Larry Ellis, fishing columnist

Spring is in the air and for fishermen, spring means springers, and a few lucky anglers were able to put the hurtin' on some serious springage last week on the lower Rogue and Umpqua rivers.

A springer is just a fancy word for a Chinook that usually enters the river in the spring. Not all rivers harbor springers, so you won't find them on the shorter rivers like the Chetco (now closed), the Elk or the Sixes rivers. Springers pick long rivers and book upriver like a freight train to their spawning grounds, which are usually at least 100 miles upriver. And there they stay until they are ready to spawn in the fall.

What makes a springer such a desirable Chinook is that they are laden with fat, just like they are in the ocean. They need these fat reserves to tide them over through the spring, summer and fall months, so the springers that you catch during April and May are highly-esteemed-eating food fish, undoubtedly the best-tasting Chinook that you will ever find in a river.

What also makes them highly desirable is their fighting qualities. They fight three times harder than any other salmon and can spool you in less than a minute.

So most people will anchor up with sleds, set out some fresh anchovies, put their rods in their holders, and wait for the fast-moving locomotives to hammer their bait while they are making it up the tracks.

Springer fishing action is never wide open or red hot, so if it bores you to sit and wait for a bite all day, a bite that may never happen, then go after the redtail surfperch that are also frequenting local Gold Beach beaches right now.

But if you want a chance at just getting one take-down, and have the thrill of your life when you do hook up, then springer fishing is for you.

"Sunday when I was mowing my lawn, I knew that we were in for a pretty good week," said Jim Carey, owner of the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach. "And it did turn out to be relatively strong (Wednesday) when we talk about fish down in the Elephant Rock bracket. There were probably eight fish that I know of from the power lines down, and then from the power lines up there were probably another seven fish.

"(Thursday), I know that we probably pushed over that in the Elephant Rock area, where the majority of the guides seem to be hanging out."

So now is the time to make sure that the drags on your reels are working in tip-top condition by installing new drag washers. You will know when your reel is in need of drag washers because instead of being able to pull line off of your reel very smoothly, it will come off in short bursts and in very jerky movements.

Drag washers can usually be installed by anyone with simple mechanical ability. They should be changed at least once a year, more often if your reel sees salmon and steelhead action every day.

One of my favorite reels is the Shimano Bantam 50, a reel that has been discontinued for several years. You also cannot get drag washers for this reel from Shimano because they no longer make those parts either.

You can, however, get drag washers for the Bantam 50, or for just about any reel from a company called Smoooooth Drag (that's five zeros in smoooooth). Often called smoothies, these drag washers are the best on the market.

I called the company up a few weeks ago and ordered three sets of drag washers for my three Bantam 50 reels and I have to honestly say that these are without a doubt the smoothest-working drag washers I have ever used.

They are made of carbon fiber, a material that the company calls Carbontex.

In addition, if you have any older reels such as the original Bantam 100, 100sg, 200, 200sg, or the very rare Bantam 201, they have washers for those reels as well.

But smoothies are not just used for older reels that have been discontinued. Many anglers are changing out the drag washers on their present reels for the Carbontex variety.

To get these washers, visit, or call the owner Dawn Geider at 888-206-4656. Dawn will tell you if the company makes replacement drag washers for your particular reel.

Tight lines!