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Event Article: Fishing the Smith River

Chasing Winter Steelhead on the Smith River (continued)


It didn’t take too long for us to get bit (just about two minutes after the start of our first drift to be exact) and I hooked into the first fish and was greeted with a screaming drag. “Keep tension on the line,” Gary yelled “It is ok to muscle her but be smooth!” We were fishing with 12lb mono and a 10lb fluorocarbon leader so anything short of a giant would have a problem breaking the line as long as they didn’t go ballistic in the air. Within a few minutes we had the fish in the net and headed towards shore for a photo op. “It’s a hatchery fish, they fight differently than wild fish that’s for sure,” Gary said. “I wish it would have kicked you butt a little more,” he went on to joke.


Smith Steelhead are absolutely beautiful wand showcase plenty of green and silver colerations


After releasing the fish we head back up the edge of the river again, I noticed that Gary was rowing very vigilantly along the edge as not to disturb the water we had just fished. He explained that when the water was clear it really didn’t take much to spook the fish. The water on this trip was a pretty emerald green color, and while this is common if there isn’t rain for just a few days Gary describes the river as so clear it looks like your “rowing on air.”


Time to go back into the water


On that very next drift Cal hooked into a fish just slightly downriver from where I hooked the first steelhead. Cal played the fish gingerly, and winced each time he had the fish close to the boat and it would peel off more line in a desperate attempt to get away. Right as the fish made it within net distance to the boat it flipped up and out of the water about four feet in the air and splashed down right in front of us. “That’s Steelhead fishing for you,” Gary laughed. “Cal doesn’t like it when fish take line,” he joked as he looked at Cal grimacing as he played the fish back to the boat. Cal light out a sigh of relief and finally cracked a smile when we finally landed the fish.


A nearby drift boat engages in the side drifting technique


We fished that drift one more time and went three for three on that same stretch of water, each fish a cookie cutter in size at right around 10lbs. each. After that other drift boats started coming over our honey hole of a spot and it was time to move downriver.


Gas powered boats are not allowed on the Smith so drift boats are the most common watercraft on the river


As we rounded the corner Gary told us to get ready as we were approaching “One Shot Hole,” a spot with such fast moving water that it would be impossible to row back over the section so it was critical we place our baits just right on the first cast. The bottom line, we wouldn’t get a second chance if we missed this drift. “Make it count!” Gary said.


A wild Steelhead can be identified with a fully intact adipose fin


With lines in hand we headed to the whitewater and cast our line just above the drop off. I couldn’t believe that a steelhead could hold in that fast moving water, but then again they are incredibly powerful swimmers. Just as my bait rolled over the edge I could feel the weight on the bottom thump hard on the rocks and my line suddenly went taught. Just as I felt the line Gary yelled “reel, reel, get him now!” I reeled as fast as I could and thought I felt something but then the line totally went dead.


We move to the bank for some wade fishing

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