Steelhead University

Steelhead University Notes

Kelcey Berto, Ashley Lewis and Bryanna Zimmerman showing off new women’s G Loomis hoodies

Steelhead University – Winter Steelhead 2015 was probably the best fishing seminars I’ve attended. Not only was it full of some of the most knowledgeable speakers in Oregon and Washington, the place was crawling with knowledge filled veteran anglers to share stories and tips with.

Nick Amato and Ty Wyatt sharing stories 

The venue was Sportco which was awesome because we got to go buy the products that the speakers shared (good marketing, eh). They also offered tons of discounts that made it worth attending and in my case, I saved more in discounts than the price of a ticket to Steelhead University.


Another bonus? TONS of free give gear was given away, Louie G’s pizza, cookies, and Starbucks coffee was free!

And to start the morning at 6 AM, Northwest Wild Country hosted several of the presenters to get us pumped and ready for a steelhead packed day and then came down to Sportco to join the party.

Duane Inglin and Joel Shangle from Northwest Wild Country

 Scott Haugen – Diversifying Your Approaches to Catch More Fish

Big Water:                                                                                                      

  • At least 10’ rod
  • Preferably spinning because the reel will hold more line which allows you to fish further and cast easier
  • Braided main line – it’s well worth the investment. Not only can you fish the same spool for at least a year, you can spool it back up and then flip it around so the fresh line is back on top. It’s like having brand new line that’s never seen daylight or water.
  • Typically around 50lb braid. Not for the weight, but the diameter is bigger and it floats on the surface better than a thin diameter line.
  • Sliding float set up: stop\bead\float\swivel\leader

Small Water:

  • Generally start with a float/jig set up and switch to drift fishing if that doesn’t produce a bite
  • 7’6”-8” rod
  • Spinning reel
  • 25lb braid
  • Fixed float set up because it gets down immediately for smaller holes or casting right behind rocks.
  • Move the stop until you begin dragging the bottom then adjust it 8-12” so that you are that far from the bottom
    • Snell’s Window is the view in which fish can see. Basically put a funnel on the top of the fish’s head and this is where they can see. This means is always better to be above the fish than below the fish
  • You can tie a 18-24” dropper leader from the jig with a bead or corky
    • This creates action for the jig and the jig creates action for the corky
  • If drift fishing, use a sliding weight so you can control your leader length to each hole
  • When bank fishing, try to carry as much as you can on your body. If you’re busy walking back and forth to the bank to tie up, bait up, or get some pliers, you aren’t creating an opportunity to catch a fish.


  • 8’6” rod
  • 15-17lb test
  • Tune plugs to ensure they are running straight and not flipping
    • Maglips have a naturally erratic movement, but should not flip
  • Try to use a plug with a rattle to produce more sound and vibration
  • Your goal is to irritate the fish enough to make them want to attack


Cody Herman – Water Hydraulics and Fish Behavior

Small Rivers blow quickly and recover quickly

Precipitation Absorption: Pay attention to the type of terrain at the head waters of your river system

  • Big slope with clear cuts is going to produce more mud and faster. These rivers will blow faster
  • Rivers like the Willamette will lose clarity faster because there is nowhere for the rain/mud to absorb into the ground because it’s surrounded by a concrete city
  • Head waters with a lot of lush, green bank with a lot of trees might rise, but generally won’t lose much clarity
  • Steeper gradient surroundings will move larger objects like boulders (Olympic Peninsula is a good example of this)
  • Contrary to most people think, a rising river with good clarity is the most ideal condition
  • Headwaters clear faster than the lower river so when the rivers are blowing, keep moving upstream to find better fishing water

Where to find fish:

