The “snowpocalypse” put fishing on hold for almost a month in Oregon as everything froze over, was covered in snow, then spent another week thawing and blowing out all the local rivers. My cabin fever symptoms were somewhat assuaged by the arrival in the mail of Jed Davis’ Spinner Fishing for Steelhead, which I had time to read while stuck indoors. The book is out of print, and I ended up paying more for a used copy than the original sticker price from GI Joe’s, still on the cover.
I jumped at the first chance to get out, and wasn’t disappointed. However, every other western Oregon angler seemed to have the same idea in mind. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many cars parked along the Wilson River on a Monday as I did this past week. But, the storm had passed, river levels were just dropping, and the water was the epitome of “steelhead green”. I drove past all those anglers and made my way to the quieter waters of the Trask, just south of Tillamook. The Trask is relatively short, and there isn’t a ton of bank access, but definitely enough to keep me interested for a few hours.
There’s an angler’s superstition about not bringing bananas along fishing. I don’t know if this is strictly about having them on a boat, or if it’s just a general rule. None too scientifically, I decided not to bring my usual banana along for lunch, just as a test. On my third cast I hooked a respectable native cutthroat on a black and silver spinner of my own making. Davis recommends pairing darker lures to darker conditions, and brighter lures to brighter sunlight, apparently contrary to the rule of thumb for plugs. It was sunny out, but the sun had yet to hit the water, so I must have found a sweet spot. There is definitely some satisfaction to catching fish on a lure I’d made myself, even if it wasn’t trout I was after.
The rest of the morning was quiet, and I’d already gone up to the deadline and wound my way back down when I decided to stop at a boat ramp. The day had warmed up, and the sun was finally on the water, so following Davis’ advice, I switched to a purple and silver spinner, hopefully better adapted to the conditions. Casting right off the boat ramp, I hooked a large, bright hatchery hen that nailed the spinner, and jumped clear of the water and threw the hook (expletive deleted). It was by far the largest fish I’ve ever had on the line, even if I didn’t get her to shore. Very exciting, and very disappointing.
Looking for more lure building supplies, I was tipped off to a very small store in Beaverton specializing in lure building components. When I explained my predicament to the owner—that I’d lost probably half a dozen steelhead last year from them jumping and throwing the hooks—he asked what hooks I was using. “Siwash,” I replied with confidence. “But did you siwash the hooks?” He asked. He proceeded to explain that the J-shaped hooks need to be bent out of alignment, and that will keep them from slipping out as easily.
I’ve finally gotten off my high horse about fly fishing only, and refusing to ask for help lest I be seen as a neophyte. Now I ask questions every time I meet other anglers or visit my local tackle shops. I’m sure there’s a lot of contradictory knowledge out there, but since I’ve started asking, I’ve always found other anglers willing and eager to help, and never condescending, even if I do sound like a neophyte.