Dave Graybill - 12/3/2012
My fishing buddy Rollie Schmitten and I took advantage of one of the “dry” days we’ve had over here to try for steelhead on the upper Columbia. We originally had planned to travel to Ephrata and fly fish at Rocky Ford Creek, but the high winds forecast for the area prompted a change in plans. We really wanted to get as many steelhead trips in as possible, anticipating a season close at the end of the month.
The day was a repeat of a pattern we established a couple of weeks ago; starting out in Entiat with the intent of traveling further up river on the Columbia to finish our day. Conditions were good for fishing at anchor on the edge of the bar outside of the bridge over the mouth of the Entiat. There was one element missing in the conditions, though; that was current, and we had none. As most anglers know, when current is absent, so is the bite and that was the case. Schmitten did get one good take down, but missed the fish, and after a new location without finding enough current to encourage further effort, we headed for the launch and our new destination.
Chelan Falls is where the boat went back into the water. We had explored this area just once before and learned our way around. The previous trip had produced a couple of fish and the hope was we would find some in the same place this time. There was current and there were fish waiting for us alright. On the first pass below the Beebe Bridge Schmitten’s bobber disappeared several times. He had a tough time running the boat in the current and keeping an eye on his bobber on these initial drifts. I had one hit and it turned out to be a small salmon smolt.
Deciding to rest the hole for a while we pushed further up stream and tried our luck just below the outlet of Beebe Springs. I was trying too hard here, losing a couple of my better Maxi-Jigs. It was a good thing as it turned out. I had been using a bright pink and since the day had turned out to be very sunny I chose to try one of the same jigs with a dark purple head in 1/8th ounce. Schmitten asked for the time and I told him 1:47. We had agreed that we would quit at 2:30. Time was running out and our three-season success streak for steelhead was in jeopardy. When we went back to the sweet spot below the bridge it paid off. Schmitten really had the drift down and put us right on the seam. The bites we often get in the spot aren’t very aggressive, and when my bobber hesitated I set the hook. The result was a short, burning run and then a big steelhead took to the air. It hit the water with a tremendous splash, ran up past the bow and again cleared the water by three feet. It dove deep only to come up again on the other side of the boat, thrashing in the air. It took another big leap before I as able to guide it to the net. Schmitten said the wild hen was a solid 15 pounds and bolted back to the depths when he released it. On the next pass Schmitten’s bobber gave him enough reason to strike and he hooked and landed a nice hatchery buck.
We were on the road with two fish to our credit by 2:30. Our streak was intact. This steelhead season hasn’t been one of high production so far, but it has been one of impressive fish. On the previous trip Schmitten released a beautiful wild fish we estimated at 17 pounds. The fish I released was one of the most spectacular steelhead I have every fought. It is a fish I will remember for a long time.
While I wait for the opening of steelhead fishing later this winter I’ll have plenty to do. The action on triploid rainbow trout on Rufus Woods Reservoir has improved lately, and I hope to make several trips to this big impoundment to try for them. Angler success for walleye on Rufus has come on recently as well. Walleye fishing in the winter here is something I haven’t spent much time doing, and it looks like this would be the winter to dedicate some time to it.
Anglers and hunters alike have wondered why there hasn’t been a sportsmen’s show held in Wenatchee; something that would represent all the services, organizations and businesses that serve the sportsmen of the region. Well, at long last it is going to happen. Thanks to Mark Miller at the Town Toyota Center and Merle and Bev Shuyler of Shuyler Productions it is scheduled to take place on February 22nd through the 24th of 2013. The Shuylers have been providing excellent sports shows in Tri-Cities and Yakima for over 20 years and bring their proven capabilities to Wenatchee. The Town Toyota Center is a perfect place to hold such an event, and I expect to see guide services, lodges, resorts and other businesses represented there to showcase all that this region has to offer. Those that attend can expect to see some activities that are popular with families, too, such as a trout pond, and a special attraction at the Wenatchee Show will be a live bear exhibit. I have cleared my calendar to spend time at the show, and I hope you do, too. If you want to learn more about the Wenatchee Valley Sportsmen’s Show you can log onto www.shuylerproductions.com.
We’re having a pretty mild winter so far, and I plan on taking advantage of it by spending as much time on the water as possible!
By Dave Graybill