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Fish it High
We’ve been stuck in what seems a high water cycle which likes to blow the rivers out for the weekend. This weekend we might be in that same boat. With rising rivers and rain the rest of the week, Friday and Saturday might be tough to find some fishable water, but it looks like there might be some by Sunday or Monday in a few of those streams. If you have been bitten by the steelhead bug and just have to get out that’s probably the best window.
There has been a theme in the shop recently, we’ve been getting a lot of people coming in the middle of the week and complaining about rivers being too high and unfishable, when the rivers might be a little high but are in perfect shape. Just because the river gauge might be on the higher side it doesn’t mean its blown out. If a river comes up a lot but then slowly starts dropping it’s going to be in shape a whole lot sooner then you think. To me there are a few factors that matter if I think its fishable. First, I need a place to stand, if the run that I want to fish is up to my neck in water and in the trees, it’s probably not fishable. So I need to pick a run that I can stand in comfortably without getting washed away. In big water maybe not all of the runs that you love will be fishable but there are definitely some that will be, you just need to find them. Second, I would like about a foot of visibility, sometimes less will do but a foot or more is best. Also does the water have a green tint or is it chocolate milk. If it’s straight brown with trees floating down this might not be the best, but if its brownish with a slight green tint, heck yeah, I’m in. Remember steelhead green is the perfect conditions color, it doesn’t mean it has to be. Third, when the water is high the fish are in close. You don’t need to cast a mile to find fish in high water, typically just the head of your line. High water sometimes can be the easiest to catch fish for the fly angler, all the steelhead are pushed to the edges and soft water where we can easily get our fly to. When life gives to lemons, make lemonade. This goes for high water, continue to fish what hand your dealt. You might find that the fishing can even be better. There are a couple of sayings we have here in the shop, “You can’t catch them from the couch, It’s not over till you lay eyes on it, and make your own fishing report.” In general terms, just go.
Fishing for steelhead in general when rivers are fishable has been getting pretty good. We’re getting reports on the smaller coastal rivers of some great number days. The Sandy has probably been the best shot for staying in shape and number of fish it’s been producing. The Clackamas which has had a slow start with returns this year but reports of people finding fish are definitely picking up. If you happen to be one of those unlucky souls that your fishing days line up with the day the river is blown out I suggest reading these three blog post, Choice Overload, Not all Sink Tips are Created Equal, and Get Down, Get Funky. If you can’t go fishing at least you can refresh your knowledge so you’re better prepared for your next adventure. The more you know the more dangerous you are. Other than that get out and go catch some chrome, February and March are the best chances for catching a winter steelhead.