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i spent three days floating and sledding the river looking for steelhead. Saw several fish, but no takers. Gear guys were putting fish in the boat. What I noticed was very few large boulders in most of the runs. The current is moving in most areas and I would have expected to see steelhead tucked behind large boulders, but most of the runs had only a cobble bottom. Given these are hatchery fish, it seems logical the fish are blasting up to Blue Creek and not lounging very long in the lower reaches because of the lack of structures.

Anyone have some thoughts on this?

Thanks

DH
 

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I would say your observations are spot on. The fish there are elusive to me also. There are a fair number of ledges. From BC up. And some areas of cliff landslides and some large clay type bolders. I have been told most fish hang mid channel in the deeper water. With 99.9 percent hatchery fish I find the fish there while high in returning numbers low in aggression.
 

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Now hanging at the other, better new place
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I don't fish it much, but my observations and deductions on the cowlitz are that the dam has cut off the supply of large woody debris as well as gravel, resulting in a real flume of a river.
 

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Go anchor at the Hinkley drift and swing that soft water... it is one of the best sections on the river for fly fishing. I have had years of success there whether gear or fly fishing. I'd suggest a #8 Muddler pattern on an intermediate sink tip.
 

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i spent three days floating and sledding the river looking for steelhead. Saw several fish, but no takers. Gear guys were putting fish in the boat. What I noticed was very few large boulders in most of the runs. The current is moving in most areas and I would have expected to see steelhead tucked behind large boulders, but most of the runs had only a cobble bottom. Given these are hatchery fish, it seems logical the fish are blasting up to Blue Creek and not lounging very long in the lower reaches because of the lack of structures.

Anyone have some thoughts on this?

Thanks

DH
The cow has a ton of great fly water. Yet only a bit if it reliably holds taking fish. Keep swinging the sides and shoulders you will get them. Like any river is all about the spot.
 

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While there is lots of great fly water it is a challenge to fish much of the time. Is hard to be optimistic when you have to delay your cast while a sled zooms through right over your swing water. With these low flows it is even more so. But much has been said about that on this river. It is possible to catch a fish from underneath a sled, but I personally don't see how these fish cannot be affected by the underwater acoustics they are forced to deal with. Will a fish rise up toward the surface with all this disturbance going on to take a fly? Sometimes. Finding relatively undisturbed water is possible and more are using sinktips now for their summer fishing. Steelhead in the Cowlitz are like a wildebeast migration. If you can get in front of the migration with your fly you might catch one.
 

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While there is lots of great fly water it is a challenge to fish much of the time. Is hard to be optimistic when you have to delay your cast while a sled zooms through right over your swing water. With these low flows it is even more so. But much has been said about that on this river. It is possible to catch a fish from underneath a sled, but I personally don't see how these fish cannot be affected by the underwater acoustics they are forced to deal with. Will a fish rise up toward the surface with all this disturbance going on to take a fly? Sometimes. Finding relatively undisturbed water is possible and more are using sinktips now for their summer fishing. Steelhead in the Cowlitz are like a wildebeast migration. If you can get in front of the migration with your fly you might catch one.
Well with it being one of the few last hatchery runs of volume it's an attraction. When you shut down hatcheries and other rivers to fishing the pressure just moves, generally to the cow and to pound wild fish into submission on the peninsula by any means possible. Yes I'm aware this will unleash a cavalcade of anti hatchery rewilding rhetoric. I'm not against anything per say but the above is a fact and should be considered when making management decisions rather than just leaning on an idealistic mantra of either side.
 

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I agree the OP should all be C&R. Save what's left of the OP. And double Triple or quadroople the cow runs. Get the A and B runs back. Give people a place to harvest fish if they want. Supposedly it is all funded by Tacoma power. Or who ever owns that now.
 

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It will never happen, but I once proposed a "drift only"--no motorized craft from Barrier to the power line above Blue Creek from July 1st to Oct 1. I would love something like this. I wonder how that would work. Any opinions?
 

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Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater....Know Grizzler
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Dan,
That is a nice thought, but I don't ever see it happening.

I actually prefer the Cowlitz as it is. I like that it attracts as many guides and sleds as possible, which helps keep them off other water.
The mother Cow isn't always crowded either, though not in prime time. There are still summerruns to be caught and times when you can find three trailers or less in the BC parking lot.
SF
 
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I fish the Cow most when returns are the poorest and in between main runs to take advantage of the less crowded river. My proposal would still attract guides, and below BC is the most used section of the river. Many gear guides would opt for their drift boat and continue to fish the upper river. Those seeking a more quieter experience would go for this option.
I do realize the opposition is too great now, but maybe such a plan is not too far off. At some point there has to be a shift to increasing the desirability of the experience over bringing home the most pounds of meat possible. The guides do own this river but it will not be that way forever.
Someday people will get tired of this:

Water Boat Watercraft Boats and boating--Equipment and supplies Vehicle
 

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Hot Carl
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That river has plenty of boulders. The fish are just never behind them because they're always on the move.

I've had my best days on that river when it was the most crowded. One such day was this March. Around a dozen fish to hand, and at least 70 trailers at the BC parking lot.
 

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That river has plenty of boulders. The fish are just never behind them because they're always on the move.

I've had my best days on that river when it was the most crowded. One such day was this March. Around a dozen fish to hand, and at least 70 trailers at the BC parking lot.[/QUOTE

I haven't even hooked that many there in 7 years trying]
 

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9x Puget Sound Steelhead Guide of the Year
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Last weekend it was absurd, fish are in and biting. Three of us spey bros were lined up in the same run, and all three of us had a take in a fifteen min window, two of which were landed, and yes I'm the douche bag in the trio. Cutties also showing up, which adds to the fun. Just bomb casts as far as you can and cover water. As Evan said they are on the move, keep casting you'll find them.

If you head to the cow with the right mindset and don't have unrealistic expectations it can be fun.
 

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Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater....Know Grizzler
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Those lower Columbia trib hatchery summerruns are great eating fish.
After eating one of those, you'll be hard pressed to every want to eat another winter hatchery brat.
SF
 
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