Larry Ellis, fishing columnist

Fishing report for

December 9-15

This has been by far, the driest pre-winter I have experienced in the 31 years I have lived on the southern Oregon coast. The area received a good shot of rain last week which normally would have increased the flow of the Chetco another 700 cubic feet per second (cfs), but since the local vicinity hasn't received any precipitation for at least a week, the ground soaked up every drop of rain like a sponge.

Still, at 1,000 cfs, steelhead have been managing to make it into the river. But now the Chetco is clearer than a tropical aquarium and folks who wants to nab a few steelies have been forced to get up before the crack of dawn and hit the river when the fish have been sacked out and stupid. After the sun hits the water, they're spookier than a flock of chickens. If one steelhead hears anything that looks or feels out of the ordinary, they all scatter.

That doesn't mean that you can't catch a steelhead. People have been catching several metalheads every morning. It just means you have to do a few things to put the odds in your favor.

Here are five tips that will help you catch more steelhead when conditions are tough.

1. Use lighter line.

Right now with a gin-clear environment, steelhead can see heavier line much easier. They're relying less on smell and more on sight, so it's time to start downsizing your leaders. Under these conditions, 6-pound monofilament is definitely not too heavy. I would also suggest using clear monofilament versus green. I also wouldn't use heavier than 8-pound test, and then, I would only use it in the morning during darker hours.

2. Start using fluorocarbon

Now is the time when the professional fishing guides are relying on using fluorocarbon leader instead of monofilament. Fluorocarbon is stiffer than monofilament, but 8-pound fluorocarbon is still pretty limber stuff.

My favorite all-time fluorocarbon has always been Seaguar. It's more expensive than monofilament and other brand fluorocarbons, but it is worth every penny.

Another really terrific fluorocarbon is made by Sufix and it's called Invisiline. Guide Jack Hanson told me it was the best stuff on the market, and at one time he had used Seaguar exclusively. If Jack says it's that good andndash; it's awesome!

3. Keep your distance.

When water conditions are this clear, you can spot a fish easier. If you're pulling plugs, you're going to have to long-line your plugs around 50 feet above the fish before you start working your plugs downstream. Remember, if you can see them, they can see you.

If you're using a spinning reel, fill it all the way to the brim. Use regular monofilament for the backing and make sure that it goes ALL the way to the end of the spool. This will help you make longer casts with ease.

4. Make quiet


When I talk to bass pros who sight-fish, they pitch their lures underhand so that when the lure hits the water, it makes absolutely no sound at all, what is referred to as "silent entry." You have to do the same thing with steelhead under aquarium-clear conditions. Make your casts so that no visible trace of your lead or lure can be seen at all when it enters the water.

5. Use smaller baits

and lures.

It's a misconception that objects look larger to a fish under clear-water conditions. Lures and bait merely appear to be normal size to them in gin-clear conditions. When the water starts coloring up, or looks murkier, it's easier for a fish not to see a lure, so naturally this is the time to up-size your lures and bait. But until then, keep everything small and petite.

Until we get significant rain, use size 6 Gamakatsu Octopus hooks and small Puff Balls and Corkies andndash; no Corky larger than a size 12.

Also, don't use large clusters of roe in your egg loops. Under these conditions, a cluster of no more than 3 or 4 eggs will usually do the trick, just a large enough piece for them to see and smell.


When the Chetco is only flowing at 930 cfs, like it was on Thursday, and when the ocean is fairly flat like it has been last week, consider giving crabbing another shot. Although it is not legal to crab from a boat in the ocean presently, you can still crab from the south jetty and at the public pier.

The majority of these crab are hard-bodied, well-filled-out and corpulent crustaceans; nothing like the softies they were two months ago. Expect to throw back lots of undersize and female crab, but if you put in a full day, you still could get one or two legal Dungeness crab.


And now here's my version of the popular Christmas season song, "Winter Wonderland."


In a brook, called the Chetco,

Bit a hook, it can't let go

A hatchery hen,

Gets bonked once again,

Fishing in a steelhead wonderland.


Going home, are the goose eggs,

This one's chrome, no more loose eggs

They're cured and they're bright,

Her skeins were real tight,

Fishing in a steelhead wonderland.


In some foil drenched in melted butter,

She'll get roasted till she's parched and brown

You'll say, "Is it ready"?

We'll say, "Cut her"!

It tastes so good

That you can't put it down


Later on, we'll conspire,

As we dream, by the fire

To cast with our braid,

The new roe we've made,

Fishing in a steelhead wonderland.

CHORUS 2: In the morning we can tie some leaders,

And make sure the knots are nice and snug

We'll make sure

That we release the breeders,

So we can watch the wild ones cut a rug.

VERSE 4: I got one, need a twosome,

Pray for rain, we could use some

An unclouded sky,

It's been way too dry,

Fishing in a steelhead wonderland.


Tight lines and happy holidays!