John is a full time fishing guide in Oregon, guiding from the Columbia to the Oregon Coast. John also is a writer and photographer about all things to do with fishing.
November 27, 2012
Confidence, and Persistence… and How to Manufacture Luck
by John Childs
Confidence, and Persistence… and How to Manufacture Luck
I've heard the old cliché "I'd rather be lucky than good," about a ga-zillion times, and I'll bet you have too. Another cliché that's often floated around the places fisherman gather is "10% of the fisherman catch 90% of the fish." While I believe in both cliché's, I believe them with a caveat… I think they are related, and I believe the magical 10 percenters out there use confidence and persistence to create their own brand of luck! I've come to believe that luck is really a point where opportunity meets preparation, and if you are both confident and persistent you'll most likely be able to take advantage of the opportunities and now you've manufactured your own little lucky streak.
I've seen it so many times on my boat; the quiet yet confident people are the ones who catch fish. But it's not just my clients who need to be happy and confident, I've found it also has to radiate from me. Have you ever noticed on those days you leave the dock and you absolutely know you aren't going to get them, how this prophecy tends to become true, and conversely how when you know in your gut today's the day, it often is? I've seen it over and over, that when I'm confident of the day's outcome, of how we will find and catch fish, we often do just that. Lucky Bert and myself with a fantastic spinner king!
Before I was guiding full time I was often accused of fishing with a vengeance (and sometimes not being very fun to fish with as I was VERY wound up!). I would approach each day with an expectation, and would work at finding and catching fish with a hard demeanor and very uptight attitude. I actually see this same attitude in many of the clients who get on my boat. It's their one day off, they've hired a guide to make sure the day is successful, and now they are spun up to the max, hoping to make sure everything pans out just the way they imagined. I see myself in each one of these anglers, remembering how my own limited time was so important, how I had to maximize every opportunity, to make sure I could wring each and every second out of my precious day off.
A long time ago I began to realize, in fits and starts, that the point where I finally relaxed, when I began to let go and just enjoy myself was when I caught the most fish. It's also when I really began to feel the point when "it's getting ready to happen!" I guess I stole the idea from Austin Powers, but I've got a mojo too, and it's a fish mojo, and when I relax it seems to talk to me. I didn't really begin to fully appreciate this idea until I began fishing as a full time guide. As I mentioned above, this whole idea was only noticed in small bites before, but once fishing time was on my side, I noticed it profoundly. I now know unequivocally that when I'm relaxed, confident and prepared I catch fish… and I can often feel it getting ready to happen. It's this feeling of excited expectation, and I often say I can fell my fish mojo pinging. When these feelings happen I know we can't fail, and it almost always pans out.
I've tried to impart this to my clients, but it's hard to get anybody to relax when they're on a mission. And boy do I understand, because I lived it too, but the rub is when they can let go and settle down, things so often fall into place.
I had a couple young guys fish with me recently, and they were an absolute pleasure to have on board. Tom and Daniel were very happy to be spending a day on the water, but more importantly they were relaxed right from the go. They wanted to catch fish, but they were so laid back about it, their desire almost seemed non-existent. We talked about it at one point, and Tom told me he preferred to fish with quiet confidence. I loved it, because it sums up my feelings to a "T!" I've seen the flip side of the over confident, somewhat arrogant angler who seems to kill his own opportunities, while the quietly confident angler humbly catches his fish. This was Tom and Daniel's attitude, and it paid them handsome dividends that day with a very nice catch of fish… but the best part was their smiles at the end of the day. Tom with his big spinner caught king!
While confidence is uncompromisingly important to success, there are a couple of other attitudes that help ensure success. The primary one is persistence and determination. Sometimes you just have to put your time in. I wish there was another answer, but lots of time on the water always points back to this simple premise. The more time you put in, the more often you'll find success. Danny with a chrome river hen!
