Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Coastal Report

Its been almost 3 weeks since I ventured to a my favorite small coastal river on the north coast. The drive into this throwback part of the state is windy and long, and on this occasion bathed in a thick blanket of fog.Visibility at times was reduced to a few hundred feet at most and I was forced to creep along at a snails pace.This made my anticipation even stronger and I was very hopeful that I would find some chrome, if I survived the "goat trail"(my pet name for the road).

I have been following flows and learning this river for the past four years so I took advantage of this opportunity with flows in the 450cfs range. During high water years, most of this river flows at a color that resembles chocolate milk to a glacial till color.I have told myself that I need to gain confidence in fishing off color water-and I still do- but this trip would allow me to learn the lower river due to the perfect green flows that I found when I arrived.

I drove onto the gravel bar and noticed a couple of drift boat trailers waiting for their boats.It seemed as if I had the whole place to myself. I put on my waders and put the three piece Redington Red.Fly2 13' 8# double handed rod together. This rod is paired with a 550 grain Skagit line and 10' of T-14. Not the most high end rod available,the Red.Fly2 casts well enough and handles the big coastal steelhead with ease.

I tied on my confidence pattern,a Popsicle, and I was ready to fish.

I stepped into the water to cross the tailout and waded across to access a juicy riffle and run just upstream from where I parked. Starting at the top of the riffle I began with short casts slowly lengthening my casts until I was casting across the riffle. I began stepping my way down the run and as I swung into the heart of this piece of water my line came tight and then started swimming downstream.Then the fish realized it was hooked and exploded out of the water in a flash of silver.I knew I was into a good fish and worked my way downstream to get a better angle on the fish.On the fourth run the fish was pushing a wake in 30" of water when, in a flurry of headshakes, my line went slack.Crap!I reeled up the limp line and examined the fly.The hook,an Alec Jackson Spey hook in size 3, had been straightened out! I tied on a new pattern( a River Rat Squid in pink and orange) and fished through the rest of the run with no more action.

The next run downstream starts as a classic riffle before flowing into a boulder strewn run with perfect walking speed water.

I fished through the riffle and cast across the current. My running line had been tangling up a bit and as I was attempting to clear a tangle the thought crossed my mind-"watch, I'll get a grab as I am untangling this mess"- and without fail, I felt my line come tight and the rod began to vibrate.The first run pulled the knotted mess through the guides, but I was able to quickly reel the mess back up and onto the reel.After a fairly unremarkable fight, the fish submitted and lay on its side in shallow water ready for a quick photo shoot.

A 27" chromer within a mile of the ocean. A thing of beauty! Nothing like catching steelhead frsh off the tide with the sound off the waves crashing on the beach in the background. Hooking 2 fish in as many runs made my day and the trip.

After finishing swinging through this run, I hiked upstream exploring run after run. while I had no more grabs, I was satisfied with my explorations and decided to head down to the campground to get camp set up. A large set of dunes separated the campground from the ocean and I found the campground virtually deserted.

That afternoon I fished what is known as the" first riffle", a sweet riffle/run that is over a hundred yards long.

After getting hung up and breaking off a couple of flies, I felt tension on the line. Thinking it was another snag, I saw a fish jump across the river and my line was following the fish.Sweet! I was hooked up again!!Three jumps later the fish came unbuttoned and I reeled in the slack.What a day!!I was content going 1 for 3 on the first day of my trip.

That night I met Scott, another spey rodder who went 2 for 4 that day, while settling in for a night in camp. We shared beer and told lies around the campfire and talked of the day to come.

The next day went without so much as a bump and by late afternoon, the predicted rain and wind made an appearance. I set up a tarp to shelter from the rain and Scott and I swapped stories over Steelhead Ale while trying to stay dry under the tarp.

It worked, more or less, and when the rain let up I got the campfire going and proceeded to attempt to warm up and dry off. That night the rain continued on and off and I was certain that the river would blow out.It did.I attempted to fish two runs the next morning but the river was the color of chocolate milk and RAGING! I packed it in and called it a trip. A great trip at that!!!

I went back the next weekend but by then the river had dropped to a low and clear state and I had one grab in three days.Such is steelheading.Now with a series of storms predicted for next week the rivers should get a nice flushing and when they drop back into shape it will be time to chase chrome again!


  1. Good to see this so well chronicled here, hope to repeat this success later when the current (2-14)floodsare back to steelhead green fishability! Scott

  2. Great report Jay. Let us know how the return trips pan out.