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I met AlpineTrout at his work at 3 pm, and we battled traffic south towards the Columbia, finally arriving at our destination around 7:30 pm. We camped at Beacon
Rock State Park, built a fire, cooked some burgers, and had a few beers. Since we were full from our burgers, we crashed early, and the alarm went off at 5 am the
next morning.

We trailered AlpineTrout's boat to the boat launch, just below the Bonneville Dam. The boat launch was excellent, with lots of parking and plenty of room. Even at that time of morning, the parking lot already had ten rigs. I knew the Columbia would be huge, but this was beyond imagination, and the current was flowing at a solid 7 to 8 knots. We talked about how were were going to fly fish such a river, where to fish, and wondered if we would catch what we had come for.

As we were putting in, another boat was launching, and we followed him downstream. On the way, we passed throngs of anglers with 15 foot surf rods lining the banks. A half a mile down river, we came to a large island, and stayed to the left, passed the bouy marking the shipping channel. It wasn't hard to figure out where the fish were, because there were at least thirty boats anchored on the southern seam of the island.

We went to the pulled in at the back of the line, and I searched for an anchor line in the boat. There didn't seem to be one, so I had to make one by deconstructing and splicing three crab pot lines together. I was a bit worried about the connection, and about the small anchor in the fast current, but I used a uni-knot for the connection, and it held. The depth finder was also not working, so we had no idea how deep the river was.

Our first attempt at anchoring was a failure, the current just dragged us along and the anchor bounced along the rocky bottom. As AlpineTrout said, "They didn't mention that you need a huge anchor in the Fly Fishing for American Shad article." If you head down there, make sure you have a large anchor, and make sure that your anchor has a large buoy on it in case you need to ditch it if things get hairy...

We tried again, this time dropping the anchor a little further on the inside of the seam. The anchor held, and we began rigging up. I wasn't exactly sure how to start, so I rigged my 13 foot 7/8 weight spey rod with a Teeny 450 fly line, tied on 3 feet of 8 pound mono, and a red shad dart I had tied the night before.

The Columbia River Gorge is known for its wind, just up river there is a park called "Surfer's Park" where wind surfers from all over the world gather. Wind proved to be a bit of a problem, but I stuck with the rig for a while. The boats anchored next to us just stared at us with weird looks on there faces, no doubt wondering what in the hell we were doing anchored up with a crab line in an old boat in the middle of the largest river in the Pacific Northwest with fly rods in our hands. So were we.

Shad began jumping all around the boat, and people were hooking up and catching fish all around us on gear. I was in the process of switching over to my 9 foot 6 weight with Rio Deep 7 when I heard AlpineTrout say, "Got one!".

We had heard that shad had very soft mouths, so he played it gingerly, and it fought hard, making a very good account of itself. After a few photos and a quick
release, I switched over to a chartreuse shad dart. We had been trying different colors all morning, trying to dial into the color of the hour, and AlpineTrout had finally hooked one.

Fishing was pretty slow for the next hour or so, and we watched the gear boys all around us hammering fish. Most of them were anchored in faster current, which we
couldn't do, but after a couple of hours of this torture, we had to try. Our first attempt dragged us 500 yards downstream before we knew what was going on, the second attempt took hold only 200 yards below where we originally wanted. Still, I looked around, and we were sitting precisely on the seam that I wanted to be
sitting on. Perfect, I thought aloud, I feel good about this. I tied on a chartreuse clouser, and shortly afterwards, I hooked my first American Shad.

Throughout the day we tried different flies, locations, and techniques, trying to figure out what exactly the fish were doing. We finally got it dialed in, and I
landed another four fish, AlpineTrout caught a couple more, but by that time the bite was off.

We were anchored on a large seam, holding our flies in the current (you know it's strong current when your fishing a type 7, you have your entire fly line out, you're fishing in a back eddy, and your fly line isn't touching bottom in 15 feet of water). The seam we were anchored on kept moving as much as 100 feet, and during one of these moves, I leaned back and rested my eyes.

Tap, tap, tap. I shot up, set the hook like you shouldn't do when you're shad fishing, and felt a fish. Woohoo! I called, I got another shad! For a full thirty
seconds I was convinced of this fact as I felt some movement and head shaking, and then the rod doubled, and AlpineTrout said, "Woah, that's not a shad." With my rod bent into the handle, backing began slowly disappearing through the guides at an even pace. At first, I thought I might have snagged a log, but it was moving much slower than the current, it was swimming sideways to the current, and we were anchored solidly. When I realized I only had 50 feet of backing left, I began to get a bit nervous, and told AlpineTrout I wasn't planning on losing this fly line. He fired up the motor, pulled the anchor in, and we slowly motored towards the beast, regaining backing.

