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Still steelheadin’


Mild weather and really good river conditions have most anglers chasing spring Chinook, but the steelhead are still out there, and conditions are shaping up. The Wilson River fished very well this past week, and most of it was pretty good fishing. Float fishing accounted for most of the action, with both native and hatchery fish coming to the boat.

This pattern should continue through this weekend. Coast rivers should fish very well, and the Nestucca in particular should have premium water levels. Local rivers like the Sandy and the Clackamas River still have a lot of steelhead around, and they should fish well into April. Fresh summer steelhead have begun to show in the Sandy River, too. It won’t be long before Clackamas River Skamania strain summer steelhead start to come in as well.

Steelhead rivers tend to loosen up this time of year as anglers switch to spring Chinook. For the serious fisherman this shift means gold, and all the steelhead are left for just a few anglers. These are good times for the patient steelheader.

There is a lot of bobber dogging going on out there. This new method has been replacing side-drifting among a lot of fishermen. There are advantages. Bobber dogging may keep the bait in the strike zone for longer. However, the hook ratio per bite may not be as good as that of side-drifting and side drifters can cover more water very effectively.

The problem with bobber dogging as it relates to side drifting is all the extra line that needs to be managed. Ten feet of leader below the float, lots of line on the water and a 9-10 foot rod makes for a lot of angles that need to be pulled tight to get a hook driven home on a biting steelhead. I’m still on the fence with the technique and tend to side drift whenever possible as I simply don’t need all the chances that I see many bobber doggers needing to catch their fish.

Favored methods catch steelhead

Every steelheader has his favorite method, whether it’s side-drifting, bobber-dogging, or float fishing. Really good fishermen can master a number of techniques, but most of us do better to stick to two or three methods that we can do well. There will be those days when conditions, or luck, work against you, but it’s important to remember not to second guess your methods too much. If you do what you do well, then you will catch fish most of the time.

This season is wrapping up, but if you’d like to get on the books for 2016, just send me an email. I only fish two anglers per day in a state of the art 17 foot Willy drift boat. You’ll be fishing with G. Loomis IMX rods and Ci4 Stradic reels from Shimano. The steelhead fishing just keeps getting better on the North Coast with volunteer broostock programs kicking out plenty of keeper fish to go along with the natives we catch.

Here’s the segment from this past week’s show providing the latest steelhead fishing report.

Still steelheadin’