Looking for a new technique to help you put more steelhead in the boat — especially in clear, snaggy rivers? Give side gliding a try! A modified form of side-drifting, side gliding allows baits to be presented to steelhead quickly and naturally with minimal bottom contact by keeping the lines slightly downstream of the boat. Here’s a mini lesson:
The first step to successful gliding is to get the boat into position upstream and off to one side of a fishy-looking spot. With the boat moving at the speed of the current and the bow pointed downstream, it’s time to cast. The first caster needs to make a toss that lands straight out (perpendicular to) the boat. As soon as the first sinker hits the water, the second angler should throw slightly upstream of angler number one’s line.
With the lines now in the water, the rower will want to pitch the bow of the boat slightly towards the drift – which allows the anglers to face their lines. The rower’s job is to keep the lines in the optimum position, which is slightly ahead of the boat – just a bit less than 45 degrees. Sometimes the lines will get too far ahead of the boat, which means the oarsman will have to push downstream to catch up. Other times, he’ll need to pull on the oars to slow the boat down to keep the lines working downstream. The ability to scull will help you keep the boat in the right position.
With the right amount of weight on, the sinkers will run anywhere from just in front of where the oar hits the water to a bit behind (there will be somewhat of a bow in the line between the point it where enters the water and the sinker). The current pushing on the line bow helps to lift and glide the weights over the rocks. If everything’s going right, the sinkers should tap the rocks every two or three seconds.
Bites are often fairly subtle – in most castes, the sinker stops bouncing and a slight fluttering sensation can be felt in the rod tip. A steelhead can mouth and spit a bait in a nanosecond, so it’s important to set the hook hard – and fast.
The best setup for side gliding is a 7 to 9-foot rod with a plenty of backbone and a sensitive tip. Spinning or casting gear is suitable and Slinky-style weights or round Plunk-N-Dunk sinkers are the best choices. Pencil lead is a little to “grabby” to be used on snaggy rivers that are best suited for gliding.
Three to 5-foot leaders that test 2 to 4 pounds lighter than the main line are great for gliding and a No. 4 octopus hook for holding small clusters of roe finishes off the rig. A No. 2 baitholder hook can be substituted when using nightcrawlers or pink plastic worms.
To find out more about gliding and the other types of side-drifting, check out the book I wrote with fellow guide Fred Contaoi, Side-drifting For Steelhead.