Salmon River Report
I booked this trip about a month ago with the thought that the conditions would be pretty much the same as previous years. Colder temps, reasonable pressure from other rods and the possibility of a few fish. Water flowing between 500 and 750cfs would be great.
With Temps in the mid 50's the rods were out in force. The river was at 1000cfs plus run off. The saving grace is that there are vast quantities of fish from top to bottom.
I started Saturday morning on the Douglaston Salmon Run water. The gates open at 7am weather and river flow permitting. This low in the river the flow was at least 1400cfs and way more than the desired 500. I braved a crossing to the Joss Hole and was not able to move a fish. I fished hard swinging flies as well as duck and chucking until 2pm and then traveled up river to Altmar. The crossing back over from the island was now diagonally up river and very difficult. Dangerous in fact.
In Altmar there were no less that 100 cars parked in both lots. I was floored by the numbers of people. After a while a slot opened and I was able to duck and chuck for about an hour and picked up two fish. This is not my style and I gave it up early.
On Sunday morning I met with my guide for the day Lou Guerreri. Lou's background is on western steelhead rivers using Spey rods. We arrived at Altmar to start our float at 5:45am. The wading sports were bumper to bumper standing in the water waiting for the legal hour. We were told that they started to pile up at 4am. This was absolutely crazy to me.
When we put the boat in there were already 12 that had launched and ahead of us. Because we had our take out set further down river than most we were of the mind that we would skip the upper zone and start at the wire pool. My goal was to take a fish or two swinging flys. No duck and chuck, no center pin, no back trolling and certainly no spinning gear.
Because we were socked into a dead low pressure with rain, the fish were off the bite for a good portion of the day. I did manage 2 fish from the Sportsman pool. Taking such a long ride on the river you get to see how different this river's path is. You make transition from long runs and deep holes to raging white water that was worth the price of admission alone. You also will be able to find places that are holding fish with far less pressure. You can even find a few places all to yourself.
Our last stop of the day was at Compactor Pool. A very easy wade and is holding a number of fish. We saw a few holding on the south side of the river about half way down the pool.
On April 1, the upper fly zone opens. The guides are saying that the majority of the fish are now concentrated there. If you can stand the crowds you will find quite a few fish of all sizes.
Great report, Curious as to what swinging flies took fish?
We need to be a wee bit less puritanical when the water is 34 degrees and I hope you will excuse me for doing so. By swinging flies I mean that I was using a 7 weight 13 foot two hander and casting with single and double spey style. Casts started slightly up river allowing the fly to sink to the desired fishing point. Slowing down the drift and swing were critical.
Floating Double Taper
5 feet 10 pound Floro
Small Barrel Swivel
3 Feet 4 or 6 pound Floro
If the fly is not weighted then a small amount of weight needs to be added above the swivel. We were picking locations that were not too deep and not too crowded.
We did try soft hackles and some streamer flies and woolies but the ones that worked were nymphs and eggs.
This trip was more in the desire to fish in a style as close to what I have been told is possible in April.
Maybe you can help me understand this type of fishing a bit. It seems to me, and I am by no account a Steelhead expert, that no matter what fly you are casting it is all about food imitation. I can feel that there must be a level of difference between a Lady Caroline and a copper top nymph, but what I cannot understand is the level of sophisticated difference. I would love to hear a passionate Steelhead reasoning.
I plan to go give it a try again in April. I'm trying to find my place in this fishing style and am working very hard to stop being an Atlantic salmon snob....
I’m sure Shaq will agree with me that there is no reason to stop being an Atlantic salmon snob. :hihi:
As the waters are warming up in the spring the steelhead will start to become very aggressive and will start hitting swinging flies very well. Hell, I use them all winter. You probably don’t even need different flies. The ones you use for Atlantics will work as good as anything, although I would toss in a few big fluffy leach like patterns for high water.
P.S. Thanks for the report, always good to know.
Hey, do not feel bad about bouncing the bottom with flies. Here is how I look at it.
As the optimum is hooking fish on the swing without a tip with a spey, it only happens occationally in low water.
2nd is using a tip…happens a bit more often and 42 and up is the optimum water temp.
In the 30 degree marks, and with a short time to fish and long drives involved, hey we all want to catch fish. So I carry nymphs, eggs streamers ect and use bottom bounce, indicator and swing streamer techniques. No shame in it.
I do plan to give it another go in April. I'll give the true swing my best.
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