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Twitching Troubles? Working Through Tough Conditions by Cameron Black

Undoubtedly if you’ve been salmon fishing in the Pacific Northwest for any period of time recently, you’ve heard the term “twitching”.

This technique has taken the salmon scene by storm and as there are refinements with new equipment, lures, and strategies, we are starting to see a multifaceted approach to targeting silvers while twitching. When the conditions are less than ideal, when the pressure is on, or when you are trying to pick on weary early run silvers, sometimes just casting the jig, hitting the bottom and bouncing it back isn’t going to do…

coho fishing twitch rodThe rapidly growing interest in twitching for silvers is something I’ve never experienced in my guiding career. Calls come in months and months in advance for those few peak weeks when the rivers are flowing well and the fish are pouring in.

Since the popularity has increased tenfold for coho, I’ve really had to extend the season that I can utilize this technique to accommodate anglers.

And why? It’s fun. Plain and simple.

Running around, casting at jumpers, finding those sweet spots where the fish are stacked and willing to charge a jig, and fighting them on lighter, shorter spinning rods makes for an exciting morning.


Twitching for silvers is a technique where you cast out a heavier jig, usually 3/8th to 1/2 ounce, and let it sink to the zone where the silvers are holding. Once you’ve gotten to the desired depth, you lift the rod a few feet quickly and then drop the rod tip to let the jig fall.

coho salmon fishing silvers washington oregon alaskaYou repeat this over and over and find a nice rhythm where every time you lift the rod, you feel the jig by reeling in just a little bit of line in-between lifts. If you’re not feeling the jig on the lift, you need to reel a little more between beats as you’re trying to make as much movement as possible to entice a strike.

Being aggressive and putting action on your jig is what it’s all about.

So, easy enough? You find a nice little pool, you cast out and let it fall, retrieve a little between lifts of the rod and wait for a silver to come out of the depths and crush it, right? Well in a perfect world where there’s tons of fish, good water clarity and no pressure, sure it’ll work.

But what about on those days where the water is crystal clear and low, there aren’t many fish around, or there’s a ton of anglers in the area bombing twitching jigs at the same five fish over and over and over again?

Gin Clear

Great silver fishing really relies on the rain and the rising of rivers.

Fresh fish love to move in on low pressure fronts which provide the most active biters to the area. Catching fish with sea lice on them 100 miles from the ocean is not uncommon for silvers charging in on a river rise, and these are the easiest ones to pick on with a twitching jig.

However, this past season we rarely saw rains that provided that scenario, in fact, this last fall had some of the longest stretches without rain on record. Some fish moved in but the ones that did were extremely difficult to get to attack a jig after the first hour of light.

cameron black silver fishingWater clarity is one of the biggest variables for effective twitching.

Gin clear water gives a silver ample time to see a jig coming from a ways away. I believe if they see it coming and have time to think about deciding to attack it or not, they most likely won’t. If the water has only a few feet of visibility and out of nowhere there’s a big, bright, fast falling jig right in their face, they don’t have time to decipher what it is or whether or not they’d like to hit it, they instinctively strike at it.

This is also why fishing that daylight timeframe when the water is clear is super important. Fish can be caught twitching at all times of the day and under all conditions, but some are just tougher than others.

So with clear water and the fish seeing the lure coming, you need to shorten the time a fish has to see, decipher, and react to a jig. Last season with the conditions we were having, it was almost as effective to cast out and rip a twitching jig under the surface in shallower runs where the silvers had some riffle cover.

By speeding up the presentation, it forced the fish to make a snap decision. Honestly, we also had better success ripping a Brad’s Wiggler through the water.

cameron black fishing plugs crankbaits brads silver salmon coho

With more speed on the plug, you get more depth versus the other way around with a twitching jig so don’t be afraid to tie one on for a couple of casts.

Going Deep

Occasionally in the fall we experience low water situations where a lot of our silvers will hold up in deeper pools or really tight to cover. It’s not uncommon to twitch silvers out of a pool that is 30 or more feet deep. These fish want security, and glassy slick surfaces with 10 foot of visibility in shallow water is not where they want to hold.

