Thursday, January 14, 2016

CCA Meeting Minutes 1/13/2016

Matt Halseth and Sam Wurdinger

Guest speaker introduction by Ty Wyatt:

Sam Wurdinger of Dinger Jigs and guide Matt Halseth

Sam discussed the value in different styles of floats for different types of water, color and weight choices of jigs, and the benefits of UV reactive colors and non-flourescent colors for different situations, how to create optimal presentations and the right combinations of rods, line and drag to keep fish on the end of your line.

Matt discussed low/clear water finesse tactics, including line, floats and rigging options as well as side drifting and spinner/spoon techniques.

People who are interested in becoming new members at this time should purchase a banquet ticket, as the cost of a membership is included. People who purchase their banquet tickets in advance before February 3rd will receive 5 free raffle tickets for the banquet.

The next CCA Corvallis Chapter meeting will be February 3rd at the Holiday Inn Express in Corvallis at 6pm. Kyle Buschelman of Willamette Valley Outfitters will be the guest presenter. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

How To Rig a Thill Float for Steelhead

To watch this video, please visit the Wide Open Spaces website:

How to Bonk and Bleed a Steelhead or Salmon

To watch this video, please visit the Wide Open Spaces website:

Southern Hog Control Night Vision Hunt

To watch this video, please follow the link below to the Wide Open Spaces website:

Neko Rig Tutorial with Jon Barzachini

To watch this tutorial, please follow the link below to the Wide Open Spaces website:

Drop shotting twizzler candy for bass

To watch this video, please follow the link below to the Wide Open Spaces website:

DIY Wobble Head Rig for Bass

To watch this tutorial, please follow the link below to the Wide Open Spaces website:

Create your own catfish bait with hot dogs and jello mix

Create your own catfish bait with hot dogs and jello mix

To watch this tutorial, please visit the link below:

Columbia River Spring Chinook forecast for 2016

To view this article, please follow the link below to the Wide Open Spaces website:

April Vokey's Journey in Conservation

April Vokey's Journey in Conservation

To see this short film clip, please visit the Wide Open Spaces website at the link below:

How to Rig Pink Worms for Steelhead

To watch this tutorial, please visit the Wide Open Spaces website at the link below:

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Cold Spell Heats Up Coastal Winter Steelhead Fishing

Cold Snap Heats Up Fishing

After hearing some good reports, I decided to fish the North Fork of the Alsea River on my day off from work. After a cold spell of sleet and icy roads, the few people who got a chance to fish through the cold weather saw a lot less fishing pressure, and in spite of the bite slowing down were still able to produce fish.

Jacob Mikoleit and I ventured over to Big Elk Creek the day before, and it was the same scene. He hooked a couple fish and landed a steelhead, but more impressively, he managed to find a hole that was filled with late-run winter chinook. I heard of fish getting hooked and caught here and there, but it seemed that the cold weather slowed down the hot bite we encountered on New Year's Day.

Jacob Mikoleit caught & released this Winter Chinook January 1st on Big Elk Creek
The reports I heard of fish being caught on the Alsea were around and below town, so I started just above the town stretch on Bud Stout's property, which is on the opposite side of Clemens Park. The property extends up to several holes that are accessible from Clemens Park, but you can get a lot better drifts from that side of the river. The trails are also maintained well, and make the riverbank accessible, with minimal casting hazards and mobility if you're hole-hopping from one place to another. I've never met Bud Stout, but his name is well-known as the back of his tree farm and cattle ranch back right up to this long stretch of the North Fork. Access is as easy as walking up to his door. You don't even have to knock, just leave a $5 bill in an envelope for each person fishing (envelopes provided, sometimes people walk off with the pen) and write the names of each individual, as well as the license plate of the vehicle you're parking just off the road near his (now completely cut) christmas tree farm. I guess you could just say it's a field for now. For $40, you can have access to his property through the entire season.

There's lots of good water on this stretch, and although I didn't even explore the lower portion, the upper section seems to have been carved out quite nicely by the recent flooding, which also knocked down a lot of the grass and riverside shrubbery to make for easy travel along the property.