I have one client who is a great guy to have on board. He's smart, successful, funny, and always provides great conversation. His only drawback is he wants his fish on a string. He wants them fast and furious, and he's quick to give up when it seems like it won't come together. One day after we fished a long morning without any action, he fell asleep in his chair. The weather was warm for a change, and even I felt a little of the grogginess try and set in, but I also knew we didn't have much more time before he was going to ask me to take him in. I wanted the fish as bad as he did… sometimes as a guide I think I actually want it more than my clients. I was doing everything I knew to bring it together, and that fishy feeling was starting to get almost palpable. As he snoozed lightly I noticed his rod take that all-familiar dip at the beginning of a herring bite. I sat quietly and watched as his rod dipped and fluttered, started and stopped, and finally after an eternity slowly buried in the rod holder. I woke him up with a "you've got a fish, you've got a fish!" We landed the fish, and he was pleased as punch, and of course a new level of interest was back into his attitude. We made two more passes and landed two more fish, and we were still off the water by 2:00.
That day as he walked off the boat I asked him politely to please not to give up when we're fishing until I give up. If I believe it's going to happen, he should too! He still reminds me of that comment when we fish, and I think he's more confident now when we fish.
But still, the rub is wanting it so fast and furious. Often the fish aren't on our schedule and the only way we can find success is to grind it out. But when we grind it out, we have to stay confident and positive. It's these attitudes that combine to create luck. As I said at the beginning of this article, I believe luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Sometimes we have to work to find those opportunities, and this is why being persistent is so important. If you're not ready to grind out the day, you might miss the bite, or bites you might have had if you'd stayed with it.
Give it a try… work on being confident you'll find the fish, but also WORK at it. A while back a very successful friend of mine told me the secret to his success. He said, "I've always been lucky, but I've manufactured my luck. When I was young my dad told me all you can do is work hard and the rest will come. That's the secret to my success," he said, "working hard!" And it's a premise that'll work for you on the water too. Stay upbeat and positive, work at it, and then you'll begin to manufacture your own brand of fishy luck!
May 23, 2012
Fishing the Re-opener on the Columbia River
by John Childs
Fishing the Re-opener for Columbia Springers
The Columbia officially reopens this weekend for a two-day season on Saturday the 26th, and Sunday the 27th. The same limits as the early season apply. You can retain 2 adult salmon or hatchery steelhead, but only one clipped Chinook is allowed per day (the other salmon may be a sockeye). This is great news, especially knowing if the numbers over the dam spike again when the water level goes down, we will most likely get another reopener, this time with the season lasting all the way through the June 16th Summer Chinook Season opener. With the flows in the Willamette continuing to be high, but more significantly, backed up with lessened current flow, the fishing has continued to be tough, with many anglers completely giving up. The Columbia reopening to spring Chinook fishing should shoot some life back into the fishery, and best of all, it looks like Columbia is slated to be dropping this weekend which could really help illicit a strong bite. This is potentially the best opportunity we've had for "REALLY" catching some spring Chinook so far this year.
The water temperature is currently sitting at 57 degrees at Bonneville, but could realistically drop a degree or two given our current weather conditions. Regardless whether the temps hold or go down, the water will probably be in the mid to upper 50's over the weekend. With early to mid morning high tides swinging into outgoing tides during the day, the stage is set for really good fishing conditions. Our only real obstacle this weekend will be the continued high water, but after the last couple of seasons, I think many of us who have been fishing the Columbia when it has been open, have forged new game plans to combat this high water anomaly.
If you haven't spent some time fishing during the high water flows of the last two years, I would recommend leaning toward fishing shallower water than normal. I've caught many springers between 8 and 15 feet of water so don't be afraid to target the shallow edges, especially where they are on inside corners, or flats that are removed from the faster main current flow of the river. These migrating fish are looking for the path of least resistance, and this often means seeking out the softer water on the fringes of the main current.
