Nicholas’ Fly Fishing Glossary: Okie Drifter

Nicholas’ Fly Fishing Glossary

Q:  Okie Drifter


This Google search takes me way back to the early 1960s.  That was when I was trying mightily to catch my first winter steelhead here in Oregon.  Fishing Neskowin Creek and the Nestucca River, I was.

Glass spinning rods of about 7 ½ or 8’.  Mitchell 300 spinning reels.  My Scotch line was a pale pink, if I remember correctly.  The Okie Drifter was a standard for winter steelhead anglers.  These hard plastic gizmos were hollow and were threaded on a leader with one hook above and one hook below the hollow drift lure.  These were usually fished drift-style with pencil lead weight about 18”- 24” above the Okie.

The two-hook rigging was believed to increase hooking probabilities over the use of a single hook below the drift lure, and that thought was probably correct.  By the way, pencil lead was soft lead shaped like a pencil, typically ¼” or 3/16” diameter, stuffed into surgical latex tubing.  Some folks still drift fish this way today.  Some anglers fished lead shot referred to as “cannonballs.”  Slinkies were yet to have been invented in those days.


This doesn’t seem to have much to do with fly fishing, does it?

Well, yes it does, because it is part of my roots as a fly fisher.  If I had a fly fishing mentor like Frank Moore back then, I would have made the transition a whole lot sooner, I think.

I do remember hooking a beautiful winter steelhead (several in fact), on Okie Drifters.  I judiciously managed to break each one off, in quick succession.  Eventually, I hooked a steelhead small enough that I was unable to break it off.  That fish was hooked on a copper and red WoblRite spoon.

That fish probably would have taken an Egg Sucking Leech.


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