I hit the first fish upstream on a sandy beach with a steep cut bank on the other side of the river at about 8:30am. There's a slot that goes along this cut bank and slows down before reaching a tailout down below. This has always been a productive spot, and today was no exception. I spotted one fish towards the back of the tailout that rolled on the rocks and showed a flash of chrome. After spending a good 20 minutes trying to catch it, I gave up and started carefully walking upstream.

The water was pretty clear with several feet of visibility. The freezing temperatures got milder in the mid 30's and low 40's for the day. The fish were still pretty lethargic though. While creeping slowly along the bank, I saw a buck in spawning colors only a few feet from the bank in some very soft water. It just seemed to be coasting back into deeper water, so I made a cast upstream in hopes I'd hook whatever it was hanging around.

The bobber was barely moving, almost swirling in a slow, boiling eddy. When the bobber went down, it just sort of sank slowly, almost like it hit a snag. I saw the fish flailing violently and knew it wasn't another debris bite. When I pulled the fish out of the hole back towards the tailout, I got a glimpse of the size and knew I had hooked a good sized fish. After bulldogging me for a minute, I tried to turn it's nose back downstream and it just decided to do a backflip. From watching other anglers and reading some helpful hints in Northwest Sportsman Magazine, I'd picked up that dipping the rod tip into the water helps keep tension on the line when you feel a fish rising to jump out of the water. The length of the line underwater moving against the friction of the water keeps the line tight. It also helped keep this fish on the end of my line.

A personal best for 2016, although it's only 5 days into the year
The hatchery buck ended up measuring 34" nose to tail. The meat cut well, although the fish was beginning to show some color. It also had a very minor mark at the base of it's tail that likely either came from a seal or an otter. After cutting the fillets, the meat did not appear to be damaged by the mark.

Afterwards, I hole-hopped upstream, only spending 10-15 minutes in each area, combing the water in a dozen casts or so. Once I reached some of the ledge rock with overhanging limbs just downstream of the Clemens Park viewing platform, I hooked another buck just after 9am that I decided to let go in hopes that I would be able to upgrade since the fishing was going so well. Both fish were hooked on the exact same gear that brought me success on the Alsea during the Christmas holidays. You can read more about the specifics of the presentation and what made the difference for me here.

I ended up walking downstream and finding a pile of fish hanging out in a deep pool where a creek was dumping into the river, just upstream from the spot where I hooked the first fish. Could not get any of them to bite beads or bait. I gave up on them, fished behind town without a bite or a sight of a fish, then spent an hour at the hatchery watching my friend Josh Hopkins limit out with a couple buzzer beaters before there wasn't enough light left to fish. He hooked those fish on an 8mm cerise colored bead under a cleardrift float. I think downsizing and using a clear float made the difference for him when I couldn't get those fish to bite. By the time they make it that far, the fish have seen a lot of fishing pressure.

It's supposed to get cold again, with sleet and icy roads again for the next couple days. It will be interesting to see how that affects fishing pressure as there did not seem to be as much of it today and certainly not much the day before. While we got fish, they showed some signs of being in freshwater a little longer than the chromers we had been getting. Judging by the groups of fish we saw that were not much further upriver than the big groups of fish that were hit the day before, they seemed to have slowed down their pace to the hatchery. The North Fork is commonly nicknamed the "Dark Fork" for this reason.

Let this one swim another couple miles towards the hatchery. Hopefully someone else gets to catch it.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Ringing in the New Year on Big Elk Creek

My First Kiss of 2016
Big Elk Creek is one of my favorite sleeper streams for steelhead, and in an unfortunate turn of events, this may be the last run of hatchery fish that system could ever see. If you're interested in the backstory on this, please read Big Elk Creek: Opportunity Lost.

For now, fishing along the North Coast is as good as it's ever been this early in the year, and Big Elk Creek is no exception. Because of a typically earlier annual return, a unusually earlier return on all North Coast streams this year, and the limited number of fish there are to target on this system, January is prime for Big Elk Creek.