Given the conditions outlined above, I would arrive at the river with a game plan. With warmer water conditions, hardware could be extremely effective. With the tide change and outgoing morning tides, we could also see good downstream herring fishing. Currently, my plan is to be on the water at first light trolling herring downstream through the tide change and into the first bit of the outgoing tide, and then switch gears mid morning, and start targeting the hardware bite. In my opinion, this is where it gets interesting.
I'm a diehard spinner guy. I paint my own blades, build my own spinners, and have a collection of spinners that really gets a bit obscene at times. Oh my gosh, this seems like the perfect time to find a great anchor spot in 6 to 12 feet of water and put some spinners out, or slowly troll them upstream, or even troll them downstream like we're fishing herring, but not dragging bottom, just staying really, really close. But here's where the descisions get tough, because I love fishing plugs, (what I consider smaller K-11X Kwikfish, Wiggle Warts or similar plugs) and I also love fishing sardine wrapped Kwikfish for the savage strikes they elicit from kings. To many choices, not enough time to try them all, or is there? I might just get the full meal deal in some way or another, but I can tell you, I will show up with more than my share of gear so I can take advantage of whatever conditions or spots I encounter!
A note of caution here, as I'm still seeing large parts of trees and other debris coming down river. Not nearly at the pace of earlier in the year, but still, there are still some potentially devastating hazards floating downstream, so make sure and keep an eye out while running, or if you anchor up. Also, if you anchor, make sure you put out plenty of scope on your anchor line and put your anchor buoys out. The anchor buoy is anchored, and your boat is cleated off to the buoy. If you're paying attention and something goes wrong you can un-cleat from the buoy and hopefully avoid any disasters, but this means staying aware of what's happening around you. Pay attention and be safe!
For anchor fishing with plugs, you can use a small jet diver to get your gear down into the zone, but if you're in some current and it's fairly shallow, you can also flat line them. Both Wiggle Warts and K-11X's will dive 8-9 feet given enough line and a decent current. If it's much deeper, either lead or a diver will help keep your plugs in the zone.
If you decide to fish wrapped Kwikfish, use 18-24" droppers with a 5-foot leader and bounce them back away from your boat a ways, then wait for that magical rod burying grab the Kwiky is so famous for! Some anglers prefer longer dropper lengths for fishing Kwikfish on anchor, and it's perfectly acceptable to fish up to 4 foot lead droppers. What you really want to see is the plug working steadily, but it should occasionally quit working, and the rod tip should become still. This is when the plug hits bottom and hesitates and quits working until it floats up a bit and begins working again. The plug should be working more than it's resting, but if it's not hitting bottom a couple times or more each minute, I don't really feel it's in the zone.
The same basic set-up for Kwikfish, is perfect for fishing spinners, although I definitely like the shorter dropper lengths. I will almost always be fishing a 24" dropper with spinners, both when anchored and when trolling them. Just make sure you're right there close to the bottom, and when anchored you can have the lead resting lightly on the bottom.
Finally, don't rule out the idea of back-trolling areas with good current in 18 to 35 foot depths. You can back troll wrapped Kwikfish or prawn spinners with a jet diver on a 12-18" dropper and 5 foot leader. The nice thing about back-trolling is you aren't stuck in one current lane, but can glide from side to side while backing down, potentially finding that magical depth/contour/seam where the fish seem to be traveling.
Whatever methods you decide to employee this weekend, don't forget to have fun out there. Plan there will be crowds, busy boat ramps and excited people who may even forget their common sense for a moment when they get excited. It's about having fun out there with our friends and families in the wonderful environment we all live in here in the great Northwest. Smile and give a little leeway to the other guys and we'll all have a little more fun!
See you on the water!!
February 29, 2012
Late Winter Steelhead
by John Childs
River Report 2-28
It's a cold one! My truck thermometer reads a chilly 29 degrees this morning. As I sit here waiting for first light, I find myself wondering why on earth I'm getting ready to go freeze my fanny off to chase steelhead?
