Here it is, along with the fly line and backing I used:
- 150 yards of 30# backing
- Royal Wulff #6 Triangle Taper floating fly line (its delicate taper makes it ideal for tightlining; and, you need taper because running lines, such as Euronymphing competition ones, are illegal at the fly zones)
- 2’ of 20# Maxima Chameleon
- 2’ of .014” Cortland indicator mono, yellow/red
- 1’ of .013” Cortland indicator mono, white
- Tippet ring
- 6′ to 8’ 1x fluorocarbon
- Micro barrel swivel (on which is a three-inch piece of 1x with an overhand knot at the end to prevent the split shot from slipping off). I like black and very small swivels that look innocuous such as these from Raven
- 1′ to 2′ of fluorocarbon, 2x to 5x, depending on how much sun was out. And, the shorter tippet meant less foul hooking
Please know that all credit goes to UpCountry’s Torrey Collins, who used to guide at the Salmon River. He knows that water, and he knows what works. (There’s a great write-up of two of his steelhead tightlining rigs here.) The good folks at Thomas and Thomas also view him as one of the nation’s foremost experts on tightlining. So, he’s the real deal.
I used the above set-up with my 1086 Thomas and Thomas Contact six-weight (review here). It worked very well.
And, most important, I had many legitimate hook-ups and almost no foul hooking compared to my first foray to the river.
How could this be?
Well, the usual Salmon River fly fishing set-up is this: a long four-foot tippet length from the weight to the fly, heavy split shot, and swinging down and across. Unfortunately, it creates a lot of foul hooking.
The tightlining approach is different. You cast up and across, with less weight and a shorter tippet length, at fairly quick water that features some deep slots and underground boulders. You’re at feeding lies and prime lies. And, tightlining produces a very good dead-drift at those spots. You’re able to show to the fish an easy-to-get and tempting morsel.
Now, targeting fish at resting lies can work, of course. The steelhead are down deep and may opportunistically grab a swinging fly. But, it’s a low-probability game, and there’s a lot of risk of “lining” and “flossing” fish.
On my trip, for example, some guys who were swinging down and across with much weight were foul hooking a ton. This led to many lost flies and the need to re-rig. So, it was costly, both in terms of money and time. And, it wasn’t great for the fish.
Finally, here are some other observations:
- I also tightlined with my 10′ Orvis Helios 3D seven-weight “regular” fly rod. I used the leader formula above with regular floating fly line. It wasn’t as sensitive as the Contact rod, but it worked enough. The heavy line did create the dreaded “sag and drag,” but it was manageable if I did not have too much fly line out.
- Having both yellow/red and white indicator segments on the leader was great. It let me see the drift both during low-light and bright conditions.
- Weight amount was key. You want to get into the strike zone, but you do not want to be dredging and snagging a fish. The goal is to dead-drift an attractive morsel just above their heads. You want to tick the bottom just once or twice per drift. For me, that meant using a #5 , #7, or 3/0 split shot (I like the Eagle Claw removable ones).
Hope all this helps. I learned a ton at the Salmon River and was grateful to land some steelhead.
Last: a huge, huge shout-out to Torrey Collins!