Steelhead Power Through Memorial Day Weekend

The rivers were flowing fast, but the steelhead were swimming faster. I would have had problems if I did not add aluminum bars to my wading boots. We spent four solid days on some big fast water in search of some late running fish. There were thousands of suckers to contend with, but plenty of steelhead hanging around nearby.


Giving my Korkers Aluminum Rock Grips

I have had enough slipping around on rocks and boulders in fast moving water to push me to my decision to risk destroying my korkers and add some aluminum bars for traction. Felt is outdated and will soon be illegal in most states, metal studs fall out and don’t give full traction all of the time. I have heard nothing but good things about the aluminum bars. They stick on rock even if it’s covered in slime.

Items I needed to accomplish what I was after:

  • Threaded inserts (34 of them, 17 on each boot, size 10-32)”
  • Flat head machine screws 3/4″ long size 10-32 (34 of these)
  • Aluminum flat, 1/8″x3/4″x3′ (might need two of these)
  • hacksaw
  • sharpies
  • Gorilla glue
Brass Threaded Insert

Brass Threaded Insert

 

 

Flat Head Machine Screw

Flat Head Machine Screw

First I cut out all of the pieces of aluminum from the flat stock using a hacksaw, laying t on the bottom of my boot and marking with a sharpie prior to each cut. Once I had my pieces I could duplicate them and flip them for the other boot.

Next I drilled out holes in the aluminum, tapering them with 2 or 3 different sized drill bits so that the machine screws would countersink into the holes and sit flat with the surface of the aluminum. I laid them out on the bottom of my boot and marked with a silver sharpie where I would drill my holes.

DIY Aluminum Bar Rock Grips

Aluminum Bars with tapered holes

I then drilled holes in the boot. You must be very careful here to only drill 3/4″ or less (the depth of the threaded insert). A drill press would work well here, or rig some kind of a “stop” on the drill bit so you don’t accidentally drill through the sole. You want the fit to be tight, so start out with a smaller bit and try an insert to see if you can screw it it. You may need to cut away some of the surface rubber with a knife to help get it started.

DIY Aluminum Bar Rock Grips

Holes in the Aluminum and Boot

Finally I was ready to glue in the inserts. I chose gorilla glue because I liked that it expands into the material you are gluing. So following the gorilla glue instructions, I used a q-tip to get the holes wet on the boot, and threw the inserts in a bowl of water. I did one row at a time. After applying glue to one row, I screwed in the inserts flush with the bottom of the boot. I did not want the glue to expand into the inserts where I would be screwing in the machine screws – so I mounted the aluminum bars with the screws right away as well. Make sure to get all of the screws started before tightening any of them. If you’re anything like me, your holes might be a little off, so this will allow you to fudge them around a bit.

DIY Aluminum Bar Rock Grips

Aluminum bars are mounted onto the bottom of the boot.

After the glue was dry, I filed down some of the sharper corners and ends to reduce the risk of cutting into things such as my waders while hiking around. If the gorilla glue does not hold up, I might try marine goop, or 30 minute epoxy. So far, it looks like this should work great.


Trout are a Difficult Fish to Hold Onto

First, keep the fish in the net and in the water. Rubber mesh helps protect the fish. Wait for the fish to settle down so you can quickly get your hands under it. Wait until the photo is ready to be taken and quick lift holding the trout over the net and over the water so if it wriggles and is dropped, it lands in the net or in the water and not knocking itself out on rocks. Do not grab it by the gill plates or stick your fingers in the gills for an extra hold. Do not hold it out of the water for an extended time. If it is not working out, just let it go and practice more on the next one. These steelhead are always to be released and should be treated so.

Fishing Steelhead in a Lake Superior Tribituary aong Minnesota's North Shore Fishing Steelhead in a Lake Superior Tribituary aong Minnesota's North Shore Fishing Steelhead in a Lake Superior Tribituary aong Minnesota's North Shore

Fishing Steelhead in a Lake Superior Tribituary aong Minnesota's North Shore

Fishing Steelhead in a Lake Superior Tribituary aong Minnesota's North Shore



One Warm Afternoon and The Fishing Blows Up

Arriving at river X, I took a look around studying all of the lower stretches for signs of fish. Nothing. It looked bleak. Slowly wading my way upstream, I stopped at a couple of deeper runs and let my line drift through a dozen times but nothing seemed to be around. I continued upstream and met another fisherman coming down.

“Should have been here yesterday.” He said. “Fish were all over the place! Today I haven’t seen a single one!”

Hmmm…I thought to myself. I continued upstream to a deep pool, put an indicator on and let my single egg imitation swirl around in some of the side eddies. I wasn’t long before I hooked and landed a nice hen steelhead.

Fly Fishing Steelhead on North Shore of Lake Superior

After slipping her out of rubber net, she decided to pause right in front of me for a few moments and pose for another, more natural picture.

Fly Fishing Steelhead on North Shore of Lake Superior

After checking my line to make sure everything was straightened out and ready to fish, I proceeded to hook two more and landed a nice buck.

Fly Fishing Steelhead on North Shore of Lake Superior

I was anxious to make my way up to the next hole so I only made a few more drifts and headed upstream. I entered the hole and got myself in position. First drift and hooked a fish right away. It was in the fast water and went a little nuts, popping the hook off with ease.

Drew was on his way and arrived about then. The sun was up and the water was warming slightly, and then the fish just starting snapping up everything we dropped in. As I was tying up, Drew landed four in a row. Several different times we had doubles on, hooking well over 30 fish. We managed to land 13 that afternoon. Some of them were absolute pigs.

Fly Fishing Steelhead on North Shore of Lake Superior

Fly Fishing Steelhead on North Shore of Lake Superior

Drew holds up his first of six steelhead for the day.

Fly Fishing Steelhead on North Shore of Lake Superior

Fly Fishing Steelhead on North Shore of Lake Superior

Releasing another hog buck steely, Drew was nearing euphoria.

Fly Fishing Steelhead on North Shore of Lake Superior

And then this happened.

Fly Fishing Steelhead on North Shore of Lake Superior

It was time for some celebratory cigars.

Fly Fishing Steelhead on North Shore of Lake Superior

Or maybe they were good luck cigars.

Fly Fishing Steelhead on North Shore of Lake Superior

Fly Fishing Steelhead on North Shore of Lake Superior