method you’ve been fishing for years.