Larry Ellis, fishing columnist

Fishing report for

December 23-29

Plunkers, man your Spin-N-Glos. The Chetco finally received what steelheaders have been long waiting for - rain, and lots of it. It looks like plunkers are going to be rolling in silver, make that chrome. On Thursday morning, the Chetco had received enough rain to raise the river to 4,990 cubic feet per second (cfs), and the graph was rising vertically.

The end of December and especially January are typically the best months out of the year for high-sticking a silver metalhead, and with a little luck, those of us who like to plunk will get first crack at the incoming chrome missiles by tomorrow, the first day of 2012.

I get my information from the same sources as fishing guides, from the National Weather Service's Advanced Hyrdrologic Prediction Services web page.

For a quick refresher on keeping tabs of the current water flows in real time, and the NWS predictions of water levels, simply type in in your address browser. Then on the top left side, click on "recreational river flows." Another page will come up where you will click on "Chetco near Brookings" which will take you to the USGS water levels for the Chetco River.

What you see on the graph is what is currently taking place. If you go to the top of the same page, you can click on the National Weather Service's Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Services web page to get the NWS's predictions for the following week. I can't tell you how often they've been wrong, but generally speaking, they're pretty good.

Now, on that same graph you will see a thick solid blue line on the left side. That represents what has happened and where the water level is currently. On the right side of the graph, the blue line turns into a thin purple line. That purple line is what the NWS is predicting will happen in the next several days.

Dragging your mouse along any of the purple dots along that line will present a rectangular drop-down box describing what that particular water level is in feet and what time to expect it. Clicking on one of those dots will supply you with even more data for several more days.

For instance, andndash; and this will probably change by the time you read this article andndash; when I clicked on the highest point on the graph, it read 15.91 feet, and to the right of that was the flow equivalent, which was 30.8 kcfs at 12 a.m., on Dec. 31.

It also shows that by noon on Jan 1, the water level should drop to 7 kcfs. That's a pretty large drop in a day and a half, but it could conceivably happen. If it does happen, then anglers could be plunking on New Years Day.

Whatever happens, the most important thing to look for is the color of the water. If it is chocolate brown, it's time to tie up some leaders for the next day. If the water is slate-gray or pea-green, break out your Spin-N-Glos.

This chart is something that you need to keep on top of every day in order to gain accurate information on water levels. Those of us who either fish for a living or just live to fish, check out this Web page more than once a day.

The bottom line is, there will be at least one great plunkable day on the Chetco River, and Social Security Bar should be wall-to-wall rod holders. I'm thinking that since the ground has already reached its saturation point, the river should be dropping a lot slower than what has been predicted, which means there should be a lot more days where anglers will be able to plunk.

The prediction is also looking good for drift-boat fishermen who are side-drifting Puff Balls-and-roe or pulling plugs. If the river continues to drop through January 7, the fishing could be stellar for side-drifting from a boat and for drift-fishing from the bank.

Plunkers should remember that you won't have to make very long casts. Most of the steelhead should be coming up the sides of the river near semi-steep banks to avoid the faster, turbulent water out in the middle.

As far as color of Spin-N-Glos go, you can't go wrong with one of two colors: flame chartreuse, also known as stop-and-go; and sherbet, also known colloquially as Tequila Sunrise. Sometimes Tequila Sunrise works best with black wings; other times the silver or white wings are key in catching these winter steelhead.

Another color that works well this time of year is called tiger stripe, which is a brilliant-red-fluorescent colored Spin-N-Glo with black stripes. It pays to have a healthy supply of all those color combinations in sizes 4, 6 and 8. Size 4 is the largest while size 8 is smaller.

I would say with confidence that the flame chartreuse has caught more steelhead from the banks of the Chetco than any other color.

Also, be prepared for some large steelhead. Last year we didn't get many over 20 pounds which means that this could very well be the year for heavy metalheads.

Do not rule out drift-fishing night crawlers from the bank. This technique works especially well on the south side of the river at the South Bank water tower.

Another thing drift-fishermen and side-drifters both should carry with them are yarn balls. When the river is colored up, you can drift yarnies until the cows come home and do quite well. I often will add some scent to them, such as Pautzke's orange nectar, or you can just mush up some eggs and smear them on the yarn balls.

For a really great instructional video on how to make yarn balls, go to http://www. and type in "Steelhead Yarn Balls." One of the comments left on the video with guide Troy Whitaker states, "I wish I used yarnies years ago. I used the yarnies for the first time this summer and hooked more steelhead than I had with any other method."

Tight lines!