Finally, with the backing knot back on the reel, I had a bit more confidence, and pushed the rod to it's absolute limit. I was only fishing 8 pound Maxima and a 9' 6 weight Winston LT (yeah, the LT stands for LIGHT TROUT), and I put as much strain on it as I dared, hoping I might get some reaction. I couldn't move it. It had stopped swimming, and as we motored closer, I cranked down, lifted up, and the fly popped out.

I was crushed, as there was nothing else it could have been except a sturgeon, and I'd dreamed of a sturgeon on a fly for a long, long time. It was noon, but I cracked a beer, and five minutes later proceeded to lose a massive shad that would have been close to the Washington State Record of 3.42 pounds. My luck had turned, and I cracked a second beer.

We pulled off the water at 3 pm, as we'd been out since 5 am and the shad bite was off. Dropping the boat off at the campground, we set off to do a bit of exploring. We found a copy of the regs, explored a small stream that was opening the next day, and drove back to camp. It was a relatively early night, but I forgot to set the alarm clock, and when we woke up the next morning, it was 8 am, too late for shad fishing. Instead we headed off and spent the morning fishing a small creek, returning to the campground at 1 pm to pick up the boat and head home...

worldanglr
http://www.worldanglr.com/

Calling Fly Fishing a hobby is like calling Brain Surgery a job.
-Paul Schullery
 
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Man, you were right in my backyard. That's a tough place to fish when it gets windy. My wife caught a huge carp right off that boat dock a couple years ago. It was quite a fight considering the current and the fact that she had a little 5'6" Ugly Stick with 6lb. test. You can wade around the corner to the West and usually pick up a few smallmouths if the current isn't too strong. I was a little further East on Friday and managed two good carp and numerous bass and bluegill on big brown PT nymphs in a little lake by Stevenson. Funniest thing was giving my best "Cross his eyes" hookset to a 5" bluegill that grabbed my fly while I was casting to a carp. Bluegill on a 7wt, now that's a challenge. Hope you enjoyed the area and the fishing, the gear guys really clear out once the salmon and shad cool down. Thanks for the carp advice, what a blast. The two I caught were only about 22" but they sure were fun. I almost cut my fly line in half though when the first one went under my boat right by the oar lock. Drop me an e-mail next time you're in the area, the snow is melting off the high lakes and I'm ready for some hiking/fishing plus the streams are open and the summer steelies are showing up in the EF Lewis and Kalama. My summer class schedule gives me Fri-Tue off.
 

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Another nice report! Great pictures on your site as well! I checked out the article on shad last week and was definitely interested in it. Do you think an eight weight would be overkill to fish for shad with? I only have a couple of 5 wieghts and an eight with a Rio Multitip. Just curious on your guys thoughts.

Keep the reports coming!
Bill
 

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Good report worldanglr! Glad to hear that you got into some - they are fun.

When I hit them a couple weeks ago - I started casting my rio type 8, but wasnt getting down. You were fishing the right water from the sounds of it. To beat the current/depth problem, we switched to SA deep water express and was basically lob casting them upstream, letting it drift and sink right past the boat and letting the line straighten behind the boat. This method proved lethal! We were changing flies back and forth every 30 minutes or so and after the color change, fishing was hot for a little bit and then switch again and it was hot again. Glad you had guys got some. They are a fun fish to bend a rod with. J
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
My six was definetally too light for both the wind, and the sturgeon I hooked. An eight would not be too much for those shad, they fight great!

Next time we're down there Big Ben, we'll give you a call, we scoped out a bunch of lakes around Stevenson, looking for carp, but didn't find much of anything that was of too much interest, looks like we must have overlooked it! Glad to hear you got into a few carp...

worldanglr
http://www.worldanglr.com/

Calling Fly Fishing a hobby is like calling Brain Surgery a job.
-Paul Schullery
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Roper,

Well, um, uh, that's a shad. ;)

It's a rainbow, but I was unable to determine if it was a resident small stream fish or a steelhead smolt. Alpinetrout caught a larger specimen that he said looked like a resident fish, and I caught another larger one around 8" which flopped back into the pool while photographing, so I'm not sure.

The guidebook and regs stated that there were wild and hatchery cutthroat in the stream, as well as steelhead runs during December/February, but we were unable to find the cutthroat, even when we fished in the upper section above a few barriers.

worldanglr
http://www.worldanglr.com/

Calling Fly Fishing a hobby is like calling Brain Surgery a job.
-Paul Schullery
 
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