Lately, I haven't had many opportunities, or time, to get out and fish. But by a twist of fate, I found myself with a few free hours this morning, when I could finally sneak away. It's a short window of opportunity too, with 50 mph winds and 100% chance of rain forecasted for this afternoon, not to mention all the work sitting on my desk. With the web site Weather Underground predicting up to a 1/3 of an inch of rain, coupled with the already high water from last week's storms, this next system could blow the rivers out again, which in reality, is the main reason I'm finding time to sneak away!!!
I don't know about you, but I let the high water fool me into not fishing last weekend. And of course, on Sunday, I started getting phone calls and emails from friends who had some pretty stellar outings. Sometimes it seems I can't win for losing. So, I figured the only way to combat the issue was to sneak out this morning before the rain could put the kabosh on any future fishing plans.
I'm sure you've heard the news of another decent push of winter steelhead at the coast. As I read the forums, I'm surprised at the number of people who think this is unusual. Even without the brood stock programs, February and March have always held the possibility of some outstanding fishing. Even better, the crowds have usually begun to dwindle as anglers begin chasing spring chinook in earnest. It's always been a special time at the coast. In fact, I've had some truly spectacular days all the way into late April and early May.
Another thing that keeps running through my mind is how last year every fishery (except tuna!) seemed to run 3 weeks to a month late. Could this be happening again? The robins have showed up early, I have trees that look like they are ready to bloom, and my yard really needs to be mowed. Who knows, but could the run timing be reversing itself this year? Or are we going to have another year of late arriving fish? Only time will tell, but so far the run timing seems a bit strange.
Anyway, here I sit, parked in front of a gate on one of my favorite coastal streams, waiting for the grey light of dawn. I'm hoping, praying, maybe even needing, the redemption of just one chrome fish to help regain my perspective during this crazy season.
This morning, I've committed myself to fishing a bobber and jig. Mostly committed. I tied up a dozen jigs last night, dreaming of the precious metal they might help me coax from the river, but being the over zealous fish addict I am, I brought a drift rod just in case. But I really want to get them on jig
Well the light is finally breaking. It's time to get my rods together, my waders on, and to hike down to the stream. Wish me luck out there. Hopefully I'll be back soon to report a successful morning of finding a bright fish or two.
I'm back, and yes, I do have a report. I was only able to fish for an hour and a half before time indicated the need to head back to my office, but in that short time I managed to land two nice steelhead.
I'm pleased I was able to use one of my new jigs to land a steelhead this morning. The reality of how it happened was even close to the scenario I had imagined while tying the jigs, cool!Jig Caught Steelhead
I'm still happy I brought the extra rod and gear, because I used it to drift fish a fast run where I'd tried fishing the bobber and jig without success. The spot looked so fishy, I just couldn't walk away when a fish didn't immediately jump all over my jig, and on the very first cast with a corky and yarn, a bright little hatchery fish inhaled the offering. Corky and Yarn SteelheadSuccessful Gear- Corky & Yarn and Pink Jig
While neither fish was chrome bright, they were still beautiful fish, (aren't all steelhead beautiful?) and made a good account of themselves on the light gear. Both steelhead were hatchery fish, but since I hadn't planned on keeping fish this morning, and with an early deadline for getting back to work, it just didn't make any sense to bring fish home. So, I released both fish, hopefully to make another angler's day as bright as mine!Fishing Techniques for Bank Fishing Steelhead
There are so many techniques you can use when steelhead fishing from the bank, but in the past decade, the bobber and jig has become one of the go to techniques. It's a simple way to fish, and as a bonus, it can be amazingly effective!
There are many different ways of rigging the bobber and jig, but I prefer a simple approach. I use 10 or 12 pound Maxima Fluorocarbon for leader, attached to the main line with a Double Uni Knot. I use 30 pound Power Pro Spectra (braid) for my main line, and a Double Uni Knot passes through the guides very easily, while also retaining high breaking strength. The benefit of using braided line is it floats, so mending the line is incredibly easy to accomplish.
