Well, I finally caught an elusive Steelhead after trying for months in the McKenzie, Willamette and finally the Clackamas Rivers, and here it is!
So here’s my fish story…
I started off the morning a few minutes before sunrise trying to throw a chartruse spinner way out into the “hole” out in the middle of the river. I needed just a little bit more distance, so I rigged it up “Alaskan Guide Style” (another story for another day) and added a sinker. Two or three casts later, it got hung up on a rock or tree and found a new home at the bottom of the Clackamas river.
I thought “that wasn’t a good sign…” as I hooked up a bronze and orange spinner and proceeded to lose that one on a known submerged tree a few casts later! I knew the stupid tree was out there, but the river was moving a little different this morning, and apparently, I wasn’t on the ball. So, I reached for my new secret weapon, a black and bronze spinner that I picked up at the store just last night! I thought I could go with a darker, more natural color instead of a flamboyant chartruse or orange spinner. Well, I didn’t find out whether or not it worked better because the very next freakin’ cast, I snagged another log and broke off.
Even though yesterday, using a spinner, I had a steelhead on for about 30 seconds until it shook off, I was having nothing but bad luck with them today, so I hooked up a pink Steelhead worm and resumed the hunt. I drifted it down the river for about 10 minutes until it, too, became hung up on submerged debris. All the rain last weekend put a few new obstacles underwater, and I seemed bound and determined to find every last one!
Finally, I hooked up a corkie (it’s a little thing that’s supposed to look like a fish egg) and started drifting it down the river. I checked my watch and thought to myself “wow… 20 minutes without breaking something off, that’s got to be a new record.”
One of the ‘regulars’ down on the Clack stopped by and commented that the water was perfect this morning, and it was troubling to him that nobody was catching any fish, and headed up river to a new spot. Little did he know that the high-flying theatrics of a summer steelhead buck were only minutes away…
The Clackamas river was still above its normal banks so about 5 feet out from the bank, there is a line of bushes and weeds and roots. I was fishing from a small break in the bushes. I threw my corkie out toward the hole, let it drift down the river, floating a few inches off the bottom while the sinker bounced along the rocks below. Because of all the rocks, it was not uncommon for the sinker to get stuck, so I was ready to pop it out of the rocks. I reached the end of my drift and was about to reel in when my corkie seemed to stop. I figured it was probably stuck in the rocks, so I was about to pop it when suddenly, the corkie pulled back. I thought to myself “holy mackerel” (or reasonable equivalent) and set the hook hard. Then, the game was on!
I was taken by surprise by the strength of the steelhead as it tore off across the river with my hook, leaping clear out of the water and crashing back into the water! My pole bent right over and the drag on my reel screamed as the steelhead took line! Then, it headed downstream! The Clack has a big bend downstream of where I was fishing, and I knew right away that the steelhead was going to head downstream and my line would get tangled in the bushes and he’d break free, so I lifted my pole as high into the air as I could and ran down the bank to get the line clear of the bushes. The steelhead made another death-defying leap into the air and landed with a tremendous splash. The other fisherman took notice about this time, reeled in and headed down to watch the fun. Meanwhile, I made it to a second break in the middle of the bend, and started to play the steelhead, who made a third and a fourth leap into the air. I was hoping he didn’t get the leverage he needed to break the line and kept the line tight, and tightened the drag a little bit more. With the tighter drag, the steelhead couldn’t maneuver away as easily, and fought harder, but I was able to pull him into one of the 5 or 6 foot breaks between the bushes and the bank. At the deep end, it was about 3 feet deep, and I had the steelhead in there. He was fighting and splashing and trying to get to the bushes, but I pulled him away and finally, got between him and the shore (notice my tall waterproof boots), tailed him and brought him in! Total adrenaline rush! I never caught a fish that fought that hard!
Anyway, after I cleaned the catch, I decided to quit while I was ahead, filled out my salmon/steelhead tag and headed for home. The steelhead was 28 inches long (about six beer cans) and weighed about 12 pounds or so. Paula took these pictures in my back yard before I made some nice steelhead fillets. Then, this evening, we barbecued two of them and they were very tasty. We’ll get at least six dinners out of this one!
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading my fish story as much as I enjoyed experiencing it! Thanks for reading!