As the Siletz and Alsea start to fall into shape and clear up, Big Elk Creek is usually right behind. Without a graph for the creek, and the Yaquina River graphs being a horribly ambiguous barometer for water levels, it's hard to tell when the water is going to be just right, but today it was just one of those days where the timing was perfect. Just for the sake of keeping notes, the Alsea was at 5.23, the Siletz was at 4.88, and the Yaquina was at 3.66 today.

The water was a perfect "steelhead green" emerald color with good visibility, but enough color that we didn't spook fish walking around, which is pretty typical for the area when it's low. The temperature was about 31 outside in the morning.

Jacob Mikoleit was my fishing buddy for the day, and suggested we start at a spot near the 7 mile marker. I hooked a trout right away, which always gets my heart racing and puts me in a good mood even when I find out it's not a steelhead on the end of my line. It was a wild steelhead smolt, a first for me on this piece of water. Soon after, I had a bobber down that popped right back up, which I assumed was probably another trout. Just in case, I took a break to give the hole a moment to rest, took a leak, switched to a lighter lead split shot (in case I was just dragging bottom) and put a little dab of Pro-Cure Super Gel Steelhead Combo on my 12mm pink troutbead. That particular color has always done well for me on that system, and the Pro Cure Gel has really been helpful drawing more vicious strikes from short-biting or highly pressured fish.

The next cast I hooked up and roped in a snowbelly chrome hatchery hen with fresh sea lice (tails intact). I got a nice fight out of the fish and was happy to have one under my belt to start the day off right. Jacob caught a really nice cutthroat trout upstream of me shortly after and had some bites on shrimp that came back with a bare hook in the same stretch. I normally overlook this particular area because there's some really muddy 4-wheeling roads between the road and the river. Along this river, people tend to come these spots to dump their trash, among other things.

With the good start, we headed further upstream to the spot where I had taken Marc Van Gorden a year before. This spot always looks fishy. I've seen chinook holding around a pair of deep boulders and Marc roped out a few coho at this spot, but I hadn't seen anyone catch a steelhead out of it. The water is super boily, and eddys out into a strange drift. I usually try to keep to the line with the current, but I've seen fish holding in the boily and slow moving eddy too. That was where Jacob hooked into a nice hatchery buck.

At that point during the day, we were both happy. There were a lot of cars starting to show up as the sun was out and hitting the water, making the temperature rise a few degrees (45).

I decided to take Jacob to a stretch of water on private land where I have access . When we got there, there was already a group of several men and a little boy tagging along with them, all of them hoping to get a fish. I asked if they had fished upstream yet, and if not, we would head that direction. He said that they had fished there, but that wasn't any reason we shouldn't. Judging by the gear they were using, we had an upper hand on the techniques and presentation. As they were walking out and away from us, Jacob hooks a nice chrome wild buck and yells, "Hey kid, come back over here and reel this one in!" It was a split second decision that was very admirable and deserving of respect.

The kid rushed back down to grab the rod. With a little coaching from Jacob, and a net that belonged

to dad, the fish was landed quickly. Upon examination, it turned out to be a wild buck, the first wild
This Big Elk Creek wild steelhead was released
steelhead I had ever seen in that river. Although wild retention is allowed, Jacob did the right thing and let it swim. The kid was grateful for the handoff, and it just added to the magic that was developing during the course of the trip.

Soon after that crowd left, Jacob hooked another in the same drift, this time a much larger fish. It peeled drag around a branch, jumped clear out of the water over the branch, then back underneath the branch again, did a backflip and broke the leader. It was one of the most impressive get-aways I've seen, and in such a small stream with lots of fallen timber, what was likely a 15 pound buck was difficult to get under control.

We stopped at one last spot near the 18 mile marker, a popular but productive spot. I hooked another hen there to end the day. With the limited number of fish returning to the system, I was amazed at the reports we heard from other anglers with similar success, but I also know it will only be this good for so long. I intend to enjoy the last season of hatchery returns on this system while I still can.