I use ¼ ounce Thill Turbo Master Floats. These floats allow you to easily adjust the depth you are fishing, and because of the wire extending below the float help to stabilize such a light bobber, even in uneven flows. Turbo Master Float and Pink Jig
Now tie on your favorite color of jig. I know there are a lot of choices for jig colors out there, and I even use a few of them myself, but when it really comes down to it, two color combinations see the most use. I generally either fish a cerise/pink, or a nightmare jig. Both of these colors cover so many different fishing scenarios, but most important, I have faith in them! I tie my own jigs, so I'm able to choose the color combinations when I'm tying, and I think having two contrasting colors is a good idea. The nightmare jig excels at this. For the pink jig, I use shell pink and extra hot cerise (super charged hot pink!) marabou feathers to provide a bit of contrast.
Many other jig colors will work as well, as long as you have faith in them. Combinations of pink, flame, orange, white, cerise, black and blue are all common steelhead colors. Just pick something you BELIEVE will get bit, and you're on the right track!
Set the distance from the bobber to the jig so the jig will generally be about 6 inches off the bottom, and your ready to fish. Make sure and cast well above where you think the fish will be lying, so the jig can float down into the fishes view naturally. Try to get a drag free drift.
Using a long rod helps, by allowing you to lift as much line off the water as possible. When fishing a bobber and jig, a belly of line will almost always form at some point during the drift, because of different current speeds between you and your bobber. When this happens a mend is needed to remove the belly of line. Mending is accomplished by lifting the line off the water, all the way to the bobber, and then setting it back down upstream of the bobber, so the current can't as easily form a belly in the line. If you don't mend the line to remove the belly, the current will begin dragging your bobber and jig at a faster rate than the current lane they are floating in. To see a mend in action, go to youtube, and type in "mending jig and bobber" in the search window, and you can watch how this task is accomplished. If you haven't done it before, mending can be frustrating at first, but like anything, with a little practice it's very easily accomplished.
Your bobber will tell you when you're not getting a drag free drift. When your bobber is riding straight up and down, you are getting a drag free drift. If you have developed drag, your bobber will be leaning to one side or the other. This is when a mend should be used to remove the drag. The bobber will also tilt to the side if your jig is dragging on the bottom. When this happens, you will generally see the bobber dancing a little bit as the jig bounce over the rocks on the bottom. This is when you should shorten the distance between the float and the jig. Again, when everything is working right, and you're getting a drag free float, the bobber should be standing straight up and down. Tools of the Trade
A long rod is an essential tool for fishing bobber and jigs. I use G. Loomis STR1162-2S, which is a 9' 8" rod rated for 6-10 pound line. This rod has the length needed to achieve a drag free drift, and to be able to easily control and mend your line, while being supple enough to protect the lighter lines often used fishing for steelhead from breaking.
I use a Shimano Symetre 3000 spinning reel with 20 pound Power Pro braided line. The spinning reels allow the line to come off the reel much smoother without any tension from a revolving spool so you can more easily achieve a drag free float.
Now get out there and find some of those late winter steelies!
February 21, 2012
Pulling Plugs for Early Springers & Steelhead
by John Childs
Fishing Plugs for Salmon & Steelhead
Early season on the Willamette, especially around the Oregon City area, is a prime time for pulling plugs. With plenty of winter steelhead still moving through the system, along with an early shot of spring Chinook, the plug pulling angler can often find success with both species.
When fishing in depths of 12 feet or less, standard plug techniques can be used. By far the most popular plug for early season trolling is Luhr-Jensen's K-11-X Extreme Kwikfish. This series of Kwikfish dives to impressive depths, and best of all, rarely needs to be tuned. When targeting early season fish, you should choose plugs that are chrome, pink, flame, and orange, or combinations of these colors. As the calendar creeps towards the middle to end of March, picking larger plugs with green and chartreuse colors, and adding bait wrappers can be a good bet. K-13's & 14 Kwikfish along with their Xtreme designated brethren become the go to plug.
