Pulling into Riverside Park last Saturday, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of boat trailers in the parking lot. Sure the river was on the rise after a shot of rain overnight, but it wasn’t the kind of freshet that would cause feeder creeks to puke mud and send the river gauge sky high. This was just enough of a bump to bring some fresh recruits into the system.
On this particular day, I was fortunate enough to be jumping in the boat with pro guide Brandon Glass for a morning chasing Winter Steelhead on the Clackamas. On tap would be a steady diet of 12 and 14 millimeter beads fished underneath 3/8 oz Beau-Mac floats. Had there been more color in the water, we were prepared with ‘Bobber-Dogging’ outfits, but the river had maintained clarity in spite of the rising water level.
We carefully picked our way from one hole to the next free-drifting our beads carefully through each slot. The ones that produced a bite would get hit a second or third time, but for the most part Brandon kept us moving along once each piece of water had been properly fished. Often this meant only a single pass. The fish seemed to be scattered throughout the river but by day’s end we tallied five fish to the boat with three other opportunities.
For his bead setups, Brandon uses a 3/8th oz sliding Beau-Mac float with a ½ oz inline weight followed by 2’ of 20# fluorocarbon tied to a swivel followed by three feet of 14# fluorocarbon to a size one Octopus hook. Tie a short section of fluoro (about an inch) to one of the eyes on the swivel and pinch on a small split shot. A small rubber bobber stop set about 3” above the hook keeps the free sliding bead from getting too close to the hook. When he uses soft beads, Brandon recommends adding a small sequin between the two in order to keep the bead from sliding over the bobber stop.
The fluorocarbon leaders are important for two reasons. One, fluoro is nearly invisible under water and since beads work best under low, clear conditions it’s only natural that they go hand in hand. Secondly, fluoro is denser than monofilament therefore sinks better. This is necessary in order to get the neutrally buoyant bead down into the strike zone quickly.
The premise of this method is to fish the split shot near or even on the bottom of the river. This will allow the bead to drift naturally downstream like a single egg broken free from a redd.
Though the calendar still read “February,” it was clear that the Springer bug had already bitten some of the regular visitors to this tributary. Just a couple weeks prior, the same stretch of water was loaded with sleds and drift boats. And even though the conditions were optimal at the time, the bite definitely suffered under the weight of the crowds.
As we transition into Spring Chinook season keep in mind that there will remain plenty of opportunity for great Steelhead fishing under far less crowded conditions over the next month.