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Updated 4:21pm - Jul 26, 2016

Home arrow News arrow Sports arrow Reel Deal: River rises too high for drift boats


Reel Deal: River rises too high for drift boats

Rachel McCain of Smith River caught this steelhead near the mouth of Goose Creek on the South Fork Smith River on Friday.
Rachel McCain of Smith River caught this steelhead near the mouth of Goose Creek on the South Fork Smith River on Friday. Courtesy of Cody Gardner
Steelhead fishing on the Smith River was about as good as it gets for much of the past week, but with the first of three large storms coming in strong on Wednesday, it won’t be until after the weekend that the river will be back down to a conducive levels for drift boats.

Smith River

Anglers had great days drift boat fishing for steelhead from Sunday through Tuesday, with most boats posting numbers of about five to six steelhead per boat and some even getting up to nine to ten steelhead per boat, according to guide Mick Thomas of Lunker Fish Trips.

Bank fishing in the upper reaches of the Middle and South Fork Smith rivers came into play well before that with many anglers getting great action on bright steelhead.

With too-high-to-drift-boat river levels from rain predicted through at least Sunday evening, it will be a plunker’s game, if anything at all, on the Smith this weekend. Maybe not even that since the river is predicted to crest twice this weekend above 18 feet and 35,000 cfs on the Jed Smith river gauge. 

The Smith shot up six feet on Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. — a one foot rise per hour — with the heavy rain, and the river will continue to put on a show of high flows through the weekend, according to forecasts.

The steep and rocky Smith drainage clears water quickly, however, and guides predicted the river would be ready to fish again a day after the rains die down. 

Chetco River

The Chetco River dropped to drift-boatable levels on Monday and provided great fishing for new-from-the-ocean steelhead through Wednesday, according to guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing.

Every boat was catching two to three steelhead in the lower Chetco River, and Martin, who was taking advantage of his permit on the Upper Chetco, was averaging about five steelhead per day.

Wednesday rain brought the Chetco up four feet from 7.5 feet to 11.5 feet in only six hours starting at 10 a.m.

The Chetco was expected to blow out and be too high for fishing (except maybe some occasional plunking) until late next week.

Martin said he would be targeting the Rogue, Sixes and Elk rivers while the Chetco is too high, but it all depends on how much rain we get.

Fishing contacts: Mick Thomas of Lunker Fish Trips at 707-458-4704 and Lunkerfishtrips.com; Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing at 541-813-1082 and Wildriversfishing.com

Reach Adam Spencer at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it


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