February is here and the guides at Water Time Outfitters are happy about it- January was a slog and tough going; now it seems some fish are starting to show in better numbers. Cold, clear and low water conditions have been the challenge across NW rivers in the last 3 weeks and getting fish to move to the fly can be tough in these conditions. While we’ve had consistent success we won’t argue, it hasn’t been easy. Heavy rains today (Feb 11) have bumped many rivers sharply upward and blown out with the color of chocolate milk. This should help bring in new chrome fish. With February here we are starting to see more wild fish entering our rivers and that combined with some hatchery steelhead we are starting to see more consistent fishing.
Clackamas River– catch rates have been slow and wild fish have been a high percentage of the fish we’ve seen. Remember that the Clack’s hatchery run is now a later run with the first winter fish getting to the hatchery typically around mid-February. This run should be good all the way into April. Current levels are very low with readings at the Estacada gauge below 12′ and water temps a chilly 39 degrees. (Today’s heavy rain bumped rivers up sharply and many rivers are on flood watch.)
Sandy River– some fish have shown in the Sandy but low, clear and very cold conditions have not given any fire to the fishing- in other words dead slow! Water level on the Sandy near Bull Run River has been very bony at below 9′ mark. Water temps for the week have been very chilly in the range of 38-34 degrees. Be sure your waders don’t leak if your headed for the Sandy! (Todays heavy rain bumped rivers up sharply and many rivers are on flood watch.)
Wilson River- Fishing has been slow with the low, clear and cold conditions. Expect improved fishing as we get later into February and March. Both broodstock hatchery fish and wild steelhead are typically peaking during these months. With low water focus efforts on the lower river. (Todays heavy rain bumped rivers up sharply and many rivers are on flood watch.)
Kilchis River- The Kilchis is a wild steelhead river with no hatchery steelhead releases. The winter steelhead run is at its best on this system now through early April. The Kilchis can get low and clear, so it fishes the best as the water drops after high water events. It is often one of the first Tillamook Rivers to come back into shape after a rain event. The Kilchis is very low and clear, and as a result fishing has been slow, but there are fish throughout the system. Light line, small presentations and dark colors will be essential to success during these conditions. (Todays heavy rain bumped rivers up sharply and many rivers are on flood watch.)
NF Nehalem- The hatchery run has been way down this year with less than 600 steelhead back to the hatchery so far. The hatchery run is now winding down and wild steelhead are soon to be the only fish in the river. Fishing on the NF is nearly shut down with the extreme low water conditions. Focus on the deep holes for best success in low water. (Todays heavy rain bumped rivers up sharply and many rivers are on flood watch.)
Siletz- Winter steelhead continues to be fair on the Siletz. The low and clear water conditions have slowed migration and made the fishing more challenging. A mix of hatchery and wild fish are still being caught everyday by boaters and bank anglers. With the extended forecast showing no signs of considerable rain, expect more of the same conditions for the next week. The numbers of wild and hatchery fish should continue to improve, as we get closer to the peak of the run in February and March. Anglers are starting to catch more wild fish in the basin as well, remember to handle these wild fish with care and immediately release them back into the river. (Todays heavy rain bumped rivers up sharply and many rivers are on flood watch.)
Good luck on the water! RobC
To see more info about Water Time Outfitters visit us at: www.watertimeoutfitters.com
Water Time Outfitters is owned and operated by Rob Crandall and his team of hard working guides. Rob has been past editor of Flyfishing & Tying Journalmagazine, a licensed fishing guide for over 26 years, featured speaker in Oloughlin’s Sportsmans Shows, seen on Flyfish TV, Columbia Country TV, Frontier Unlimited TV as well as featured in the DVD-Winter Spey Strategies; the Salmon Trout Steelheader Magazine, the Flyfisher, Flyfishing & Tying Journal and Salmon Steelhead Journal. Rob grew up on the Clackamas River and loves to share his passion for fly fishing with others.