NWS Writer Finds Coastal Springers


2:00am came awfully early, especially in the middle of the work week; but watching a rod fold with line blistering off the reel just a few hours later made it all worth an early wake up.

No one I’ve talked to has seen June water conditions as ‘ideal’ as those we have seen this last week on the coastal tributaries.  With recent reports of excellent fishing in the lower bay, it was only a matter of days before those fish surged into the rivers and I wanted to be there to intercept them.

My friend Brian and his wife Linda joined me in a float on one of Tillamook Bays Tributaries.  We launched a full half hour before sunrise, but were still boat number 3 in line.  One of the boats in front of us was a very successful local guide that has his own line of egg cure, so I knew that to be successful fishing behind him we had to switch tactics a little.  So we rigged up some Mag Lips and headed off in the pre-dawn darkness.


A half mile drift took us to a little slot of water that has produced Steelhead in the past, so we deployed the plugs 55-feet below the boat and I started rowing against the current, bringing our plugs to a slow walking pace down river.  Halfway through the slot Linda’s rod started bouncing wildly in the rod holder, Linda grabbed the rod and started battling.

It became evident quickly that this wasn’t a Spring Chinook, but it turned out to be a dandy Sea Run Cutthroat Trout, at least 4 pounds and full of fight that a Summer Steelhead would envy.  Though we could have kept the fish, we released it looking for something a little larger.

The next hole consistently produces fish and is usually busy with bank and boat anglers, but we found it deserted and once again deployed the plugs.  Brian had just set his rod in the holder when I see a huge boil where his plug should be working.  Then I see a fish come rocketing out of the water just and I realize that it’s inhaled Brian’s plug.

Brian sets the hook on the fish and starts playing ‘catch-up’ since the fish took 20-feet of line off the reel before he could get it out of the rod holder.  Brian’s fish took to the air 2 more times before I slipped the net under it and once again appreciated how ‘Special’ these coastal Springers can be; a 25-pound fish launching itself out of the water, line blistering runs and a tug of war battle that makes you soar the next day….these fish definitely deserve a lot of respect.

All I knew as few fished the next few holes was that I was next at bat and was watching the rods intently and just happen to catch the second the fish took the inside rod and buried and kept it buried until Brian got the rod out of the holder and I rowed the boat to slower water so I could fight it.  As I dropped the anchor I saw the fish take a jump landing flat on it’s side with a loud, “Ker-slap!”

This embarrassing Side Flop really seemed to motivate the fish to fight harder than was really necessary and I couldn’t seem to budge the fish out of the fast water even with rod bending effort.  But my constant pressure must have finally have exhausted it and Brian was able to net the fish and I couldn’t have been happier.

The very next hole down was a fellow angler who said that he has been spending 10-hours a day fishing the same hole….but with only a Summer Steelhead to show for it the day before.  As we floated through the hole and just about to slip out, I saw a fish roll as it moved into some sheltered water behind a snag.

Well, I couldn’t let this opportunity slip by, so I rigged up some eggs on my Back-Bouncer rod and casted just a few feet upriver of the snag just as I got a text from my friend Tom.  Just as I hit ‘Send’ on the reply I felt a little tug as something picked up my eggs, I could barely get my phone put away before my rod was loaded up with a fish that had already turned and moved out of the hole.  I handed the rod to Linda and she battled it for a few minutes, but eventually lost the battle as the fish couldn’t be stopped.  This turned out to be the last bite of the day, but I’m not complaining going 2 for 3 on coastal Springers!

While these June river conditions may not come around again in my lifetime, I’m still going to be ready if they ever do, Mag Lips and all.



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