Chasing Glow: Salmon & Steelhead by Nick Amato
Hooking a salmon or steelhead is no easy task.
To learn the skills necessary to have consistent success takes years of on the water practice and a host of other skills that must be honed to perfection. Being just slightly off with any one part of the whole angling picture can make the difference between catching fish or ending a long fishing day tired and frustrated.
There is an immense list of variable that play out on each trip and they vary depending on time of year, type of fish being pursued, water conditions, tackle choices… Even if you fish the same water consistently you’ll find that fish aren’t always in the exact same spot or interested in taking the exact same lure presented the exact same way.
This makes the sport challenging and that’s was makes anglers world-wide respect, appreciate and endlessly pursue the beautiful, mysterious and uniquely sporting salmon, trout and steelhead.
I learned at a very young age that the surest way to become successful at anything is through education. By surrounding yourself with knowledge gained though pursuit, experimentation, targeted media, books and fellow angler input the learning curve will be steady and progressive. Get ready because your education is about to expand ten-fold.
Some of you might remember the stoner guys back in the 1970 and early ‘80s, they’d hang out in the back’s of their tricked out vans and trip out to UV light activated artwork while listening to Led Zepplin and Pink Floyd. Well they had a lot in common with salmon, trout and steelhead and they didn’t even know it. Unlike Bill Herzog era pot heads, steelhead and salmon enjoy glow painted fishing tackle while on a natural high.
I am totally convinced that salmon, trout and steelhead can see lures that are painted or dyed with pigments that reflect light in the UV spectrum. At this point I’m not going to define Nano Meters, talk about specialty camera lenses that can see UV, or discuss how a fish’s eye is capable of seeing in a light spectrum beyond the sight of a human eye. What I am going to talk about is practical experience and how to use a UV Flashllight (Black Light) to determine if you lure’s glow and how to use this information to catch more fish.
In my mind this whole UV lure craze was getting a little bit out of hand. What does it mean if you lure packing says, “UV Activated, UV Enhanced, UV Dye, UV Paint, etc.” Does this UV even mean anything, and especially does it mean anything to the fish? For decades in the know tackle manufactures have been producing lures, baits, tapes, paints, etc. that “glow”.
As soon as I found out, from Phil Pirone that all you need is a UV Flashlight to determine if you product glows a lot of my personal tackle mysteries were solved.
I have a staple of fishing tackle that I know works in various conditions. It’s my “go to” tackle when the current hot lures aren’t working or my experiments aren’t panning out. The “go to” arsenal grows larger each year as new tackle is discovered to be effective for specific areas.
For example I have a favorite flasher brand and size that I like to use for Columbia springers. I have certain flashers that I like to use for saltwater coho. I have a stable of jigs that I use for steelhead that varies depending on the time of year and water conditions. I use certain dyes and scents for various baits including herring and eggs. A box of plugs is filled with different sizes and colors of wigglers that have been hot for steelhead and salmon. There is a huge box of drift bobbers in my garage and in that box is another box of proven colors and sizes. I think you get the idea here.
I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’ve learned through trial and error and other anglers what’s been hot and what’s not.
I purchased a UV flashlight to test my lures and what I discovered truly blew my mind. Many if not most of my best lures glowed like crazy!
The fact that I could see what was glowing combined with knowledge about what works and when, taught me a whole bunch in a hurry.
I’ll give you some example of how to use a UV Flashlight to you best advantage. I showed my dad Frank who had never checked any of his flies this way before and he was immediately amazed.
Some of his best steelhead flies had parts that glowed. One material in particular that he used with great success in the ‘70s really showed up. You know those little tags of color that can be so popular on steelhead flies. If they glow (for example the green on a Green-Butt Skunk) I’m sure the fish can really see them.
You know the old school Okie Drifter that Bill Herzog is always raving about.
Even though I’ve collected hundreds of them I never really thought they were more than a lure to keep in your box to intimidate other anglers. I always have a number of lures on me that I don’t actually use but have just to say that I have them. Well that lure glows like crazy!
This is how I’m going to use my UV Flashlight in the future. First I’m going to inventory the lures in my arsenal that I know catch fish and determine which ones glow and which ones don’t.
This has been interesting because on most of them only parts glow like the beads, tape, some of the paint, etc. Next when I’m fishing or learning about new lures or tackle I’ll test these lures for glow. Then when I’ve fishing with my equipment or other angler’s tackle I’ll test all the tackle. Especially tackle that is really producing.
A lot of really effective tackle doesn’t glow.
And in many situations you might not want it to glow. But again you can factor this in too.
So the next time your buddy is catching all the fish with his hot lure it will be easy to determine: if the white on the back of his spinner blade glows; if his pink hootchie is glowing; if the beads are glowing; what part the color combination on his Flatfish is glowing; if some of the material on his fly are glowing; if his eggs are glowing; if the tape on his spoon is glowing…
I think you get the picture.
- written by Nick Amato