October 12, 2016

Columbia River Smallies - 2016

Few Smallmouth Bass fisheries are as demanding and rewarding as the Columbia River on the Washington and Oregon border. In the fall of 2016 I decided to tow my boat nearly 1400 miles one way just to spend a week on this forsaken fishery. You see the Smallmouth bass here are hated by most. They're are not native here and according to the coldwater anglers they're not welcome here either.

In five days I saw two other boats fishing for the bronze kind. One of which I personally know the angler. I boated over 20 miles of this river and the only other anglers I saw besides those two bass anglers where salmon anglers and Native American salmon netters.

While it is in late season for the smallies on this fishery they are still very active if you can find them. With clear water conditions you won't find them shallow. Early in the week I claimed that you won't find one in 10 feet or less of water and by end of the week I would have upped that claim to at least 15 feet of water. Most of the best fish either came to topwater over deep points or were hooked in 20 plus feet on drop shot gear.
20 inch

The topwater game here this time of year is most unusual. As I said above there are no shallow fish this time of year. The ones that do come to topwater are over deep water and they don't come up for a weak presentation. Your bug better be thrashing and splashing if you want to see one of these giants breech surface.

Mike Was Getting In Tune With Drop Shot
I got a couple to come to the fly this week. It took all my effort to do it. This is not a place you come to expecting to take fish on the fly. It can be done on a limited basis. The wind is usually the great equalizer to the fly. The picture above is actually rather calm for this big river. Not uncommon to find yourself fishing in 3-4 footers. The other key factor for taking fish on the fly is fish location. During clear water they just don't inhabit shallow water. I sometimes think the predator Ospreys are part responsible for this but it might just also be the majority of the food source is found in deeper water.

Lyndsey With Topwater Chunkie
I had a great week of fishing with friends and also got to spend some time by myself. I caught two 20 inchers and many 19's. Admittedly I had to rely greatly on my many years experience fishing and guiding this big river. Without that knowledge I could have easily came up empty.
Part of the mystic of the Columbia is that the more you understand the river the more you realize what you don't know. It's holding many secrets and with so few of anglers seeking the knowledge it's likely to keep most of it's secrets hidden deep within. You learn to appreciate what it gives you cause success is not necessarily given.

What is a given is the wind will blow and the rain will fall.  The Smallies are strong and will test your knowledge. The scenery is amazing and hazards are many. The Columbia River will test your faith and here God will reveal his grace.
Greg - Tormented Angler