Amazing day of fishing, 30 June 2019


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I fished the upper Willamette out of Willamette park again on Sunday. They put the flashboards in at the falls on Thursday and the river was up 3' by Sunday (really by Saturday). It was like fishing a completely different river from the week before. In thinking about where to fish I was going back and forth as whether to fish there or below the falls. I figured the fishing would be great below the falls but the boat traffic would be really insane given the nice forecast. Above the falls at Willamette park most of the boats stay to the East side and the West side has a lot of good structure that is relatively pleasure boater free so I decided to hit the upper river.

When I got there I was worried. There was a ton of crap floating in the water and not much current (the complete opposite of the week before). There were some fish breaking the surface out from the ramp and where I started but I could not buy a topwater bite. I talked with a guy in a bass boat and he had not had any luck yet and said that the fishing was really slow the day before too. I was toying with the idea of packing up heading below the falls.

After about an hour of growing self-doubt and battling inner demons telling me to leave I finally caught a decent smallie on a jerkbait.


I kept fishing that lure but I decided to toss it to the bank rather than fish the humps as I had the week before. I went up the Tualatin side. Not much action but after a bit, I caught a 2lb 6oz fish and a 1lb fish off a spot where deep water pushed up against the bank.


I thought I had figured out a pattern but that was not the case. I kept working my way up the bank and every once in a while a fish would smash the jerkbait. The ones that bit, hit it hard, but there just were not a ton of them. I would get bit just often enough to keep me fishing that pattern. After about 4 hours I only had 6 fish. There were a couple of nice ones but really slow compared to the week before.

When I got to one of my favorite humps I dusted it off with the jerkbait and missed one fish. I then went over it with a crankbait but got nothing. I thought that maybe the fish were not active enough for those lures so I tied on a 1/4oz jighead and Bass Pro Shops rage tail looking swimbait. I had not tried those before but they have really nice action on the retrieve and on the drop.

On my first cast, a bass hit it as it was sinking to the bottom. I was in about 25' casting up towards the hump. My lure was landing in water anywhere from 6-15'. The action was incredible. I was getting bit on probably a 1/3 of my casts and lots of nice fish mixed in. Almost no dinks. Often the hooked fish would have other fish with it. I only got it to work one time, but I unhooked the bass, left in the bottom of the kayak and dropped down to watch another one grab it. Really cool.

I caught 18 fish off of a pretty small area in about an hour and a half. Some of the bass were suspended about 12' deep over the deeper 25-30' water nearthe hump. When I would see one on my graph I would drop a ned rig straight down and usually catch them. On average these fish were smaller than the ones on the swimbait that were on the edge of the hump.

When the bite eventually slowed I thought I would rest that spot and run all the way up to the narrows to see if that spot would produce. I figured with the reduced current down where I was fishing that the narrows section would have a nice amount of current and that seemed to be the case. I fished in around 6-15' and picked up 2 more bass and missed some but it was tough fishing because the wind was picking up some and there was a lot of boat traffic wake bouncing me around.

I quickly decided that was not fun went go fish for panfish for a bit to just get away from all the boats. I pulled up along the shoreline (on the Tualatin side) below the island and started working my way downstream. That area is nice mix of spotty weeds, rocks on a shallow shelf and I had done well for panfish up there last time out. I started fishing with white trout magnet and caught a couple of bluegill right off the bat. Things were going well when I got a big wind knot in my line. Bad enough that I had to cut off about 20' of line. This was key because that line was old I meant to replace it before the trip but I did not get to it.

About 10 casts later I felt a thud-like hit on my trout magnet. You know how you can just tell when a big fish hits. That thud you feel is like nothing else I swear you can feel it in your very soul. I set the hook and saw a big flash. I thought, man I hooked a 10lb pikieminnow. Seconds later a steelhead jumped several feet out of the water!!!

I fought that thing for what felt like a lifetime on my ultralight and 4lb test. I will say I got a not rod this year because I thought my old UL was a little stiff. The new rod is 6'6" and almost parabolic in action. That steelhead mad run after run. Each time I would get it close it would just take off. I took some pictures of it while I was fighting it because I figured there was no way I would land this fish without a net.



The battle wore on and the fish was tiring. I was getting it all the way to the kayak now but could not get a hold of it with the boca-grip type lip gripper I had with me. That soft rod saved me again and again because it absorbed every lunge.


Finally, I made a decision. I had seen its mouth a few times now and could see that it had some serious teeth but I knew the only way to get that fish was going to be to lip it. I splashed a bunch of water on the floor my kayak to make the best landing spot possible, I put the boca-style grips on my lap and worked the fish close once again. This time I lipped like a bass. I could feel its teeth ripping into my thumb. I dropped the rod and grab the lip grips and got them on the fish and hauled it aboard.

8lb 3oz summer steelhead. The fish was in beautiful shape. I quickly got the hook out snapped a couple of pics, weighed and got it back in the water. I held that fish for 5 minutes, at least, helping it to recover. It went from me having to hold it upright, to struggling a little, to thrashing out of my grip. I think it will survive.


I just sat there trembling. I looked down and there was a pool of blood in the kayak - my blood. Not what we mean when we say get some blood in the kayak :



My line was so twisted from all the drag pulling that I spent a bit of time just pedaling around dragging it behind me to let it untwist. I went back to panfishing but the wind had picked up even more by then to the point of small whitecaps. That coupled with a ton of boat wakes mad it hard to fish.

I decided to pedal back and make a few casts along the way for bass. I hit a few empty humps and then caught on and lost one off of a new to me hump. I eventually made it back to "the spot". The wind and waves from the wakes were really bad. I had a hard time fishing the swim bait so I switched to the Ned rig.

I would cast it out and wait for about 10 seconds. Sometimes I would have a fish on and sometimes not. I picked up 4 fish doing this when I decided to call it a day. They were biting pretty good when I left, not as good as the morning but it was a lot of work to get in position to cast to the best spot.

I got tired of fighting the wind and the wakes and was off the water around 3pm (early day for me). That day was a really cathartic experience from the early struggle to find a bite to that huge steelhead. I am not sure if that is considered big for a summer or not, but it was huge to me. I ended the day with 31 bass. a few panfish, another big pikieminnow and that beautiful steelhead.

Definitely a day to remember!


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Thanks guys! I still can't believe I hooked that steelhead and I am even more amazed that I landed it. In the words of Satchel Paige, "It is better to be lucky than good on any given day"