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Ultimate you-can-do-no-wrong plunking setup

 

The ultimate you-can-do-no-wrong plunking setup created by Larry Ellis. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
 

Fishing report for 

January 13-19

Late Thursday afternoon, I parked my car toward the end of the Brookings south jetty and watched, in awe, as a river monster named Chet spewed out log after log after log, moving 100-foot redwoods around as if they were toothpicks, cleaning the teeth of the jagged jetty boulders inside its mouth.

During steelhead season, the Chetco is always interesting after a major blowout. The river had crested to 53,700 cubic feet per second on Thursday. This kind of overwhelming raw power is strong enough to change the course of a river.

 

 Over the last 31 years, I’ve seen the Chetco change its course – several times. Social Security Hole was never where it is now. It used to be a sliver of a spot just downriver from the cement road leading to the now popular takeout. You couldn’t park upriver at the old Social Security Hole because the river was upriver. That cement road leading to SSH actually used to be a boat ramp and the Chetco hugged the north bank.

The Market Hole got its name because a person used to be able to park at or close to the 3-Mile Market, walk 30 feet down a trail and start fishing. I lost the second steelhead I ever hooked at that spot. Now the Market Hole hugs the south bank on the other side of the river.

Things have changed a lot over the years. I hope that Social Security Hole remains where it was last week so that everyone can break out their plunking rods while spinning a few yarns with their friends.

But at the very least, there will be new steelhead holes formed due to last week’s cleanout, so if you want to be successful on the river, you have to go with the flow (so to speak) and learn how to read the river.

Interesting trivia: When the Chetco reads 8 feet, it is also equivalent to 8,000 cfw; so on the Chetco, 8 = 8.

Coincidentally, according to the NWS’ prediction service, the Chetco should be dropping to around 8 feet on Sunday. If the river starts losing its brown color and begins to get a slate-gray or pea-green hue, steelhead will be caught.

The river is supposed to be rising again on Monday to 12,000 cfs and then slowly start dropping the rest of the week. If NWS’ predictions come to fruition, the river should be in perfect plunking condition from Wednesday through Friday.

This week’s photo shows the ultimate plunking setup for the Chetco. I can explain how to rig these things up till the cows come home, but a picture is worth a thousand words. If you copy the items in the photograph, sooner or later you will catch a steelhead.

I use fly fishing line to show the main line and leader because fly fishing line is bright, large diameter and shows up nicely in a photograph. A few years ago I did a Rig Of The Month for Northwest Sportsman and used the actual line that the rig called for. Big mistake!

The leader called for 4-pound test fluorocarbon so that’s what I used in the picture. Everybody who saw the photo said that they could see great photos of the hook, lure and swivel. 4-pound fluorocarbon is literally invisible.

So do not use fly fishing line for your main line or leader. If the river has a lot of color to it, use between 15- and 20-pound test monofilament for your main line and use 12-pound test monofilament for your leader.

Here’s how you rig up from your reel to the hook. Run your 15- to 20-pound test monofilament main line through a plastic slider. After your main line passes through the slider, slide a 5mm plastic bead through the main line, and then tie your main line to a size 1 or 1/0 Berkley barrel swivel.

On the bottom of the slider is a snap, to which you will be affixing a sinker ranging from 4 to 8 ounces, depending on the strength of the current.

Tie a 1/0 Gamakatsu Octopus hook to a 2 1/2-foot piece of 12-pound monofilament leader using an egg loop knot.

Slide a red 5mm bead down your leader till it rests on the hook. Slide a size 4 flame-chartreuse Spin-N-Glo down your leader until it rests on the bead. If the water has only 2- to 4-inch visibility, slide down a size 2 Spin-N-Glo instead.

The last step is to tie your leader to the end of your barrel swivel.

You can use a small piece of roe in the loop of your egg loop knot for scent, but if the river has little visibility you can catch steelhead without using roe.

Now comes the fun part – where to cast!

When the river is flowing between 5,000 and 8,000 cfs, which it should be doing at some point from Sunday through Friday, steelhead normally avoid going up the center of the river to avoid having to fight the intense force of the water flow.

They’re going to be going up the sides of the river, in many cases only 10 feet or less from the bank.

Steelhead are a lot like people. They would rather take the escalator than walk up several flights of stairs.

The ideal steelhead plunking spot during high water is where a current seam meets slack water. Current seams can be identified by their ripply appearance on the surface while slack water will have a smooth surface.

Look for where current seams meet slack water, especially where the edge of the bank starts to get steep, and you’ll find steelhead. If a current seam meeting slack water happens to be 5 feet away from the bank, then you will need to cast between 6 and 7 feet away. After your initial cast, your sinker normally will fall between 1 to 2 feet toward you.

Tight lines!

 

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