For flat line plug fishing, it's generally a good idea to fish monofilament outside of the rod tip. Many fisherman have switched their reels over to hi-tech spectra lines, but when pulling plugs, the no stretch attributes of braided line can cause missed fish. What happens is, a fish aggressively grabs a plug, pulling the rod tip down sharply. This action loads the rod, and without any stretch from the fishing line, the fish can throw the lure when he begins opening and closing his mouth and shaking his head trying to expel the plug, simply from the loaded rod acting as a spring. This can effectively pop the plug right out of the fish's mouth.
When a section of monofilament is used as the trolling line, a fair amount of stretch is added to the equation. This minimizes the effect of the fishing rod acting as a spring. Anyone who's pulled plugs very often has still seen the rod ripped down viciously, only to have it pop right back up fishless. It's all part of the game of pulling plugs for salmon and steelhead, but by adding a section of monofilament between the rod tip and the plug this phenomenon will be greatly reduced.
I like to make sure there is at least 75 to 80 feet of at least 15 pound test monofilament, when trolling plugs. You can use lighter line, but you will loose some fish. In fact, many guides use a minimum of 20 pound test when pulling plugs on the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. Add a duo-clip to the terminal end of the monofilament, attach your plug, and you're ready to fish.
When flat lining plugs, they should generally be let out about 50-75 feet behind the boat. If the water is less than 8 feet deep use a shorter line, but when trolling anything more than 8 feet deep letting the plugs back 75 feet or so is a good idea. It's also very important to have all the plugs out at the same distance. It really makes a difference in the catch ratios when the plugs are all running together, stimulating a flight or fight response from the fish. I accomplish this task by measuring out my lines at home and then putting a heavy black mark on the main line using a Sharpie. You can also tie a bobber stop on the main line at the desired distance, so when you are fishing, have everyone let their lines out to the pre-marked spot, and all the plugs will be running together.
When pulling plugs, I like to leave the rods in the rod holders. While it's definitely not a bait bite where you need to wait for the fish to take the bait, it's still a good idea to let the fish turn before the hook is set. A lot of times a fish will come up and eat the plug and get stung by the hooks. They will then proceed to open their mouths and shake their heads from side to side trying to disgorge the offending piece of plastic. The boat is generally backing down, which gives the fish a bit of slack, and if an angler swings on a biting fish as this occurs, they can sometimes help the fish expel the plug. When the rod is in the holder, there is generally a moment or two of hesitation before the angler reacts and grabs the rod. This pause often gives the fish enough time to turn and move away with the plug, increasing the percentage of hooked fish.
When fishing in water more than 15 feet deep, and especially when targeting depths of more than 20 feet, a jumbo jet diver is the preferred method for getting your plugs into the zone. The rigging for this is quite simple.
Pass your main line through one to three 6-8mm beads, then through the eye of a barrel swivel. Then add at least one to three more 6 or 8mm beads. The colors of the beads are purely optional, with guide green beads being the most commonly used. Tie your main line to another barrel swivel. You can substitute this last barrel swivel with a bead chain swivel to help eliminate any line twist that could potentially occur. Now tie a 4-5 foot section of monofilament or fluorocarbon leader to the bottom swivel, using anywhere from 20 to 40 pound line. Attach a duo-clip to the end of the leader. Finally add an 8-12" dropper of 15-20 pound mono to the sliding swivel with a duo-clip attached to the bottom. The Jumbo jet divers from Luhr-Jensen come with a dropper line already attached to the diver, and you can just pass your mainline through the eye of this swivel when rigging. Now clip the plug of your choice on to the leader, attach a jumbo jet diver to the dropper, and you're ready to fish.