  • Inside bends will have more sediment which isn’t always good, but the outside bends will have heavy current
  • Head of hole will always have more oxygen and will be cooler as the water cycles and turns up from the bottom
  • Think about where you weight is placed in the water column and the type of bottom:
    • Bottom third of river will have moving sediment, and big rocks rolling and will be significantly slower than the surface speed
    • The middle of the column will have the strongest speed because it has no obstacles or interruptions
    • The surface is faster than the bottom, but the wind can greatly slow it down
  • Steelhead may lay in front a rock because it’s clean and warmer; behind the rock may kick up too much sediment.
    • You’ll need to determine the bottom of the river to determine whether the fish will be behind or the bottom because that sediment will be the only thing keeping the fish from laying behind a rock

Light Absorption:


  • Low albedo=high absorption
  • High albedo=low absorption – light penetrates and heats the water to the bottom. Bottoms like sand heat faster thank rock
  • Muddy rivers grab and hold energy
  • Fish the edges because there is less sediment and stream power
  • Use contrasting colors in low clarity water


  • Change the color/size/scent/etc every 5-10 casts until you can develop a pattern
  • Keep a log and view trends frequently
  • Garlic in warm water, anise in cold water
  • Squid for steelhead


Mike Zavadlov – Trophy Steehead Tactics (+photography tips)

Float Fishing Set up

  • 9’6”-10’ float rod
  • 30lb Power Pro
  • 3/8-1/2 oz float with 3/8oz weight and ¼ oz jig
  • Center Pin with 15lb mono – no braid on center pins


  • Black, white, or green jigs with 2/o hook
  • Nightmare jigs are great as well
  • His favorites are jigs with orange or pink beads on the collar
  • Rig worms wacky style (tail up and hook comes out halfway through the worm)
  • Rig worms normal with tail down and threaded all the way through the worm with the hook coming out where the tail flattens
  • Colorado spinner blade under a  float but making sure you have a good swivel is key

Other tips:

  • Hi-vis main line for plugs with 20lb leader
    • Use nail knot to tie leader/mainline
  • When sidedrifting 10-12lb leader with cheater between 2 hooks when legal to fish 2 hooks.

Photography tips:

  • Nikon D700 or you iPhone6 actually has a great camera
  • Most important to have a fast lense (2.8) with good low light condition features
  • 24-70mm allows for no fish eye effect or distortion
  • If light conditional allow, don’t use a flash so the fish doesn’t get washed out
  • Cradle the fish’s head and keep the head in the water
  • Place the fish head in one corner of the frame, and the angler in the other corner and only focus on those 2 things; the rest of the picture will come into place
  • Try to fill up the entire frame with the fish and angler


Ty Wyatt – Bead Fishing for Steelhead


                                                      Ty uses Quinnault Guide Ashley Lewis as a “river”

From a boat (fixed set up):

  • 30lb braid with top shot of fluorocarbon
  • Add a dropper from a jig with a bead

 From a boat (sliding set up):

  • Essentially bobberdoggin
  • Leader should be about 3ft
  • Cast upstream and drag behind the boat
  • The slower the water, the less weight – you want the bead and the bobber to float at the same speed
  • Don’t use a yarnie and bead (on a dropper) bobberdoggin because the buoyancy and speed are too different

 From the bank:

  • Fish you float straight up and down or pointing downstream (indicating you are dragging the bottom) is okay as well
  • Use a small float because heavy ones take too much effort to set the hook

Pegging the bead:

  • Allow the bead to slide on the leader so that it moves freely between 3-4 inches
  • Don’t let the bead sit right on the hook because it closes the gap on the hook
  • Allowing too much room for the hook to slide may result in foul hooked fish
  • Don’t set the hook really hard, simply reel down until you feel the fish

Terminal gear:

  • Octopus hook – fine wire, but string metal
  • Black hook over red to be stealthier
  • Hook size 4, 2, 1 (10mm bead)
    • The biggest hook you can get away with without snagging up
  • 15lb test
  • Uses acrylic beads more than soft plastics because the soft plastics get hard and become heavier than you originally started with
  • Change the color of the bead depending on the bottom and water clarify
    • Example: dark bottom and a blue bead don’t work well
  • Fast snap instead of swivel; snap leader with Duncan loop
  • Gel scents or add a little piece of bait on the hook if you want bait, although it’s not necessary


