Dec 26, 2012

Fishing Report - Columbia River Gorge

Report for 12/26/2012. Happy Holidays everyone!
Weekly, steelhead fishing reports vary dramatically during the winter depending on who you hear it from. That’s sort of the nature of the beast. One guy lands two and has a grab on say Tuesday, while the next guy hasn’t had a touch since November. This is pretty typical in the winter. Usually, by the time you hear that people are catching fish, you are too late. The mystery surrounding steelhead tends to grow during the winter; they become even more elusive, lurking like ghosts. It helps to consistently fish well and fish the likely holds, however it also helps to have the fates on your side as well. Timing is huge. Maybe it is a matter of minutes, seconds even. Maybe, if you hadn’t stopped to get gas on the way to the river, that ornery fish would have still been there waiting, before moving up, down or sideways. Or maybe, you should have slept in, had some joe, a hot egg sandwich and then went to fish your favorite run. Here one minute, gone the next. Angry one minute, sleeping the next. It goes on and on, all these fickle, fateful steps that lead to a steelhead or not. So, perhaps it is best to at least recognize the fact that we are all pawns of chance, or karma or faith or whatever you would prefer, before you let doubt wash over you like a cold winter rain.

Photo: Jeff Hickman

It can be tough out there, but sometimes not at all. Maybe you step in and hook four fish out of one piece of water. You probably wouldn't forget that day, ever. If that happens, all the elements, and yes - matters of chance - all came together. The fish were there and they were emotional. You were there and you were fishing well. That’s probably how it went down. You got lucky, yes, but you were also there, fishing the water effectively.

Maybe this is how it all went down… you fished a couple days earlier in the week. Nothing, not even a sniff. You were still looking for your first hookup of the season. The river was fairly clear and running on the low side. Not ideal, but you thought it is late December after all, so there are certainly winter steelhead around. And you were probably right about that. You fished with a heavy sink tip and a weighted fly through some of the deeper slots but no love. You thought about how other anglers did on the river that day. You thought that certainly, someone must have hooked a fish. And you might have been right about that too. The following day, you apprehensively went to work so you could make your mortgage payment on the first.

A heavy rain came down and bumped the river up. You took a long lunch and went down to look at the brown river coming down the valley. You made a mental note to keep an eye on the river levels and spend an entire morning fishing when the river regained its greenish tint. Steelhead Green. You would be there. That would be your best chance after all. The higher flows would certainly pull some fresh fish into the river. You would be there to catch the river on the drop. When the river had some color to it. When the fish were frisky and starting to settle into their new lies.

Hawkeye Hawkins.  Sandy River.  Photo: Jeff Hickman

The next day you were at work. You thought you had better look at the levels just in case the river was falling back into shape. You looked online and found that the river had dropped significantly, so you called your buddy who drives over the river every morning to get an idea of the color. He said it was still high, but had some green in it. Good thing you kept all your gear in your rig. Good thing your boss was out of town. Good thing you left work when you did.

You hooked four fish that day and landed one. It was a big wild female that took a long time to relent. It also took a long while for the thumping in your chest to settle after you released her back to the river.

On the trail back to your car, you stopped to talk with another angler. She had fished hard all morning but had not had a bite. She said she thought that it would be really good because the river was dropping, water temperatures were holding fairly steady and that there was plenty enough visibility. However, she did go on to mention that she had landed one two days prior. It too was silver, borderline translucent, like a ghost.

Sandy River.  Photo: Sam Sickles
The Sandy, Hood and Clackamas are all welcoming their share of steelhead back home. It’s still early for big numbers of fish, but even so, fishing has been really good one day and spotty the next. Up and down, up and down … much like the river flows. Keep your eyes on levels and temperature trends, but above all, spend as much time on the river as you are able. Tis the season for bright winter fish!

Have a good time,
Duffy & The Gorge Fly Shop

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