Monday, January 9, 2012

Back to the Roots

Guest post by Omid today. Enjoy!

Steelhead fishing started for me when I was in college and I learned to enjoy this kind of fishing in the bone chilling cold of winter and in eastern Washington. This type of fishing makes you pay attention to the river, the current, the flow and the color of the water and more. It makes you pay attention to the best drift methods, where the fish are hanging and how to get your presentation, whether it is pure hardware lures or rubber worms to eggs and bobber or sand shrimp casted to the fish. The challenges are compounding especially if you’re bank fishing since you have to cast over trees, bushes and shrubs and in a very specific manner. It is not easy, but once you get the hang of it and land your first fish, you are the one that is hooked from then on!!!

They say you never forget your roots. To tell you the truth, over the years, I became lazy and decided there are other species of fish that are easier to catch and closer to home so I gave it up completely… UNTIL NOW…

I received an invitation from a good friend who also happens to guide, to go drift fishing for steelhead fishing in Wilson River near the Oregon coast. The Wilson River in Oregon is a coastal stream in the Tillamook Bay area and is very popular destination for Salmon fishing. Fall Chinook is the most sought after fish here and drifting the Wilson River brings anglers from all over the country to test their fishing skills. It drains a mountains timber-producing area of the Coastal Range west of Portland. A fun fact on this river is that it provided an early wagon road from the Tualatin Valley to Tillamook. Oregon State Highway 6 now follows the valley of the river, providing many convenient stops along the edge for bank fishing as well.

It is 4:30 AM and I am awake before the alarm clock. I had packed all the gear the night before so all I had to do was get a pot of coffee going and head on the road for the 2 hour trip. The weather is foggy and 32 degrees. Perfect. I arrive at the boat ramp right on time and boarded the boat with the captain and 4 other fishermen. This is a very nice 25 feet guide boat with loads of room for all of us to fish. It is still dark. Looking at the river, it is not more than a “creek” by my definition and all the fishing I have done in the mighty Columbia river. The rules of this river are that there are no motor boats allowed above the ramp (only drift boats) and max speed is 5 mph, so we concentrated on fishing below the bridge. We set the fishing gear to be corky, yarn and eggs or pink worms with 3 ball slinky weights. The sun is coming up slowly and I am getting a first good look at the river. All those feelings and why I love this so much and my early days and steelhead fishing are rushing back to me.

We get the casting and river fishing etiquette instructions from the captain and get the go ahead from him to cast to the specific location he instructed. We all fired our rods. The captain (the guy at motor) is SO SIKLLED that I was admiring his maneuvering more than paying attention to my own fishing. I know how hard it is to maneuver the boat in a tight spot, and in our case with all these overhanging trees and shrubs. I soon recognized that I am here to fish and not to fish and drive the boat (which I usually do). The water looked fantastic, emerald green with 2 feet of viz, decent flows. Ok now I’m paying attention to my fishing… weight for the slinky to hit bottom and glide over the rocks…check… weight for the bumps every now and then… check… make sure the rod is not crossing anyone else’s rod… check… feel the tap tap tap…. Wait… what was that? Tap tap tap… OH I need to lift the rod more than set the hook like for salmon…. Ok… check … lift the rod and #$%#*# SHABALAM…. Fish ON…..

We are using 10 lb main line and 8 lb leaders and this fish is fight like he is 40# Chinook. He is NOT coming in. I fight the fish for about 5 minutes and the whole time he never surfaced or did any surface dance for us. In the net and WHOHOOO… it is a hatchery fish…. The morning sun is beautiful and is very pleasant giving the chill in the air. We just got one fish in the box and nothing could beat that moment.

OK time to make a second pass at the hole… We get our rods ready, get the command from the captain and fire. 30 seconds into the drift and the guy next to me hooks up. Same deal… Fighting real hard and not coming up! What’s up with these fish? Cool. Now we have 2 in the box.

Next few drifts on the same hole resulted in no fish so we continued with the drift though lower fishing ground on the river. All of the guys on the boat were working great together. No major screw ups. A few lines tangled with the trees is all which we quickly broke off and replaced our rods with ones that were ready baited to fish. No time wasted. The next 5 or 6 fish were all wild and we could not keep or bring them on the boat. Great fighting fish and quick release on all of them.

The bite had sort of died off by mid day, so we pulled over to the side of the river, re-rigged all the gear and instead of 3 ball slinky weights, changed them to 2 ball weights. This make the rig flow a bit faster. We also rested a bit, had a bite to eat and warmed up with a nice cup of coffee before making the long slow hike back up the river at 5 mph.

We get the command from the captain to get ready and fire into this nice area by the bank with a nice looking tailout. We all fire and are making a nice drift...tip is bouncing, feel the weight gliding along the rocks...then wait? What is this? Tap tap tap and WHAM.... FISH ON … my lines starts to PEEL! The whole boat is thinking I am snagged! I turn to the captain and YELL THIS IS A FISH, FISH ON FISH ON FISH ON. Everyone reels in and we fight this fish for what felt like an eternity. Everyone thought this was a Chinook the way it was fighting. A lot of strong head shakes, rolls, and runs....the gig was finally up and it was a nice 15# plus wild steelhead. It really was a beautiful fish. There is nothing in the world like seeing chrome shadow coming towards you and just below the reach of a net. It's almost like a image that you never get tired of seeing.

The day ended with another wild fish from the same hole on my rod which I passed to the guy next to me since he hadn’t caught anything all day. He was very appreciative of this gesture and was all choked up teary eyes when the fish was in the net!!! I guess it takes all kinds. I shut my mouth from saying any smart ass comments ‘cause I thought to myself, it this is a nicest thing someone has done for him, he really needs to examine either himself or the folks he is around with. Strange!

Anyway, the day ended around 3 pm for us just as a cold front was rolling in from the coast bring with it the legendary cold northwest rains.

I truly enjoyed this trip. It made me realize my roots and how it all started for me. I will definitely be doing more and more winter steelhead fishing in the weeks to come and only wish I could share this experience with each and every one of you. (pic below from 1990 – Grand Ronde River Eastern Oregon)


Chris and Sarah said...

I love your writing style, Omid! So descriptive.

FISH ONNNNN!!!!!!!!!


erinz said...

Oh Sarah, you flatter him! ☺