When running plugs with the jumbo jet divers, let the line out approximately three times the depth of the water fished. Over the last couple of seasons, I finally bit the bullet and added some Shimano Tekota line counter reels to my aresnal. This is an absolutely wonderful way of making sure everyone is fishing at the same depth, and that the plugs have formed a wall. But it's also a perfect way to make sure you are fishing these rigs at 3 times the depth of the water. If fishing in 25 feet of water, I would let my lines back 75 feet on the line counters.
The same hook setting rule applies when pulling plugs with divers. It's a good idea to not immediately set the hook on a fish, but to wait until the rod tip is "buried" (the rod tip is staying down) and the fish is taking line before picking up the rod. Generally, you don't need to set the hook. When the rod comes out of the rod holder, just a firm lift as the angler begins reeling is all that's needed to make sure the hooks are buried in the fish's jaw. Once the season progresses and the larger plugs are employed, you will often watch the beginning of the "take down" with the rod bouncing up and down. This is the situation described above where the fish is shaking its head from side to side trying to throw the plug. This is an especially important time to NOT set the hook. If the angler can wait until the rod tip stays down the overall hooking percentage goes way up.
I hope this helps get any of you would be plug pullers way ahead of the game for your next outing! Good luck out there!!
February 21, 2012
Fishing Early Springers & Steelhead
by John Childs
Fishing Early Springers & Steelhead
Well, it's almost springer time, Almost! I've been chomping at the bit as much as everyone else, but I also keep looking at the calendar and trying to remind myself it's still February, anybody else out there running into the same issue? I'm amazed at the weather we are experiencing lately, as it seems spring is trying to show up a month early, not that I mind in any way. It just seems like it should be the middle of March and I can't keep from feeling the lure of those mystical spring Salmon.
Like most everyone, I have a real job. Have you noticed how "real jobs" get in the way of some really good fishing? I've been traveling a lot lately for work and my main fishing fix has come from tying leaders while stuck in hotel rooms far from home, interspersed with liberal amounts of ifish.net surfing. Am I the only one who finds himself looking at the 2012 Official Spring Chinook thread daily to see if there are any updates?
Last week I got stuck in Phoenix (if you can call working in a city with daily temperatures in the mid 70's, with good restaurants and a nice hotel stuck!) working my final major spring buying show of 2012. There certainly could be worse places to get stuck! Anyway, last week I started hearing rumors of a few springers being caught, and then calls from a few friends who spend a bit more time on the water, and I started feeling a bit twitchy.
Saturday night I finally arrived back home after 6 weeks of almost non-stop travel. I definitely had plans to get on the water, but I also needed to do a little catch up in the rest department. Sunday morning was a pretty lazy morning. I found myself wandering aimlessly around the house, feeling like I had cotton stuffed between my ears. I think it's the combination of too many days in a row with a very rigid and demanding schedule, with a liberal interspersing of late nights and early mornings thrown in for good measure, and then all of the sudden I'm back at home without a schedule, and more importantly a chance to catch up on some sleep! Yeah, I was exceptionally lazy… It was one of those days where you KNOW you should be doing something, but I just couldn't get my butt started in any type of a productive direction. And whenever I contemplated starting some project, the sheer inertia of the idea became paralytic. Just the type of day where I feel lost in my own home.
Enter my good friend Carmen McDonald. I had finally come to the ardous conclusion I was going to fish on Monday. I called Carmen to see if he could fish, and also to see if he had any hot river reports. I was planning a trip somewhere on the North Coast, maybe the Wilson, the Nestucca? Who knows, wherever it sounded like there was a good shot at finding a few fish would work. When Carmen answered he said, "What's up? Ready to fish? I was just getting ready to hit the Willamette for the evening outgoing tide. Want to join me?" In the blink of an eye, I went from tired and paralyzed to absolutely ready to roll.
