Brutalized by the Willamette, 17 February 2020

bass

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I was trying to decide where to fish on Monday. I thought about Hagg, but I hadn't had great success my previous few trouts (a handful of trout per trip).

I decided I was tired of working hard for just a couple of fish so I decided to hit the Willamette out of George Rogers park for sturgeon. I was figuring I would knock off early, after ten fish or so, and perhaps do some yard work in the afternoon.

I was punished for my cockiness. I got to the launch around 7:20am and looked out over the river. It was churning pretty good and the back eddy was running pretty hard and moving around a lot. I know that makes it harder to fish that area but I was not too concerned.

I got down to the river and launched and started heading upstream to a spot where I have done well when the river was running hard. I was happy when I started marking fish (in about 95' next to some 60-70' water). I dropped my anchor but did not scope out enough line and I started slipping downstream.

I pulled the anchor up (the first of many times) and reset with more scope. I was pretty tensed up waiting for a bite that I knew would be short in coming. After a bit, I was less tense.

I cast all around that spot without getting a bite. It is tough because at some moments the spot was in the back eddy and the current was upstream, then that would shift and I would be in downstream current, and not to be outdone a perfect sideways current was often present.

I moved a few times near that area, each time pulling up 100'+ of anchor line. I was getting tired, not from catching fish, but from not being able to catch them.

Then for fun, I hung my anchor. The scariest part of kayak fishing is trying to free a hung anchor. I spent close to an hour trying to pull in every direction. Upstream, sideways, downstream, straight up. I finally just gave up and pulled out my knife to cut my line. I pulled hard to try to get as straight over the anchor as possible as I reached down with my knife the anchor pulled free.

What great luck I thought. I did not realize that the Willamette just gave me back my anchor back so that I would stay and receive more punishment.

I decided to move across the river where the water was a little better behaved. I was not marking fish there but that is not always necessary. I spent over an hour on that side, moving a couple of times, casting all around, without a sniff.

To make things more fun a humongous Stellar Sea lion started hanging around me. It would get pretty close then seem like it was going to go away only to turn around and come right back. That is really unnerving when you are one foot off the water. The only joy I got I was laughing at how stupid the sea lion was being. Ha ha, you can't steal a fish if I don't catch a fish.

At that point I decided I wanted to get some legwork in so I pedaled up and around Hog Island. On the way up I marked fish in a quite a few spots. On the way back I tried to anchor at a few of these spots. The bottom is like a smooth basalt rock in the areas I was marking fish and I could not get my anchor to hold in any of them.

Again and again, drop 200' of anchor line out and just start dragging down the river. Pull in 200' of anchor line. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I finally went back to where I started the day to complete my skunking full circle. I was not disappointed.

I fished the entire day on the Willamette without a single bite. I don't think I have ever been skunked that hard. There needs to be a stronger term to describe that level of defeat :)

I did spend some time looking for smallmouth, and got skunked doing that as well, but that was more or less expected when bass fishing this time of year.

My reward for all that extremely lonely time on the river was the pull up that steep, potholed, steep and torn up ramp. An older lady watched me pull up my kayak up the ramp and quipped, "That will keep your legs in shape".

They still haven't found her body so I think I am safe :)

Even though it was about as bad of day of fishing as you can have: I probably pulled in 3000' of anchor rope over the course of the day, harrassed by a sea lion, fighting a hung anchor for an hour, etc I still was happy to be out on the water.

Days like that one are necessary to help remind me that being out on the water is nice in and of itself. I was still glad that I went and spent the entire drive home thinking about how I could have fished different and getting psyched up for the next trip.
 
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