Terry Wiest – Float Fishing for Steelhead

Strike Zone:

  • 6”-2’ from the bottom
  • Move the stop until you begin dragging the bottom then adjust it 6-24” so that you are that far from the bottom
  • If it’s extremely cold, you’ll need to have your presentation closer to the fish than if it’s warm.
    • They get lethargic  and won’t want to move far to bite your presentation
  • If you find a snag, cast right on the snag so that you drop in right next to the snag; fish prefer this cover
  • Fish the seams of current
  • Fish behind boulders which is where fish can get more oxygen to rest
    • Fish on each side of the boulder
    • Fish boulders hard trying to present from every angle
  • Avoid holes with sandy bottoms


  • 9-15’ designed for float fishing
    • Longer than 11’ designed for center pin set ups
  • 6-15lbs
  • GLOOMIS IMX 1262 6-12lb $395
  • GLOOMIS 1262 6-10lb $325
  • GLOOMIS E6X 6-12lb $240


  • The most important thing is a good drag system
  • Shimano reels: Stella, Stradic, Symetre


  • 30lb Power Pro – The thicker diameter floats better and is easier to see
  • Hi-Vis and you can black out the first few feet with a Sharpie if you’re concerned with the fish seeing it
  • Fluorocarbon leader 5-12lb – Lighter and more limp for a more natural presentation

When jig fishing, follow this equation: Float size= weight + jig head weight


Bob Kratzer –Plug Fishing

7’10” heavy rod with medium action

 Bass Style Plugs:

  • Storm Wiggle Warts
  • Brad’s Wiggler’s
  • Yakima Fat Fish
  • Luhr Jensen Hot Shots

Banana Style:

  • Luhr Jensen Kwikfish
  • Yakima Flat Fish
  • Brad’s Killer Fish

Combo Style:

  • Heddon Tadpolly’s
  • Yakima Maglips (these have an erratic action, but should not flip)


  • Always clean your plugs with Dawn, Lemon Joy or Crest Original
  • Add scent: shrimp, craw/anise, anise, squid, tuna
  • Pinch the barb on the belly hook so that when the fish rolls with line, it doesn’t get cut on the barb
  • If running a single hook, use barrel swivel in the middle to compensate for the missing weight of the hook
  • Use a bent hook shank at the eye for better hook up ratio

Bank fishing:

  • Side planer: 30lb hi-vis mono/Casting: 30lb hi-vis braid
  • Leader: 20lb

Boat fishing:

  • Use a line counter or mark the feet with a bobber stop
  • Let the fish commit to hooking itself instead of you doing it
  • The higher the water, the slower you should back them down.
    • But if the water is clear and extremely cold, move slow as well
  • Let out at least 60-100’ unless it’s a short run because the bite takes so long to commit
  • Action speed should be fast-slow-fast (not consistently the same)

Wrapping Plugs:

  • Kratzer prefers to put bait in a spawn sack and simply hook it on the middle hook
  • This allows him to quickly change the bait and have many different options that he can prepare the night before
  • Dime size or smaller sacks
  • Can use sardine, eggs, prawn, shrimp, tuna, squid, anything

Tuning Plugs:

  • Tune your plugs so that they run straight and even (not pulling to one side or flipping)
  • Hold in the water and feel it – don’t pull it quickly through the water yet
  • Once you can feel it’s swimming consistently, gently pull it through the current and look to see:
    • Is it rolling/flipping?
    • Is it swimming towards one side or lifting up?
    • Diving straight down? – This is good
  • If it’s not swimming straight, use pliers to gently move/turn the eye of the plug the opposite direction that it’s pulling/flipping
  • If it’s a molded eye (not screwed in), gently bend the eye instead of turning
  • If you find that you have a perfectly tuned plug (and you will have some that are great, some that never swim right), you can use calipers to get the exact dimensions of that plug to hopefully replicate it on the plug that isn’t swimming well
  • Measure the butt to the eye and the bill girth to the top of the eye and then create the same dimensions on the bad swimmer


Terry Wiest outdid himself this year. As an avid angler in our community and owner of website Steelhead University (and the brains behind Steelhead Girls), he found the best of the best in the NW and he listened to his peers to put together an amazing seminar. I look forward to what he has in store I the coming months and years!


