Tag Archives: Clearwater River

Fishing Deep Fast Water

Waters West Quick Release Indicators

The Waters West Quick Release Indicators worked well on the Nilan Reservoir.

A question was posted to us about the Quick Release Indicators we recently used on the Nilan Reservoir. The question was, “Would these work in deep fast water?”

These little gems were awesome when fishing still water with small nymphs in deep water, because they slip free and slide down the leader, making it much easier to land fish. But I’m afraid the small ones we used would not be able to hold the weight needed to get down in deep fast water.

However, after consulting the Waters West Web site, they do offer the Quick Release Indicators in large and extra-large sizes. They state that these indicators can be used in deep water and have been used successfully in rivers for trout and steelhead.

Honestly, I wish I had known about these years ago. I think the large or extra-large indicators might just work for deep fast water, but just in case, here’s an alternative I came up with for steelheading.

The year was 2007 or 2008, and a buddy and I were fishing for steelhead on the Clearwater River in Idaho. I marked a hole that had a shallow shelf, was very fast, and dropped off quickly – 14 feet at the head of the hole right off the shelf, to 20 feet at its deepest point. I drifted through the hole with my Humminbird Fish Finder that attaches to the rod (what a great little tool!) and marked several fish located right off the bottom of the shelf.

On this particular trip, I tried drifting through the hole using a balloon (indicator), which is what we used at that time, to no avail. Frustrated, I went home and schemed a plan. I remembered an article in Salmon Trout Steelheader magazine on Micro Nymphs. These nymphs are hand-made and a lot of fun to tie. Unfortunately, I do not remember who the author of the article was, but what a great idea!

Micro Jig

Micro Jig used for steelheading.

Using a #8, 3X heavy 3X long hook, and bending it so that it was shaped like a jig, super gluing a BB-sized split shot with no ears onto the bent portion, then heating it just enough with a torch without melting the lead so it could be dipped into Pro-Tec powder paint, we were able to make some awesome little Micro Jigs.

Then there was the issue of being able to get it to the right depth, while still being able to land fish successfully. Using a small balsa wood slip bobber on 16 feet of 0x fluorocarbon leader with a bobber stop, we headed to the hole.

Steelheading Micro Jig set up

A small balsa wood slip bobber on 16 feet of fluorocarbon leader with a bobber stop above a Micro Jig.

Again, we marked fish, this time in about the middle of the hole, with a few in the tail end where it shallowed up. After making a few casts, I could tell the Micro Jig was not getting down fast enough. I adjusted the weight by placing split shot on the leader approximately 18 inches above the jig, and I was then able to cast onto the shelf.

The balsa wood slip bobber, floating horizontal in the water, indicated that it was dragging on the shelf. As soon as it cleared into deep water, the bobber went vertical, and on the third drift, down she went! The results are evident (see photo).

Ron Steelhead

This steelhead was caught using a Micro Jig, underneath a small balsa wood slip bobber on 16 feet of fluorocarbon leader and a bobber stop.

Although the mechanics of this technique are different than the Waters West Quick Release Indicator, it provides similar performance in that the balsa wood bobber slides down toward the hook as you reel in, making it much easier to land fish.

This solution definitely works in fast deep water. Although it’s a little awkward to cast, with my 8 weight Sage, after a few casts, it felt just fine.

Give it a shot if you find the Waters West large or extra-large indicators won’t hold for you. Styrofoam Slip Bobbers (often used with a bait casting outfit for steelhead) are also an option.

Items mentioned in this post.

Items mentioned in this post. Clockwise from top: Humminbird fish finder, Humminbird rod attachment, Micro Jigs, Bobber Stop string and bead, large Styrofoam Slip Bobber, small Balsa Wood Slip Bobber, and the small Waters West Quick Release Indicator.

And I know, I know … the swinging fly advocates might poo-poo this technique, but we like to catch fish!

Ron Watt, 06/22/14