Article/Movie Preview: Sidedrifting for silver stuff….

Posted: December 11, 2011 by Hellcat in Fish Reports, Gear Fishing, Salmon, Trout & Steelhead
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The previous morning or two before our trip temps dipped into the low 20’s out here by my house. Star-filled nights without a cloud to be found will tend to drop the thermos pretty quickly. Especially in December. La Nina weather patterns are a strangely unpredictable and change bring about drastic changes throughout an entire season. It’s not uncommon during a La Nina pattern to get hit with a heavy shot of precipitation for several days producing flooded conditions and then suddenly find yourself praying for rain and rising rivers again within 2 weeks. La Nina is spanish for ‘The Girl’ but it should translate to….nevermind. You get my point.

The unpredictability of the rising and falling rivers, temperatures and emotions can wear out a set of river junkie’s nerves with the quickness. While most of the PacNW experienced river levels within the 10th percentile of average flows…there are a few rivers than can still adjust their flows to mimic a typical season very efficiently through dam controlled water flows. Say what you will about dams…I’m just saying…sometimes a flow controlled river can give you options during a season like we’re experiencing these last few weeks. And so Luis Jose Rivas aka The Padron, Josh J Blaze Colkitt and myself, The H3llcat….trudged out through freezing fog and low visibility with my Diamond Back drift boat in full tow.

Equipped with Sawyer Dynalites, a 27lb thrust Minnkota electric and a 15HP gas Merc long shaft we were ready to navigate any water we deemed ‘fishy’ and worth an effort targeting. With the river hosting both chinook and steelhead we were properly prepared with a total of 11 rods for three of us. 5 of them rigged for chinook fishing of various methods….6 for steelhead. The Padron having spent a decent amount of his angling career side drifting offered to bring the rods, reels and terminal necessary for two anglers to comfortably perform this technique while maintaining complete uniformity between their gear and casts. It’s incredibly important, when sidedrifting, to have identical outfits in each anglers hands.

In this case, Padron took well care of us; a single split shot for weight on a very short tag end and a small no.4 hook decorated with a super steelhead killer variety of roe. This proved right on the money for our boat size, speed and target water. And yes I did say a single split shot. We began the day smoothly enough as my truck just barely inched back over the threshhold of the boat ramp that was covered with a solid sheet of ice. Thank goodness for the dimpled traction surface on this boat ramp. Good thinking whoever built the ramp. Saved my behind and pushed my truck forward just enough to not get suspended in boat ramp animation. Besides, someone else had already dumped their boat off their trailer that morning. Eh hmm. I’ll just leave that alone for now. Moving forward.

The Merc fired on one pull and within 5 minutes of launching we were ‘keepin ’em wet. But quickly the water on the line turned to ice. Our breath was freezing as it left our mouths. It fell in front of each of us as though we were blowing out mouthfulls of dry ice. The river was steaming like a hot spring even though the water temperature would kill a small animal in a moment or two. A human not much longer. The air temp held at a even 22 degrees farenheit for much of the morning and never got above freezing all day. That didn’t stop TeamSalmon though.

We planned on a thorough float and that’s exactly what we did. We took about 8 hours to fish 4 miles of river. Rods were handed over rowing arms with haste and speed while gas and electric motors were fired up in ripping middle river current just to hopefully make that last cast into that killer slot. Slot(s) really. Because we found some beauties. Alas however it was J Blaze coming off of his 3 steelhead beat down week before last who brought the biggest whip crack. 2 nickel bright fish danced on the end of his line yesterday. Both danced their way off as well.

Each fish was hooked sidedrifting under the casting and rigging tutelage of El Padron while I powered the sticks forward and backward to evenly space the lines and drifting speed. Josh is a quick study. He’s proven that over the last two years. He’s outfishing most guys around in the last month, that’s for certain. Blaze’s first fish gave the three of us a reel good look at it next to the boat before shaking off. An absolutely chrome bright, fat, healthy winter steelhead. Shiny like a brand new nickel coin. His second fish was hooked after I decided to push the Diamond Back up river for a repeat run through the killer slot we had located and watch several jet sled guides pass on. It’s worth mentioning we never saw another fish hooked. Digressing.

Once completing our upriver haul and taking on a significant amount of backwash spray up over the transom of the boat we reset at the top of the run for our second pass. Jet pumps eat your hearts out. With my arms on fire from trying to hold the DB in just the right spot for the perfect casts….Blaze’s rod loads up and goes down again. This time was different that the first: His rod loaded and his drag began to scream. Normal for fast water and an initial run. But not normal for a steelhead almost within net’s range to turn and quintuple it’s original efforts and distance previously accomplished. Hence our gues of a small, bright and extremely anger winter chinook. The video will show you the heartbreak and the shock. J Blaze’s face really says it all: “That stinks.”

The video log (VLOG) of this trip will be available soon here on All Around…..

  1. Steve G aka The Hustler says:

    Sounds like a great adventure. Fishing with Jblaze can be a humbling experience. Haha!

  2. Hellcat says:

    No doubt Steve. He’s hooked 5 steelhead in front of me to my 2 in the last two times we’ve been out. He’s a madman.

  3. j-blaze says:

    Hustler, that fish was entirely owed to H3llcat for the opportunity to fish beautiful water that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to access & El Padron for the side drifting setup & knowledge. It’s feeling more & more like a drift boat or sled in 2012.

    I missed an amazing big winter steelhead, and got a great flash of blinding river winter chrome just before this fish, and I was put right back onto another by one of my two guides I had Saturday! I wasn’t ready for it as I’d just cast and was just starting the drift & didn’t get a chance to set really set a hook the first time through.

    The one that I got on really did feel like a nook, it never broke out of the water, and didn’t come up at all. It just kept diving down, peeling line, and running down river back towards the Columbia. I felt like I would’ve broke line/leader if I tightened up on it or horsed any more than I did…maybe i should of gotten more aggressive on it?

    I tried to let it play, but only got played…at least for that round.

  4. Hellcat says:

    Very well said, Blaze. It was a pleasure to fish with the both of you. We made a pretty wicked little crew. Especially considering we saw plenty of Guide boats and no other fish hooked. I’m glad you had fun, Josh. You’re on a winter roll.

  5. Nookslayer says:

    Blaze, very humane Long line release. You did that due to nook season being closed right? Like that water and need a taste

  6. Hellcat says:

    Nookslayer thanks for the comment! Although…Blaze woulda been able to bonk that thing on the head. Through the end of the year anyway. When are you getting out again?

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