Carmen told me to meet him at the boat ramp in Oregon City and we'd see what we could do during the last few hours of the day. It's amazing to me how tired and out of gas I could feel one minute, and the next fully charged and moving with speed and purpose.
I got my gear loaded up, hooked up the boat to my truck (I have a slightly larger, but definitely wider boat than Carmen, so I had suggested we use it simply from a comfort standpoint.), grabbed a couple bottles of water, my camera, and my fishing clothes and was out of the house in 20 minutes flat. Not bad for a guy who 1 hour earlier was the definition of a deadbeat couch potato!
I wanted to beat Carmen to the ramp since my sled hadn't been in the water for a couple of months. Whenever it has been sitting for a bit of time, the motors get a little sluggish in the starting department. I didn't want to feel rushed to get the boat off the trailer and running, so getting there a bit early was my plan to have a little extra time to launch without feeling rushed.
I pulled up to the ramp and was a bit shocked to find a line. At least it was the type of line to be in, one where everyone else is taking out, while I'm putting in. I waited my turn and got the boat started and off the trailer without any trouble. The motors where a bit cold and took a second or two to catch, and a bit longer than normal to warm up, but overall this part went super smooth.
I got the truck parked just as Carmen and his son pulled up to the ramp. Well I guess I wasn't so early after all, or maybe Carmen was just as anxious as me to get a couple of hours of fishing in.
When I got down to the boat, Carmen and his son where already getting situated, and where getting their plugs tied on. I hopped into the boat and we were off.
It's a short run to the spot we wanted to fish so we putted across the river and got the boat situated on the seam and began to let our plugs out. Carmen advised "let the plugs out 10 passes," and we set the rods in the holders.
While back trolling may not be the most active way to pursue salmon and steelhead, I find it to be very relaxing. It gives me the opportunity to visit with good friends, all the while employing a wonderfully effective way to fish.
The area we were fishing is known for seeing a fair number of steelhead as well as spring Chinook, so making sure our offerings would be found acceptable by either species is an absolute must during these early season endeavors. Truth be told, we both figured springers were an outside bet. But one things for sure, You can't get them if you don't have a bait in the water!
About 20 minutes into the evening, I notice my plug stops working for a split second, the rod dips, the tip comes back up flat, then slowly begins to load up, and as quick as it began, the fish is gone. Carmen says, "missed one." Yep, we surely did. We both commented on how it had been a really slow and fairly gentle grab. For the water we are fishing, it's not really what I would expect. Normally in this type of water, the rod plunges down aggressively, and either line begins steaming off the reel, or a chrome bullet goes airborne behind the boat.
We keep fishing the seam, making repeated passes through the productive water. This is really a high water spot, where the fish pass through on their way upstream. It can be extremely productive when the fish are on the move, or absolutely devoid of anything if they aren't climbing the system.
About an hour later the inside rod, tickling the far outside edge of our current seam, slowly bounces a couple of times, then jams down and a pretty chrome steelhead boils to the surface 60 feet downstream. Both Carmen and I urge his son Jackson to quickly get the rod as we clear the other two lines so there will be a clear path to land the fish. After a four to five minute battle, Jackson leads the beautiful fish to the side of the boat.
It's a pretty native fish, so we put the net away and Carmen grabs the pliers to release the fish. I ask him if he wants to try and get a picture or two. He grabs the plug with the pliers and quickly lifts the fish up. He and Jackson smile and as quick as can be the fish is back in the water, the hook is turned out and we have a released fish.
We make another pass, but with the light beginning to fade we agree to call it an evening. Not bad at all. We fished for a bit less than two hours and manage to turn two fish, and land a nice 6-7 pound native. The best part of the whole evening was getting a chance to finally shake my lethargy off and get my rear end moving again!
While we may not have hooked the springer we both were hoping to find, getting a couple of opportunities at steelhead sure was a quick cure to end the "deadbeat couch potato" syndrome!