Article: Special TS contributor Kevin Gray

Posted: June 7, 2013 by Hellcat in Fish Reports, Gear Fishing, Tips & Advice
Tags: , ,

You know him best as The Hammer. Or Chromehammer. But did you know he’s smarter than a dude with two brains? True statement. Here’s his latest EXCLUSIVE Triple A piece on summers. A GREAT perspective from this die hard AAAer.

It’s June and summer steelhead are ascending many of the metro area rivers. These fish are in the beginning of a very long journey that will take them through summer, fall, and winter before they spawn. Over the course of their journey, many changes will take place in the river, weather, and the fish themselves. This article will focus on jig fishing for summer steelhead from a biological and hydrological stand point. Consider this part 2 of the jig fishing steelhead series I am composing.

Let’s start with a quick refresher from part 1. Steelhead vision is generally poor when compared to human vision. Objects appear blurry up to about 2-3 inches from the fish’s face. They are good at determining an objects color and size. That said, you can assume that your jig’s color and size are more important than it’s pattern and detail.

During the summer months the rivers will gradually drop. Flows will decrease and the water temperature will inevitably rise. The important factors here that will affect the fish are temperature and dissolved oxygen (DO). These two share an inverse relationship. As the water warms up this summer, the dissolved oxygen content will drop. Warm water and low dissolved oxygen are lethal to steelhead. Steelhead become more susceptible to disease and infection in these conditions. So during the heat of summer it is crucial to fish areas where the water is cool and well mixed by riffles/whitewater. These places are where steelhead are most likely to be found during summer, especially during the heat of the day. Don’t limit yourself to only fishing faster riffle water for summers though.

Cool nights and diurnal (daily) temperature rises and falls will put steelhead in your classic steelhead water for brief periods, specifically early morning and late evening. After darkness falls, steelhead will drop back into the softer runs and tailouts to rest for the night, giving us a brief shot at them in these classic steelhead haunts. Once the sun hits the water, steelhead will seek cover, looking for a broken surface with faster flow that will deliver cool oxygenated water. The crucial temperature to look for is 70 degrees. When the river temperature reaches this level, steelhead are in survival mode and will seek out cooler water.

Look for a cool tributary or an area of river that is shaded and fed by a good amount of whitewater or riffles. Steelhead will be in those areas. During the summer months (June thru August) it is best to use less “intrusive” colors in your jig selection. Stick to the subtle colors: reds, black, white, purple and blue. These are highly suggested colors, but feel free to experiment. In my experience, the weight of the jig hasn’t been a crucial factor. I always use a 1/8th oz head so I know I’m getting it down in the zone.

As fall comes on, summer steelhead are still readily available. The rivers will begin to cool down, allowing dissolved oxygen levels to climb back up to a healthy level, and steelhead will become more spread out and easier to locate. By fall, steelhead have begun to mature to the point where they become more aggressive. Often, if there are spawning salmon in the area, steelhead will be waiting just below, gobbling up loose eggs. In the fall, I tend to use many of the same color patterns I use during summer. The only change I might make is adding in some pinks and oranges when I locate steelhead near salmon spawning beds.

From June though September I will run 1/8th oz jigs without bait. I have found that during these months a tipped jig will more readily attract smolts and trout, fun but not exactly what we are chasing. Naked jigs are simple and will take summer steelhead readily. I strictly use a fixed Thill float and run a 10lb fluorocarbon bumper (7ft long) attached to 14lb braided mainline using a double uni knot. Many anglers prefer a sliding bobber setup, so I can only suggest using the stealthy fixed setup…………STRONGLY! Not only is the fixed setup stealthy, but it also allows you to fish every piece of water without worrying about hanging up. I can fish depths from 10 feet to less than six inches with this method. The sliding bobber setup will limit you to the length of your leader and I guarantee this will keep you from getting to many summers.

I’ll never tell someone what they should do, but I am happy to share my knowledge and suggestions here to help give EVERYONE a little extra edge against these chrome beauties we love to chase.


  1. chris b says:

    GREAT Article Kevin, nicely done! Im still new at this jig game, and I think this will help me on summers

  2. Hellcat says:

    I agree with the statement about summer fish and jigs. We’re having a tough time figuring that one out. Bait, plugs, spinners….no jigs.

  3. Love it! I’m running the same fixed jig setup except with mono bumper. Maybe flouro is the way to go in summer…

  4. Great great information! Reading articles like this reminds me to always stay humble. I keep an open mind and learn new stuff from EVERY angler. One thing I would like to add, I have found that as the summer months progress jigs tipped with bait are actually deadly! I agree in early summer if you are finding a lot of smolt you should keep bait off, but in July-August jigs tipped with bait are often the only thing a summer steelhead will move for, especially in highly pressured, clear water. Again thanks for a great article Kevin.

  5. Derek Reed says:

    Im still pretty new to jig fishing as well and this was really helpfull. Great article Kevin. Thanks for posting this awesome article Chris

  6. Jim Reed says:

    Great peice Kevin! Thanks for sharing! We as well are so new to the jig fishing game and have the tools to get the job done, just trying to get it figured out. You help fill in a lot of blanks . Thanks again!!

  7. The Hustler says:

    Wow! Fantastic info, K Gray! Thanks, and dually noted.

  8. Sal says:

    Well written and good info. Lots of folks skip the fast water for summers and miss the boat. Sal

  9. Les Baxter says:

    It is a great article, all information helps us. I just read an article on sts (salmon trout steelhead) on stealth set ups. It was braid to mono with Floro leader. This set up was sliding bobber on mono to weight then the leader. This article also said the colors black with black, black with all red, dark blue, all white.. The main thing was he said it had to have 2 red beads.. I haven’t found enough fish to confirm our dispute

  10. Les Baxter says:

    Also went over different types of braid.. “quiet” not yellow.. Worth a look..

  11. Just thought I’d mention, this article got me thinking and the night after I read it I went out Summer fishing. I adjusted my float and pink worm on a jighead setup down to about 8 inches. Nailed a hot hatchery chromer in riffly shallow water. Thanks for information like this that always helps me to improve my bank game.

  12. Mr. Sockeye says:

    I found this article very informative. Our summer steelhead in the Klamath system are having a hell of a time this year with a recorded water temperature of 77 degrees. I don’t know how they are surviving those conditions. Rumor has it they are stacked below one particular cold water tributary.

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