Salmon and Steelhead Love Corkies - by Timothy Kusherets (Author) Steelhead & Salmon Drift-Fishing Secrets
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Salmon and Steelhead Love Corkies

Nothing beats a good old corkie, and they're incredibly easy to use

Timothy Kusherets

In my fishing gear arsenal I have over 25 different fishing technique setups. These setups allow me to fish a wide array of species of fish, and each species of fish responds favorably to particular baits and lures. So, as I fish with each setup, you can bet that I'll use gear that will get the most amount of fish in the shortest amount of time and for Salmon and Steelhead that means corkies. Salmon and Steelhead love corkies. Corkies produce more salmon and steelhead than any other type of fishing gear I've ever seen. If you combine Eggs, Shrimp, Jigs, Hot-shots, Spinners, Spoons, and Crank-baits the amount of combined fish are all over shadowed by the amount corkies produce each and every year. Don't misunderstand, all of the other techniques get fish on the hook, and in many cases I'll use other types of fishing, but when it comes to getting Salmon and steelhead on the hook, nothing beats a good old corkie, and they're incredibly easy to use, from the setup, to casting, to the presentation, and to the bite.
The setup to corkies is based on the hook, yarn, corkie, and toothpick. The best knot to use for the corkie is the egg-loop. With the egg-loop you can quickly tie off yarn, eggs, and shrimp while still using corkies. Many old-timers will tout how strong it is, and if you ever lose a fish that it won't be because of the knot tied to the hook. The hook it self should always be matched to the size of the corkie, and we'll get to that in a moment. I've used plenty of various hooks and have found that for freshwater steelhead and salmon fishing that "Octopus" style hooks outperform any other. The best colored hooks are Black and Red, and each hook should be matched with complimenting yarn. Use yarn to tie to the egg-loop and cut it so that when it's wet that it doesn't go past the bend of the hook, that's so when fish bite at the yarn and corkie, that it also bites into the hook…every time. Tying the knot of the yarn to the inside of the hook streamlines how a fish will strike, which increases successful hook sets. Corkies are the vital component to the setup and must be matched to the size of the hook. Corkies come in sizes that range from #6 to #12. The smaller the number is the larger the corkie is, for instance. A size six corkie will always be larger than a size 10, which is the size I prefer to use almost every occasion. If you can't remember the sizes then make sure that all corkies must fit inside the belly of the hook. So long as each corkie fits in the belly, bend, of the hook then the corkie will not interfere with the bite area. As you place the corkie near the eye of the hook make sure to include putting a toothpick in the top of it. Cut the tip off as close to the corkie as you can without touching the line going through it. The placement of the toothpick ensures that it doesn't travel up the leader line as it makes its way through the drift of holding water, and no matter how far I cast, you can bet that fish will bite.
Casting is something many bait fishermen don't really consider until they see how far a corkie fisherman can cast his offering. The more fish are pressured out from their holds the farther and deeper you have to cast. While bait is great for feeding steelhead, it's hard to entice salmon when the spawning migration is in full swing to bite a gob of eggs it has no interest in. A corkie can be cast a hundred times without ever having to change the leader. Bait fishermen can cast hard up to about six to seven times before they have to change bait for no other reason than it falls apart. Bait is a great change up when fishing for salmon and steelhead, and I've caught hundreds of them using worm, eggs, shrimp, and crayfish; however, hands down, if you're in for the long day, bait will disappear before noon. As a bait casting fan, I can tell you that whenever I've been forced to change to a spinning situation each time fish move out of the close holds. One of the first things I notice is how much farther I can cast because of the hardiness of corkies and the lighter line I'm able to use. The bigger eyes associated with spin casting rods are much larger allowing more line to pay out with each cast dot to less friction. As each of the components come together, from the hook consideration and the cast, the next thing to consider is how the presentation will effect a fish's ability to bite anywhere along the drift.  
The presentation of how a corkie is used is amazingly simple. Assume that the river is flowing form the left to the right. Cast out between the ten and eleven o'clock positions. Let the terminal gear of the weight hit the water without reeling in the slack. Let the mainline makes its way over to the twelve o'clock position before reeling in the slack. Depending on whether you're using a bait-casting reel or spinning reel, put your thumb or forefinger on the mainline for added sensitivity of any strikes. Each presentation is dependent on how far you want to cast, how much weight you're using, and how far down the drift you think fish are holding. There are many anglers who like to fish with heavier weights that go straight to the bed of the river. That technique is called "bottom-bouncing". Some anglers prefer to use lighter test near the bed without almost ever touching it, that's called "Gliding". Bottom bouncing allows fishermen to fish more of the river without the threat of not getting deep enough. Gliding is more art than science in the lightweight of the terminal gear means that anglers have to cast further upstream to get near the bed. When gliding, if you come within contact of the river at any time, simply raise the tip of the rod, reel in the slack, and continue letting the mainline drift through the hold. An attractive quality about gliding is that each time a fish strikes you can "feel" the take no matter how subtle it is.
The bite of how these fish strikes can come from any portion of the drift, very few fishing techniques can make the same claim. Corkies, properly presented, can garner strikes at the surface, near the bed, in fast water, slow water, deep water, and shallow water. The key to hooking fish in every portion of the drift is the toothpick. The stabilizing quality of the "jammed" toothpick allows fish to pick up the corkie, hook, and yarn at the same time. Regardless of where fish hold, they will always be beneath a drifting corkie, which causes them to look up. At the beginning of the drift, almost all terminal gear gets in front of the corkie, so any strike that comes from upriver will be felt by anglers the very moment the corkie hits the water since reeled in slack enhances a straight line. The straighter the leader and mainline are the more sensitive each strike is going to feel, and that is when you set the hook. When using the gliding technique be ready to set the hook, soon after it hits the water. It doesn't mean that salmon and steelhead will do it all the time, but it does mean that the opportunity will be there. I've seen it and done it hundreds of time, sometimes to the amazement of bait fishermen not more than ten feet from me. While I do favor spin-casting setups, I'm also a huge fan of bait-casting rods, reels, and bait techniques of fishing.
Everything has it's place, and every place has a function, and every function dictates the kind of fishing needed to be successful at fishing, which is why it's so important to be flexible; but don't forget. Corkies are tools for fishing that work great for just about any fishing environment for Salmon and Steelhead. The spectacular attraction is the ease of which they can be used and the universal nature of how consistently these fish bite. To be truly successful, anglers must take more than one kind of technique, lure, and bait to the water. It doesn't mean to load up vests and tackle boxes so that each weighs too much to carry far, rather, take options and these fish will let you know how well you've chosen.
To Learn more about fishing for salmon and steelhead log onto the authors website Top Fishing Secrets (, or pick up a copy of his book "Steelhead and Salmon Drift-Fishing Secrets".
Check out this summer steelhead. Take a look at the corkie and yarn on the butt of the noodle rod. The sensitive bite of this steelhead was not sensitive enough. The moment she touched it was the same moment I set the hook, and there she is, destined to meet the belly of a hungry fisherman.
Look at the size of this salmon! This hard-hitting fish looks as though corkies wouldn't mean a thing to it, but it did. Corkies can literally get the attention of any species of salmon, and a proper presentation ensures that battles will ensue.
This is a true story. While out fishing a fall run of fish, I decided to document how many fish I could get on throughout the day using nothing but corkies; from sunup to sundown I hooked and landed sixty-eight!
4.This winter steelhead put up quite a battle. The lethargic nature of slow moving fish was indicative for wintertime conditions, but it still could not pass up a corkie placed right in front of its face.