Sunday, January 29, 2012

Don't Let The High Water Get You Down - Steelhead Still Take Care of Business

Swinging Through Swollen Flows
With all of the recent precipitation, I had come down with a terrible case of cabin fever, and the rains have kept the rivers full. Thoughts of how many steelhead that are just swimming by my favorite waters have been haunting me, and I had a friend visit  for a couple of days who is a fishing freakazoid. I was not going to let the swollen flows keep us on the couch thinking about chrome anymore. There is always a spot that looks like it would hold steelhead no matter how high the flows are, and we were going to put it to the test to find some of these potential spots, and hopefully hook into some winter steelhead.
Winter steelhead boiling on surface during a screaming run
We fished for two days, and the first day the river was 20" above the standard flows that everyone who fishes this river seems to prefer. The water color was a tad bit off of steelhead green, but not brown and blown out by any means. We searched for "steelhead water" and that was the hard thing to find with the bloated flows, but we knew somewhere would have water that was about "walking speed" and somewhere from 18" - 6' deep. It turns out that everywhere that fit into that water classification resulted in having a fish on, or at least a grab. In a funny way it was not to hard to figure out; since most of the water was a torrent of jet wash with heavy whitewater or boiling hydraulic pools that looked intimidating. Steelhead are not going to hold in water that would be too much work to hold in, and the slow water that we found was generally above and below rapids; so you can assume that steelhead should be holding there. Fishing with that equation resulted in 6 hookups, and only 2 fish were landed, but the high water was the reason for all of the long distance releases. All of the fish were hooked on dead drifted presentations under strike indicators, and we did not hook any fish swinging flies on this day.
Angler on tight to a large powerful winter steelhead
The second day of fishing was a totally different story. The water was still about 10" above what would be considered to be the optimal river stage, but after the day before it looked perfect. As for the fishing, it was pretty darn good out there. I hooked up with a beautiful chromer on my second cast in my second spot I fished, and the fish took the fly super aggressively. It was a beautiful wild steelhead on her way to her natal waters before I intercepted her for a brief moment of admiration.
Beautiful coastal Oregon native winter steelhead
The water was producing hookups in just about every spot we probed our flies in, but the swollen flows caused many long distance releases again. We had super amazing fishing for the last 1 1/2 hours of the day, as we both hooked up with a 9 fish, and landed only 3 of them again (one wrapped on wood and straightened the hook). All of the fish again were hooked on dead drift presentations, and none were hooked on a tight line swing presentation. We fished both methods, and the dead drifts were getting all of the attention. The high flows seems to aid in the fish ripping the hooks out during the battles; since the line pressure would be so intense. The best part is hooking up and playing these steelhead, but it is always frustrating wondering exactly what the fish may have looked like that escaped before you got to land them. Luckily, Eliot ended up successfully landing this coastal beauty to admire.....
Angler admiring this gorgeous Oregon coastal winter steelhead - January 27, 2012

The thing that this fish made us wonder about was how many more looked like this that got off.....? That is what keeps us angling for more.....

I Wish Tight Lines for All!!!

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