When I began my fishing career (if you can call my fishing escapades a "career") I had the pleasure of being taught a specific angling technique by a man who was renounced through the area where I grew up as being a fishing "master" of sorts. This man was able to catch trophy sized trout and smallmouth bass from heavily fished rivers in Central Pennsylvania using a technique that he called "drift fishing".
In the past 25 or so years since I was first taught how to drift fish by this man I have learned that the technique has been being used by salmon and steelhead fishermen for many years, it's simply that this man used a downsized version of "drift fishing "as his technique of choice in the rivers and streams of Pennsylvania.
Below I will outline how to drift fish as it was taught to me all those years ago, so that you can add the technique to your fishing repertoire and begin catching more fish. If you are going to drift fish successfully the technique begins and ends with your rod, reel, and fishing line, all of which need to be as light as possible . Simply stated, this means that an ultra light rod and reel, that is spooled with 2, 4, or 6 pound test should be used anytime that you are trying to drift fish.
In order to drift fish successfully you are going to need to be fishing in the flowing water of a river or stream. I prefer the kind of river where wading is necessary and that can be waded across in various places. Obviously this type of fishing involves letting your bait or lure "drift" with the current and wading allows you to position yourself within the river or stream for to achieve the perfect drift.
You want to position yourself slightly upstream of the area that you want to fish and you want to make want to make casts parallel (to slightly upstream) of where you are standing. After a cast is made, the bail of your reel is closed, and let your bait, lure, or fly oi allowed to drift naturally with the current. A key to success is keeping your line as taught as possible while the drift is taking place. A sinker of some sort (usually split shot or tape lead) is added to the line twelve to twenty four inches above the bait or lure to achieve the optimum depth during the drift. Experimentation is key here, as the amount of weight will vary depending on water depth, current flow, etc. During most times of the year the goal is to keep your offering as close to the bottom as possible while the drift is taking place.
This ultralight spin fishing technique can be accomplished while using live bait such as worms, grubs or minnows, plastic baits such as Power worms or minnows, jigs, spinners, and even artificial flies (streamers). With practice you will begin to understand the nuances of how to drift fish and it will more than likely become your "go to" fishing technique.