The Hunt

I discovered this episode’s music via my colleague Jeff Bowen.  The lyrics of this one reminded me of the coast, and the title of the track from River Whyless is very much inline with the pursuit of winter steelhead.


 

Hours, perhaps days even, have been spent in the pursuit.  Each winter I trek over the mountains to the salty air of Pacific City, for the hunt.  Often the a few trips are had in one season – and yet – I still hadn’t connected with one of these amazing creatures… a salt-fresh winter steelhead.

2015 was by far my most successful year angling for summer steelhead.  One outing in particular was simply magical.  One of those days you just don’t write about on the internet – because that might make it less dream-like, it would take away some of the magic.

So with my 2016 license in-hand, I set out to keep my hot steelhead streak alive – and hopefully finally make that connection on one of Oregon’s coastal rivers.

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If you are fond of sand dunes, and salty air

The Wilson

Optimism was high when we launched early the first morning of the trip on the Wilson River.  The rivers had been low and on the clear side of things, so we were not expecting lights-out fishing, but we were still eager for action.

This was my first trip to embrace all methods of fishing for Steelhead ;).  There was bobber-doggin, side-driftin, pluggin’ and a center pin-in going on.  It was interesting to see all the different approaches and rigging for these methods.  And in many ways bobber-dogging a bead on conventional gear is almost identical to an indicator rig with fly fishing.

The first method to deliver a hookup on this day was Tanner on the Center-Pin rod:

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Bent at first light.

It was a chrome bright native fish – and just like that the trip was off to a great start.

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Cool Hat Bro.

Towards the end of the float, I still had yet to hookup with a fish, so I took out my 7# switch rod, and tied on a heavy black/purple stonefly with a bead dropper and began side drifting the nymph rig.

Apparently sometimes you just have to put something different in the drift, and you just might aggravate a fish enough to strike… Because in about 2.5′ of water, my bobber went down and a big flash of silver was seen under the surface.

The fish felt *big* on the 7# rod, and it did not jump.  Josh muttered “I think it is a chinook” – I did not know what it was, I just hung on.

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10# Maxima Leader, hold, plz.

We had been running very light tackle that day due to the clear water and I was hoping my 10# test maxima leader was going to hold.  I fought the fish from the boat until I jumped out to finish the fight on the bank.

It was quite a fight – and on the 3rd time to get the hen close to the net – the leader broke at the indicator.  In the past I used to throw a little fit when this sort of thing happened, but I now know it is just part of the game.  Tanner though who had the net – wasn’t ready to give up quite yet.

The hen was at his feet still so he took a shot at netting her, and missed.  The fish was still tuckered from the fight so he had another shot!  He scooped, and scored.  Happy place.

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Late-run Native Chinook Hen.  My first *real* salmon on the fly.

These fish are just amazing creatures.  Scars adorned her sides – a testament to all she had been through to return to her home waters.  I felt honored to spend a few moments with her before letting her return to finish her final task.  Not a winter steelhead, but the trip was still a success.

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Purple Stoney – crazy.

Nestucca

The balance of the weekend we did some more great floats on the Nestucca.  Two on Tanner’s drift boat, and one using the inflatable kayaks.  Some more really nice winter steelhead were brought to hand.  All techniques were used, and I got to swing some beautiful water higher up on the river – but I still never hooked up with a winter.  But I went back over the mountains with a big smile on my face… I will never forget that fish.

 

 

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About Timmy Crawford

I reside in lovely Bend, Oregon with my wife and two girls, and of course the requisite two mutts. By day I am an Automattician, and by night and on the weekends... I keep it real.