Columbia River

Aervax

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@00Swede
Well said. Your comments are spot on. And yes, I'm pretty sure I've seen you in your kayak at least a couple of times fishing in places on my regular go to list. I'm sure we have overlap, which I take as a compliment. One of these days I'll pull over and fish right on top of you to ask what you're doing in my spot, again!😉

@Fletchpdx
I do get as much satisfaction from seeing someone catch a big fish as I get catching one myself, frequently more so. I'm glad to share what to look for in good bass fishing spots without sharing any of my specific locations.

This time of year you're looking for the right water depth and current. As the water warms in the summer the bigger fish always move deeper, so if you want to do some bank fishing while water temps are perfect now is the time to get out there. Most of the Columbia fish are still running at depths of 5-15 feet. As the summer progresses and water temp rises bank fishing for smallmouth bass gets tougher and average fish size for bankies decreases.

Look for places where you can cast and work your choice of lure directly through moving water that is slow current, or even better can be along seams of slow current and fast current at the right depths and near trees or rocks that offer some cover from predators. Eagles osprey and otters eat thousands of bass on the Columbia every single day. The fish figure this out and the bigger ones dominate areas where they have current, depth and cover combined.

I have discovered a handful of locations with this combination where I can fish from the bank and catch a few fish in the 1-2 pound range and an occasional one that'll run 3-4 pounds. Bass do move up and down in water depth depending on water temp, flow rate, position of the sun, fishing and predator pressure, barometric pressure and so on. If I keep hitting those spots at different times of the day and at different river flow rates and varying conditions I'll occasionally land one over 6 lbs from the bank, maybe 1 or 2 a year in that size range.

I frequently scout new fishing spots on the river using google maps satellite view looking for bank locations that might have some of the right factors. Then I go there and fish them under different conditions to learn if some decent fish are there, and how they orient themselves under a variety of conditions.

Some places produce every single time. Others only produce under certain conditions. The still water sloughs and marshes along the Columbia are a good example of that. They fish well for spawning bass in April and May. Once the spawn is over the residual fish that decide to stay become a captive population to otters and osprey, so everything but the little dink fish are gradually decimated by mid June. I would not waste time fishing for smallmouth in shallower still water places like that this time of year.

If you want to go out and fish sometime I am always open to heading out together, and these days we would have to take separate vehicles of course. We could both choose a couple of new bank fishing spots to try together and see what comes out of them. I learn something new from each fisherman with whom I share time on the water. I can be a slow learner sometimes, so I need to spend a lot of time fishing to accumulate the know how to be good at it. Always grasping for another excuse to get out there and play in the water.

Tightlines! Cheers. Eric
 

00Swede

Member
Finally a calm day on the Columbia. It's been awhile since I had my boat out and it felt great. Not red hot by any means but a good day.
Caught several bass but nothing too big. These Walleye made up for it. Turned loose the big one but the wife caught a perfect one for the cooler. We lost several others that were very good fish.
Fishing between The Dalles Dam and John Day Dam, 10 to 20 feet of water, trolling size 7 Berkley Shads. IMG_0453.JPGIMG_0454 - Edited.jpg
 

Don Fischer

New member
I went on a walleye guided trip with the best friend years ago. We were out there 8hrs and we both caught one fish. Still thinking I should tryit again Can't remember what they taste like but most people seem to like them. Think I got all I need except a good supply of worms! I'd go back to the same place. My boat isn't that big and I did see another boat there about the size of mine! Mine is a 15' Jon Boat with a 20hp outboard.
 

00Swede

Member
I went on a walleye guided trip with the best friend years ago. We were out there 8hrs and we both caught one fish. Still thinking I should tryit again Can't remember what they taste like but most people seem to like them. Think I got all I need except a good supply of worms! I'd go back to the same place. My boat isn't that big and I did see another boat there about the size of mine! Mine is a 15' Jon Boat with a 20hp outboard.
Most of the Walleye I catch are caught trolling Size 7 Berkley Flicker Shads in 10 to 20 feet of water. No worms involved. I don't always get the Walleye but usually a few Bass will be caught also, keeping it interesting.
If the water is deeper than that, the Bottom Walkers and Worm Harnesses get used.
That Jon Boat would be fine for most of the places I fish, just watch the wind reports. I've got a boat that will handle most of what the Gorge weather can throw at it, but I won't be out there in the wind either.
 

Don Fischer

New member
I guess the only way to know is to do it. Made several trips to LePage Park last spring and got blown out with every one. Thanks for the reply!
 

freednog

New member
Had a nearly wind-free day on the Columbia near The Dalles on Saturday. Mostly fished the Washington side but landed over 25 smallmouth. Had trouble finding the big fish but did find 2 in the 2# range, both on flies. Wooly Buggers did ok, but soft baits on drop shot brought the most fish in. I've never seen the river so calm so it heated up quite a bit. Got so hot we needed to take a dip to cool down.

Not many other bass fisherman on the water. Most seemed to be sturgeon or salmon fishing.
 

bass

Most Featured
Thanks for the report @freednog How deep were the dropshot fish?

I have stopped looking at the gorge because I can never find a day where it is going to be calm enough for long enough to make it worth the drive from Portland. I guess I should start keeping my eyes peeled!
 

Aervax

Most Featured
Had a nearly wind-free day on the Columbia near The Dalles on Saturday. Mostly fished the Washington side but landed over 25 smallmouth. Had trouble finding the big fish but did find 2 in the 2# range, both on flies. Wooly Buggers did ok, but soft baits on drop shot brought the most fish in. I've never seen the river so calm so it heated up quite a bit. Got so hot we needed to take a dip to cool down.

