Friday, December 28, 2012
Fabulous Winter Steelheading on the Cowlitz River
Roscoe, the fish dog, kept watch for fish the entire day.
Today the steelhead fishing on the Cowlitz River in the central part of western Washington was as good as it gets. For my sons, Gregg and Doug, and me, at least.
Just after dawn as boats arrive on the Cowlitz.
We put in the river at 6:45 a.m. close to the fish hatchery near Ethel, still in darkness, in Ron Holt’s beautifully equipped jet sled. Ron and his dad, Clancy, form the team of Clancy’s Guided Sport Fishing. Not ten minutes into our journey, we had a fish on. I was the lucky first one to get to fight this 13-pound fresh, angry steelhead whose trip upriver to spawn had just been rudely interrupted.
About 10 minutes later, after several powerful runs, stripping line as she went against and with the strong current, our deck hand Shawn slipped the big net under the belly of the fish, and it was over. A beautiful, silver, hatchery hen was in the box. Ok, time to quit shaking now.
At least an hour went by and then it was Doug’s turn to pit his skills against another gorgeous fish about the same size. He was rewarded, after another intense battle, with a hen in the box.
The fight is on.
Next, it was Gregg’s turn to experience the adrenalin rush that only comes from fighting a winter steelhead on a rushing river in a jet sled that’s drifting downstream with the rapid current though skillfully controlled by skipper Ron. In the photo above Gregg is fighting a wily fish (visible just under his right arm). Note the doubled-over pole just to the right of his shoulder. Before the day was over Gregg got another beautiful fish, totaling four for the Koskelas, and a fourth fisherman, John, also caught two more.
Koskela men and their fish.
Six fish total in the boat on a day when fish were scarce. I don’t believe anyone else had more than one or two. We were fortunate and privileged to be fishing with a great guide who not only knows the water like the back of his hand, but who also knows exactly the right lures to use along with his secret “scent” (that you dip your lure in before casting) which the fish cannot resist.
Ron's dad, Clancy, and his clients, come alongside for a mid-morning break. Ironically, I fished with Clancy 35 years ago on the Upper Sacramento River near Balls Ferry, early in his career. It was either with long time friend Ken Kerley or longer time friend, Ed Wall, both of San Jose, CA.
A monster thank you to Doug’s wife, Jamie, who made this adventure possible via a “significant birthday” present to her husband. You'll have to ask Doug how old he is; my lips are zipped. O, you can click on any photo to make the image larger.