Driftfishing is hands-down the most popular, and rewarding method of fishing for steelhead. The skills of casting, reading water conditions, a feel for drifting lures along the river bottom, and detecting subtle bites–or “takes”–have to be mastered. Volumes have been written on the subject.

Typically, anglers will stand in thigh-deep water and cast for hours hoping to entice a steelhead to take the offering.

Basic codes of the river usually are that anglers will allow a courteous distance of 10-15 yards between anglers.

Steelheaders like to assign labels to different anglers: The bitcher, whiner, long-liner, and most annoying of them all, the Corker.

The Corker, an angler sees another angler hook fish, or that angler could be where he wants to fish. So, he will move downstream, below the angler, and attempt to intercept the fish first. He will work at mirroring that angler’s casts.

Hooks a fish, he has “corked” the guy.

Corkers basically come in two types. Aggressive corkers simply barge in where they want to fish with little regard for any form of river etiquette. He may make an attempt at conversation. “Nice fish you got there. Should be one out there for me.”

One of the most notorious corkers on one of the coastal rivers was a man who would bring a son and daughter fishing. An angler would catch a steelhead. While the angler is tagging his fish, the Dad sends the 10 to 11-year-olds to fish that spot. Most anglers will move rather than confront kids. After the Dad feels enough time has passed, he moves in and takes over the spot.

Next we have the Sneaky Corker. He moves in at a respectable distance below his target. He very slowly employs the old “crab move” as he slides sideways upriver without even making a ripple.

Today, Bill is having a good day hooking steelhead. He is in the “Hot Spot.”

He has hooked two that come cartwheeling out of the water and shake the hook. He has a chrome-bright 10-pounder on the bank and has released another. If he tags a second fish, he is finished for the day. He wants to continue fishing.

Sneaky, slowly begins to move closer. He is desperately trying to figure out Bill’s secret.

“What color you using?” he asks sheepishly.


Bill hooks another fish.

“How much weight you using?” as he inches closer.

“About an inch.”

“Could I see how long your leader is?”

Now he is close. I can’t believe the nerve of this guy, trying to wedge in between me and old Bill.