Not many other bass fisherman on the water. Most seemed to be sturgeon or salmon fishing.
Your outing mirrors a couple of my past bass fishing outings on the Washington side out of The Dalles at a similar time of the year. I have become doubtful the Washington side fishes well this time of year in that location. The deep side of the islands north of the Marina is an easier spot to find keeper size bass. My best guess is as the water warms the bulk of the fish move off the banks and spread out toward deeper less obvious structure. Someplaces they are simply randomly scattered making it difficult to find more than a handful of keeper size fish over several hours.

The Columbia is so darn big and has so much good structure it makes them hard to find once they spread out in summer. I think the bigger fish on that river tend to frequently change locations in a seasonal pattern as temp and flows change. I guess that's no different than bass behavior anywhere else, it just feels more dispersed because the Columbia is bigger and harder to learn and predict those patterns. I am slowly learning how the daily/hourly changes to release flow for hydropower effects some of my spots where the bigger fish do show up to feed consistently this time of year.

It's one of the toughest fisheries to figure out that I've been on in when it comes to summer fishing. There are dinks galore to be found everywhere though. They do okay at creating some action to break up the monotony during tougher summer fishing. PM me next time you go. I'll pin a couple of places for you to try that are productive, though known to local bass aficionados. The top secret places, I'll take you there to fish together after signing an ironclad non-compete agreement. You might have to wear a blindfold while I drive us there, too. 😉
 

SciFly

Member
@freednog do you tie your own flies? If not, show these to a shop owner or friend and have some tied up. @Aervax is gasping right now! I'm sure he never expected me to actually post these, and honestly, I never thought I would either. Guess it's time to spread the love.

Now, I know the black wooly bugger is a super-classic, but these two puppies should be registered as WMD's. I typically don't get outfished on a fly rod if I'm throwing these flies. They are straight up gangsters on smallmouth. I have tied many variations of sizes and colors, have fished them in as many possible situations as I could manage, switching back and forth on good days "just to see", and I keep coming back to one of these two. I cannot stress enough the importance of not going beyond 3 inches (at least in my experience). As soon as I cross over that magical 3 inch mark my takes drop off exponentially as length increases. Both are tied Clouser-style with dumbell eyes underneath to swing the hook point up jig-style. I also now prefer the B10S hooks for their penetration and durability (top fly, black nickel, size #2).

1. Top fly, chartreuse arctic fox overwing spread out with your thumb to cover top 180 degrees of hook. Body is white crystal chenille with about 3-4 wraps of white polar chenille (has long fibers like hackle) palmered through it.

2. Bottom fly, olive over white (super hair??? cannot remember), thin black lateral line through center along with about 6-8 strands of flash. I like Mirage for its iridescence. If you look closely there are a couple strands that look red in the photo, but that is just the light at that angle. It changes color depending on the angle of light, much like the sides of real fish.

I prefer to fish these with either an intermediate or full sink line. This maintains a straighter connection from rod to fly without the big bow of a floating line in cross current or wind, greatly improving hook sets. Use the standard rip-slight pause-rip, with an occasional 2-second pause. Switch it up constantly until you find a pattern that is producing. Every day and situation is a little different. You will eventually discover your own "most productive" rhythm, but always be prepared to switch it up if you stop getting bumps. Best of luck to you on your next trip. Please let me know if these patterns bring you fish.

**Disclaimer: I am not in any way claiming I invented these patterns** Most have heard of the famous Bob Clouser. His flies were all tied with buck tail and I used a synthetic I already had on hand. However, the top fly is just a variation (tied Clouser-style) of a Tui Chub fly created by a guide named Jan Nemec out of Reno (mimicflyfishing.com). He is a stud fly fisherman and designs some great flies. I just added dumbell eyes like a Clouser and changed the colors for bass rather than trout. The base pattern in Jan's.

streamers.jpg
 

Aervax

Most Featured
@SciFly
Holy Moly!!!
I cannot believe you just posted that.

@freednog
I wanted to share the top secret bass fly with you, but SciFly truly perfected it. Disclosure is outside my agreement with him under penalty of dislocation of my casting arm. I have seen it in action on the end of SciFly's rod. You've just been handed THE brass ring. Go out there and try it.

I have had intermittent success using wooly buggers for bass. For smallies I have better success using lighter brighter colors, kind of the opposite to most of the trout buggers in my box.
 

WaveCrawler

New member
I've had pretty good luck above the dalles dam the last three weeks.
I've been throwing homemade paddle tails on homemade jig heads at usual type structure with a couple differences. Any shore structure (I.e. points, boulders/rocks and weed lines) needed to be associated with immediate deep water (20ft bottom in general butt not specific). And this time of year, any of the rock bluffs breaking the surface or just under ( either use my having a channel or hazard marker on it and again associated with deep water.
I posted a couple pics to show just two from my last couple trips. Averaging 4 or 5 like this with a smattering of "cookie cutters" in only a couple hours.
 

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WaveCrawler

New member
Thanks for the report @freednog How deep were the dropshot fish?

I have stopped looking at the gorge because I can never find a day where it is going to be calm enough for long enough to make it worth the drive from Portland. I guess I should start keeping my eyes peeled!
I live at the other end of the Gorge.... Rule of thumb on the wind, if the east wind is blowing in Portland it's glass calm at Hood River and beyond. I know! It's not a lot of days but pretty reliable pattern.
 
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