The floating drift rig one of the most common drift rigs used to catch fish in moving water. The other is the slinky drift rig. These rigs are often employed to catch salmon and steelhead but they can work just as well for most other fish in flowing water to.
Fish living in moving water watch things flow past them all day long. Most things float at around the same speed as the water. Drift rigs are designed to match this flow to the greatest extent possible. The slinky drift rig is used to bounce baits along the bottom but it is usually slow. Using a float allows the angler to match the speed of the water more closely. It allows gives the angler something to look at in the form of a float. If the float sinks or even hesitates the angler knows the bait has been taken by a fish or is hung up on the bottom.
The floating drift rig is incredibly easy to tie though the use of different bits of tackle can certainly complicate things. In its most basic form the rig simply consists of a float and a hook. Adjustments can and should be made to match the conditions.
One of the easiest ways to tie a floating drift rig is to employ a fixed float and some split shots. The main line is attached to the float. The remaining line is tied to a hook or lure.
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Most floats can be adjusted so that the amount of line remaining will change. Usually the bait or hook should drift down around the bottom of the water column though there are times when anglers want the bait to ride high in the water. Heavy baits sink quickly and can be fished on shorter lines. Lighter baits take longer to sink. They can either be fished on longer lines or weighed down with split shots.
Some bobbers attach to the line with metal clips. These clips can pinch and damage the line. Other floats work much better. The Trout Magnet float works well. The line is put through a large hole in the center. Then a plastic pin is pushed into the hole to hold the line there. Clear steelhead floats also work well and they have more weight to aid with casting, though they are a bit more complicated. Small pieces of silicone tubing are used to the hold the line in place.
Different amounts and patterns of weight can be used to drift baits and lures with a natural appearance. Experimentation is usually required to get things just right. Matching the float to the conditions also helps. If your float is too big you might not notice when you get a subtle take. If it is too small, it won’t be able to hold up the bait and weight. Finally, you must watch the float at all times to look for bites and bottom contact.
The most important thing is to keep the drift natural. By using a keen eye and a long rod you can keep excess line off of the water. If you let the line pile up on the water it will be pulled by different current speeds. This will slow your float down or speed it up so that it looks totally unnatural. Most fish will avoid it. Keep contact with your float to avoid this.
Anglers who want a totally drag free drift often employ specialized gear such as centerpin reels which allow line to flow with little to no resistance. These work very well though they take effort to master.