Holiday Harvests

Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day.

I’m singing that nursery rhyme at full throat today. I’m flat-out tired of the drizzly stuff — and I’m a Wetside native.

Drove all the way from Newport, Ore., to Seattle yesterday and didn’t turn the windshield wipers off once.

They were on high-speed most of the way home too — swishswishswishswishswish.

Today the Siletz graph looks like the river’s making a moon shot, but before the latest storm hit the Oregon Coast, I got in a morning on Big Elk Creek east of Toledo.

Pretty nice little stream, scenic country — and tons and tons of access along the gravel county road below Harlan.

It’s funny. I went from desperately hoping my inlaws decide to move to Seattle to be close at hand for house-repair jobs and babysitting chores, to wanting them to live out their days at the beach house south of the bay in the space of, oh, two or three first casts into the creek.

Can’t wait to hit Big Elk again when the steelhead are a little more cooperative.The sharpie I spoke to said the fish were pretty tight-lipped that day, which gave me a hint that the big tackle I was using in the cloudy water might have been overkill.

A few of my writers were also afield over the holidays.

Rob Phillips of Yakima “had a great day on pheasant” on the reservation Christmas Eve day. He reports that despite poor preseason prospects, he and 10 other hunters managed to bag 17 roosters.

Terry Otto of Sandy worked the Naselle, landing a chrome-bright 10-pound coho, and losing three others on spinners in the middle of last week.

Jason Brooks of Puyallup hit the Humptulips looking for a little Christmas chrome. He filed this report:

Ah, December…time for rain, wind, and winter Coho…Coho? It was December 23rd and my fishing buddy Grant Blinn and I decided to hit the Humptulips for some of those late Coho. With rain increasing over the past few days we just hoped to find a fish in the rising waters. In fact when we hit the river back in the first week of October it was running a low 600 cfs, and the river gauge on this late December day showed it was at 2,400 cfs and rising! We knew that catching a Coho on a rising river would be tough, and the thought of steelhead was just impossible, so we concentrated on the hooknoses instead of the steelies.

After making a daybreak launch we drifted down to the hatchery area. Knowing this is where the fish were racing up to and then holding, we hit it pretty hard. The water was a bit off color, but 15 minutes into the fishing and Grant informs me “fish on”! We netted a nice 14 ½ pound buck and given the conditions I told him “looks good enough to give to the neighbors” meaning we were keeping this one, a bit off color but not bad, as the neighbors and non fishing family members would be delighted with some smoked salmon for Christmas.

I then hooked a nice fish that was much brighter as it shot out of the water, and just as fast threw my jig. But my disappointment wasn’t for too long as Grant had a freight train bending his rod. We thought for a few moments that he hooked one of the rare “winter kings” as this fish was a fighter. It turned out to be another 14 pound hatchery buck, a little brighter than the first fish. I continued to twitch a jig and got another fish on. This one flashed some red in the water and then, threw the jig…that was the last fish we touched for the rest of the day. It was only 9:00 am, and we had a lot of water below us, so we drifted on down.

We ran into two guide friends of ours who showed us once more a bit of humility. As I dropped anchor just outside of the holes they were working, as a courtesy to those that make their living in this economic times the hard way, and also to allow their clients to get their money’s worth.

Besides, we had two in the box, Grant was concentrating on steelhead, and the river was almost abandoned compared to how it was back in October. There was no need to crowd. I decided to watch and learn from the guides and realized after watching them catch 3 Coho out of one hole and 4 out of another that they knew what they were doing…and humble pie taste great on the river if you take it one bite at a time and learn from it. My arm was cramped up from twitching a jig the past 3 hours and it finally dawned on me that the guides were all using silver and chartreuse or silver and orange spinners! I forgot to take into account the rising waters and the off color and couldn’t figure out why the first hole was so hot for jigs but nothing since. The water had come up a few more feet from the rain and this was why the guides switched to spinners.

After finally coming to the takeout we talked with our friends for a while and then loaded up. Soaked and happy, just as a December Coho fisherman should be.

B&B WITH CHRISTMAS COHO. (JASON BROOKS)

Adventurous steelheader Leonard Scott and a friend found where the fish were biting on the lower Sandy, hooking several in the Oxbow Park area. He calls it “one of my favorite days on the river — it could not have been any more perfect.”

LEONARD SCOTT AND A PAL HIKED TO FIND A POOL OF EGG-BELOW-A-BOBBER-BITING WINTER-RUNS ON THE SANDY. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

And finally, reader Scott Fletcher — who has provided this magazine many fine images — sent over several great ones of his daughter Bailey and her 10-plus-pound triploid out of Rufus Woods last Tuesday.

BAILEY FLETCHER USED A MARSHMALLOW ON THE BOTTOM TO HOOK THIS REALLY NICE RUFUS WOODS TRIPLOID TROUT. HER ARMS WERE PRETTY TIRED AFTER LANDING HER BIGGEST FISH EVER. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

We’ll have more on Rufus Woods — including a pic of one trip that absolutely defies the old length-times-girth formula — in our January issue.

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