Steelhead University has a brand new website! The new owner of Steelhead University, Terry Wiest, is very near and dear to Steelhead Girls’ heart. In fact, he’s the inventor of Steelhead Girls! I met Terry many years ago through, believe it or not, the Steelhead University Pautzke photo contest! We stayed in touch and met again at many fishing functions before I started blogging on Steelhead University. Terry reached out to me about a year after I was blogging and thought of the idea for Steelhead Girls, which I obviously LOVED! Steelhead University not only includes fishing updates and reports from some of the most well-known guides in Washington State, but many videos, articles, and product reviews. Go check out their new website and give their Facebook page a like!

Now, for fishing! I have actually been fishing quite a bit the past few weeks, but since we’ve moved into our new house, I haven’t had internet hooked up! But I’m up and running, moved in and settled down, and………I’m graduating school this week! I couldn’t be happier about getting my life back and having time again to write more articles!

The past few weeks, we’ve been heading to Barrier Damn on the Cowlitz and I actually really struggled out there on the island because it’s so deep hip-deep on me) and you’re casting really, really far. If you don’t make the cast, you almost aren’t even fishing where the fish are. So, with the low water this spring, it’s actually been to my benefit! I’ve been finally getting springers out there again!

We went crabbing this last weekend and let me tell you, what was supposed to be an easy day, ended up being pretty torturous. We thought we would just catch the 7 AM high slack tide and crab for just a few hours, maybe 3 sets. We did our first pull and had 2 dungees and 3 rock crab. Great! If every pull was like this, we’ll be limited in no time!

So…..We set when low tide started moving out and we had about 100 extra feet of line so we figured, no big deal if the tide is moving fast, we’ll have the extra line to keep the buoys afloat…..Wrong! We watched our buoys go under and thought, well, we’ll probably see them again in an hour. Since we planned on only being on the water for a few hours, we brought no food or water for the entire day.

4 hours later, we finally see on of our buoys. We have been sitting tied up to a post for hours baking in the sun with no food or water. It took another hour for the other 3 buoys to appear and we were ready to get the heck out of there! It was 3 PM and I envisioned myself eating crab soaked in butter after a 2 hour nap by this time. It was low slack and we could see that close to the launch, there was almost no water. Good thing we have a jet! Again, WRONG!

We beached ourselves…..I waded back to the launch, ruined by favorite white chucks, got lost trying to get gas and food, and finally made it back just in time for the tide to have come in enough to take the boat out of the water. Did I mention how many crab we got though? 2 dungees and 3 rock. We should have stopped at our first pull. We are burnt to a crisp and hiding inside today. At least we have a few crab to eat! :)




















Graduation and hanging out at Hood Canal next weekend! Hopefully my sunburn heals by then!!!

Float-Fishing for Salmon & Steelhead

Terry Wiest’s new book!

Pre-order your copy today!!!




Steelhead University weekend update!

To start off my weekend, Steelhead University was absolutely incredible. Literally some of the same people who taught us all how to fish, all in one place. Jeff wasn’t able to make it but when I told him all the people I got to meet, he couldn’t believe it; All the people that he grew up idolizing and all the people that taught him how to fish. There was so much information to soak up and even when the presentations were over, all of the speakers (and even Nick Amato himself!) were happy to talk fishing all day. I am definitely so thankful and fortunate to have the opportunity to attend such a great event!

We decided last minute to stay close to home a fish a few Puget Sound Rivers instead of making a trip to the Humptulips and we ended up walking around more than fishing. I was complaining a bit because I was unprepared for this day, didn’t bring right stuff, brought too much of everything else, and we weren’t catching a whole lot between all 5 of us. Continue reading