Side-drifting A Bust, Cow Crew Find Success Back-trolling

After watching fireworks displays until almost midnight then tossing and turning as neighbors continued to set off loud “‘home-made” fireworks till the wee hours I was actually waiting for my alarm to go off. I was meeting with some good friends and chasing some Summer Steelhead in Washington.

As I rendezvoused with Pat, Kent and Tom in the pre-dawn darkness, it was evident that they were looking forward to fishing as well and we didn’t waste any time getting gear transferred to the boat and we were on the road again.  We arrived to an almost deserted boat ramp at Blue Creek on the Cowlitz, which was surprising since no matter what day you plan on fishing the Cow during the month of July, it’s always bustling with boats side-drifting or back-trolling and bank anglers drift fishing or doing that spey fishing thing.

We launched then rigged up side-drifting rods, cut eggs into nickel-sized pieces, picked out four-shot slinkies (after studying the flow of the river) and set aside leader rolls to be at the ready when we break off.  Fast forward two hours: no bites after side-drifting prime water.

What next?  We break out the Hot-N-Tots and coon stripe shrimp!  Nothing fancy, just a bait diver, 6 feet of leader to a 2/0 hook and a small dyed shrimp, then deploy 75 feet behind the boat.


It didn’t take more than a minute before we discovered we had made the correct choice as Pat’s rod flattened and a chrome summer steelhead crashed the surface below the boat.  The next five hours brought five fish to the boat, with two lost and countless other “mystery bites” taken out of the shrimp.

While the Cowlitz may be known for side-drifting, we were definitely not alone back-trolling bait.  While I’m not prepared to give in completely to the back-troll, rest assured, I’ll always have some coon shrimp soaking in some Pautzke Nectar the night before!


Thanks again for the great trip Pat, Tom and Kent!

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