Getting over the top of them and vertical jigging can produce strikes, especially if all the fish are held up in one particular place within the pool. Silvers are competitive for holding water and anything that drops in and disturbs them can trigger some aggressive behavior.

big coho lucas holmgren silver salmon fishing

Having the right jig is important for this.

Detecting the bottom and making sure your jig can twitch in their zone will produce success. Mustad has a new twitching jig called a “Tail Out Twitcher” that will be available in a ½-, ¾-, and 1-ounce size. Having this extra weight for fast falls, good detection of the bottom, heavier current seams, and even some deeper pool Chinook fishing, will aid anglers in a whole bunch of situations.

I personally had the ability to test these through a whole season and they absolutely have their time and place when working on getting clients on fish.

High Flows

With the rains we get salmon, but we also get high water and a whole lot of mud.

Many nights, salmon anglers will be up constantly checking their river gauge apps looking for that slight drop that will hopefully be a sign of water that is starting to clear. For those willing to combat the heavier currents and murkier water, fresh silvers will be your reward.

marlin lefever big silver salmon coho

A few years back I had some clients flying in from Texas for some late silver twitching. Forecasts were looking great but two days out a storm that was supposed to head way north dropped south and obliterated our area. Rains were extremely heavy and pushed many rivers over flood stage in a day. My clients arrived and were already briefed on the situation and were ready to head to the Columbia to catch and release sturgeon as a great plan B.

I told them even though the river was just below flood, we needed to give it half a morning just to see. I generally like fishing heavier currents and bigger water as silvers will get blasted out of the main current and hide behind little points, along grass lines, and in the backwater pools.

Got to the river and not another angler or boat in sight.

Jetted from the ramp and stopped at the first little point where the current was calm and started giving my “how to twitch” presentation. Water visibility was about two feet. I always like making a few casts so my clients can see the cadence of the “twitch” that I like to see. Making bottom contact, I twitch one time and the rod is just about jerked from my hands. I laughingly hand the rod to a client and tell him to start reeling but he wouldn’t take it. He didn’t believe there was a fish on already….

We smashed them.

All the heavy rains did was bring in all the fish that had been waiting during our low water season and stuck them in every little backwater that is usually dry during normal fishing conditions.

We bounced back and forth between two little points. After we’d get a half dozen fish off one, we’d move to the other and then back. Real estate for holding fish wasn’t everywhere, it was only 2% of the entire river taking all the guess work out of it. For three days we never saw another angler and enjoyed some of the best twitching I’ve experienced in the lower 48 states.

We did have to make a few adjustments though. With the water being murky we switched everything to bright white and pink hootchie jigs.

twitching jigs hoochie salmon fishing coho silver

These jigs tend to fall a bit more side to side and if you’re only fishing a few feet of water, they will hang off the bottom a little longer giving the fish that much more of a chance at the jig. Also their erratic action helps with those territorial fish fighting for the best holding spots in the tougher flows. Always have a selection of white, glow and pink hootchie jigs that are 4 to 5 inches long and up to an ounce in weight, especially as the rains come.

Change it Up

Having a one-dimensional approach to twitching won’t give you results during the whole duration of the season.

Running a pink-headed, purple jig will get it done most of the time, but during those times of tougher conditions, those that get a little more dialed in will experience the best parts of the seasons that others miss.

Treat twitching like hunting. Cast at salmon holding spots from different angles, run heavier jigs to dig out those weary biters that are holding on the bottom, go fishing in some of the worst conditions that you’d normally sit inside and watch fishing videos.

Don’t leave the river without bouncing a jig off of every little rock, seam, and brush line that you can. Twitching can be the most rewarding technique when others have thrown in the towel.

- Written by Cameron Black (Gone Catchin' Guide Service, Addicted Fishing)

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1 comment

  • No mention of ROE, BEADS or Hardware?

    John William Joseph Snyder

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