After dropping from 29,400 cubic feet per second over a seven-day period, a cotillion of hot-to-trot steelhead anglers finally got their first chance to trip the light fantastic with some fresh incoming chrome-bright metalheads on the Chetco River on Thursday, when the river dropped from 7,500 cfs to 6,500 cfs.
Even though portions of the river exhibited a tea-brown or a slate-gray appearance, 10 inches of visibility enabled plunkers to put the hurtin' on lots of steelhead averaging between 6 and 12 pounds, with an occasional fish weighing in the mid teens.
All of the steelhead were caught on various colors of Spin-N-Glos, with the most popular color being "flame chartreuse," as it is referred to in the Yakima Bait Catalog (yakimabait.com.) The same color has also been colloquially dubbed "the Chetco Special," "stop and go," and "half and half," with No. 4 and No. 6 being the go-to sizes.
I also witnessed a plethora of other colors catching fish, including "rocket red tiger stripe," "sherbet" (aka, tequila sunrise), and two other colors which are growing in quantity in my tackle box, "brown trout" and "glitter brown trout."
My personal read on the Chetco is that it should stay in the 4,000 cfs arena today and possibly even into Sunday, allowing plunking to be the technique that will be ruling the river. However since the river will also be clearing more rapidly than usual this weekend, anglers should seriously consider using Spin-N-Glos in the color "pearl red," which is an excellent color when the river shows more than 2 feet of visibility.
"Pearl Red" is the color designated in the Yakima Bait Catalog, but over the years, anglers have grown accustomed in calling it pearl pink, because it looks more pearl colored than red colored.
In order to further compliment last week's plunking article, here are a few more important tidbits of helpful information that should help you catch more steelhead.
As far as the length of your rod goes, you should do just fine using a standard 8-foot, 6-inch steelhead drift-fishing stick rated between 8 and 17 pound test, with a medium action and a fast tip. A lot of folks think that you need a stiff rod for plunking, but sometimes non-aggressive steelhead will spit out a Spin-N-Glo if their sensitive mouths sense too stout of a stick. Having a rod that bends a little more will give the fish an advantage of sucking the lure deeper inside its mouth without feeling the hook.
Also, when the river has less visibility, as it was on Thursday, most of the fish will be caught with plain Spin-N-Glos with no roe at all. If you plan on using a naked SNG, don't tie your leaders to the hook using an egg loop knot. A stronger knot would be a Palomar Knot, a standard improved clinch knot or just an ordinary snell knot.
Also, I witnessed a lot of folks losing fish last week due to the line breaking about 1 inch below where the hook would have been. In almost all of these cases, I would bet that the line wasn't lubricated when the knot was pulled tight.
If you are in a rush to tie a leader and pull the finished leader too quickly, and especially without lubrication (saliva or water), it will cause friction near the hook eye and actually burn the line. This slight burning weakens the line and the knot.
To remedy this situation, always take your time when pulling your finalized leader taut. What I like to do is to pull the leader very slowly, always lubricating the entire leader with water at all times.
When using the improved clinch knot (a very good knot and simple to tie), when it comes down to the final tightening, I like to lubricate the knot and gently help the line twists down the hook by applying slight pressure to the invvdividual twists with my free fingers, making sure that the twists come together neatly and uniformly. At first you are pushing the individual twists up the leader, and then finally down the leader toward the hook while using a lot of lubrication. Never pull directly on the leader to get the twists to come together and move the knot down the line. That puts too much pressure on the piece of line going around the hook.
Do this little trick and you will lose far less fish. We all learned tying the improved clinch knot for our first knot, and when tied carefully, it is still one of the quickest and strongest knots to tie in a jiffy.
It is also important when the river is below 4,000 cfs, not to tie up the main drifts of a hole by plunking in the middle of the hole. When the river flows below 4,000 cfs, that's the time to break out your drift-fishing stick and begin to drift-fish the river. If one person hogs a hole, only one person can fish the hole. But when you drift-fish a slot, riffle, tail-out or whatever, multiple people can fish the same spot at the same time. When this situation occurs, everything is based on cast timing by paying attention to where everyone's line is, and only casting upstream after the guy downstream from you has reeled in or is reeling in.
This week, the Chetco should be dropping into perfect drift-fishing conditions, below 4,000 cfs. So break out your best drift-fishing techniques and learn to work in synch with the lineup of fishermen working the same hole, and always give the guy who has hooked up an opportunity of landing his fish by reeling in your line completely in order to let that person fight his fish without worry.
In the true spirit of sport fishing, it is an innate responsibility to do everything you can to help your brethren anglers land their fish.
Chris from Englund Marine in Crescent City has reported that the vast majority of the herring run in Crescent City Harbor is over and done with. Steelhead are now being caught with regularity on California's Smith River as well as Oregon's Lower Rogue River. Remember that the first Rogue River springer of the year is usually caught in the middle of February. This has me quite excited in going springer fishing in the near weeks to come.