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Written By: Bill Adelman, January 18, 2013
Last time we skirted the steelhead issue, and now, in spite of one of the worst storms ever experienced, the fishin’ is pretty good. The main river above the Benicia Bridge had some wide open bites for stripers.
Six packers, such as Fish Hookers, were landing 20-30 fish per day. Of course, many were shakers and the keepers generally ran to only 10 pounds. This is a negative?
Recalling the days when we sat for 8 hours for one grab, why not catch undersize fish just for the enjoyment of the action? Because too many anglers don’t know how to safely release these fish, as they’re caught on bait. Isn’t that a conundrum?
All ya gotta do is fish with BIG hooks, size 6/0 and larger. The aforementioned storm really messed up the river, what with all of the debris sneaking up on your anchor rope. Brined shad were a hot ticket. The best bullhead bite is yet to come.
Who knows what the Feather will look like in January? If it’s fishable and you wish to chase a steelie, that creek will be the hot ticket. As the salmon spawn is long gone, roe is on the back burner as a bait of choice, as well as egg patterns for the fly guy.
Changing tackle to suit the water conditions is generally a pain, as carrying more than two rods while wading the river is angling overload. When we bass fish, eight rigged rods are the norm. Not so for the wading angler.
One particular presentation is great for approaching a riffle and fishing through it. Then another approach works best in the tailout. This is why your two rods should be pre rigged for these two techniques.
You’ll then need a belly bag for peripheral tackle, ie: spoons, spinners, lures, a side planer, leader, sinkers, three way swivels, standard swivels, clips, needle nose pliers, clippers, knife and all of the other stuff you can’t live without while standing waist deep in extremely cold and moving water. Ever consider a wading stick as well?
Do you need a landing net to safely release a steelhead or are you going to just slide it up on the gravel or sand at river’s edge? A small thermos with coffee or cocoa is a must, unless your vehicle isn’t too far away. Ooooops, almost forgot, a cinnamon roll, snacks and lunch also need a spot in your pocket.
The conventional angler can use flies with just a slight adjustment in tackle. Look towards size 10’s in these proven patterns. The pheasant tail nymph, copper john, san juan worm, flash backs, hare’s ear, wooly bugger, prince, purple peril and on and on and on.
It doesn’t hurt to have a few steelhead patterns all in orange. Especially in the Feather and American Rivers, an all orange nymph has worked for 30+ years. Consider a few flies tied with a bead head, as in slightly deeper water, it will ride a bit more naturally. So, how to fish em.
You’ll need a few very small bobbers. Rig up just as you would for fishing bait, except use the fly with just enough weight to skip across the bottom. If the water is over four feet deep, tie on the fly and place the bobber so that the fly will skirt the bottom during the drift, but don’t allow a drift that is tight to the fly. It takes a bit of effort to free drift, however it’s gotta be like that.
If you want to bait fish, the old fashioned nightcrawler is a top choice. This too can be fished with a bobber. What with so many confusing rules, it might be a good idea to fish everything barbless.
I am thinking that braided line is not a top choice for steelheading. Your terminal line need not be over ten pound test, unless you venture up to the Eel or Smith. Our coastal rivers and inland water will very seldom put out a fish in the fifteen pound and up class.
Mono will drift better than braid and what you might lose in “touch” isn’t of major concern. This will not be the case if fishing big, deep water where your cast might approach 70-80 feet.
Can I close with a rant? Stop here if not. The new sturgeon regulations are just another attempt to cut down the number of anglers. This is one writer’s opinion, which is that the HSUS infiltration into our DF&W is proving to have a huge negative impact on sportsmen.
The new regs take effect January First. The sturgeon report card is no longer free, but $7.50 if you buy it at a DF&W office or $8.13 if purchased at any other location.
No longer can we use a two hook rig as it now must be a single barbless hook. How does this protect the fishery? The new size limit is 40-60 inches, measured at the fork of the tail, not the tail tip.
Only a net can be used to bring the fish aboard, as snares are no longer legal. I am thinking best not even have one on board.
Next time, who knows? Maybe ask why the levee trees in Suisun Slough are being cut down. Seeya then and Tight Lines!!!
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