Do you want a shot at the best fishing in the Pacific Northwest,? Here are our picks -- three for each month -- for dropping lines in the right place, at the right time. (February 2008).
There are many places around the world where you can pursue great fish, but why call a travel agent? Right here in Oregon and Washington, we have a lot of great waters -- far more than you could fish in a lifetime. But it's worth a try anyway.
Want a shot at some of the best? Here are our recommendations for 36 -- three for each month -- of the Northwest's top angling destinations.
Rocky Ford Creek, Wash.
When ice forms along the bank and your breath turns to vapor in the morning air, anglers in the know head to Rocky Ford Creek, one of Washington's best winter trout streams.
The water rises from underground, and its consistent temperature makes the fishery so reliable. Public access and the best fishing are found in the top reach, near the headwaters. Here the water is slow and wide, 60 to 80 feet across, lined with cattails, reeds and sage. Wading is not allowed.
Blue-winged olives and midges are a staple for winter dry-fly fishers. When there's a hatch, try emergers and subsurface patterns.
When temperatures really drop, the standbys are scuds, chironomids and leeches. When nothing else works, try a leech pattern.
For information on current conditions or to book a guided trip, call the Blue Dun Fly Shop at (509) 884-4070. Time your trip for a weekday.
Take beadhead nymphs to Central Oregon's fly-fishing-only Fall River for rainbows and browns.
Oregon's Sandy River is one of the most consistent steelhead fisheries in the Columbia drainage.
Umpqua River, Ore.
Long rock gardens and ledges make for tricky runs for the drift-boater. But they harbor steelhead, and there's no better way to target a winter sea-run than to side-drift with cured roe or yarn.
Rig with a snap swivel and 24 inches of 10-pound leader, terminated at an egg loop on a No. 6 bait hook. To the snap, attach a slinky weight, built of parachute cord and lead shot.
Look for structure: underwater ledges and boulders in long runs, and wavy gravel at the tail-outs.
"There are three kinds of bites you get when you're side-drifting," says Gary Lewis (no relation to the author) of Gary's Guide Service. "First, there's the trout bite. You get a tap-tap-tap-tap. The second is a rock bite. You feel the bait bouncing along, and then the rod goes down.
"The third bite is the steelhead bite. You feel a bump. Don't set the hook. Wait for the fish to eat it. You'll feel another bump, and then another as the fish chews the bait.
"Let the rod bounce two or three times, then give it to him."
For a guided trip, call Gary's Guide Service at (541) 672-2460, or the Big K at 1-800-390-2445.
In Washington, the Cowlitz River has great fishing all the way up to the mouth of Blue Creek and the Barrier Dam. Or head to the Oregon coast, to run the Siletz for steelhead.
Clackamas River, Ore.
According to Rob Crandall, March is a great time to hit the Clackamas.
"You have a good mix of steelhead in the river, including wild steelhead, which are some of the biggest fish of the year. The brood-stock fish show up in March, and the Eagle Creek strain of fish are still in the mix."
By the end of the month, the first summer-runs begin to show up.
Crandall likes to fish an 1/8-ounce marabou jig under a fixed float. Try a sliding float system for the deeper holes. Best colors are pink and white, cerise, black, pink and orange.
"The fish are right on the bottom," Crandall said. "I want the jig set just over the tallest rocks on the bottom.
"If I don't know the depth of the tallest rocks, I like to set it 18 inches off the bottom. Knowing the exact depth, as close as possible, is really the key to success."
Best water is from River Mill Dam down to the mouth. For the drift-boater, the best drifts are from Feldheimer's down to Barton and from Barton down to Carver.
For stream flows, call the PGE Fish Line at (503) 464-7474. To book a guided trip, call Rob Crandall at (503) 704-6449.
Take out the big tackle and put your baits on the bottom for lower Columbia River sturgeon.
Eagle Creek, a Clackamas tributary, sees its biggest return of hatchery steelhead in March.
Henry Hagg Lake, Ore.
In western Oregon, Henry Hagg Lake, southwest of Hillsboro, has been the place to be on opening morning. ODFW stocks 60,000 catchable rainbows a year. Rainbows average 10 inches, but can grow beyond 5 pounds in this food-rich water. Best action will be from March through June. Smallmouth bass and perch make it more interesting.
When fishing deep water, take the float off the line and use a sliding sinker to bring your bait down. Slide a bullet sinker on your main line, then tie on a leader about 30 inches long.
Berkley PowerBait or a marshmallow in front of a piece of worm keeps your bait suspended off the bottom.
If there's anything better than a full stringer of rainbows on opening day, it's helping kids catch their first trout. If you don't have a child of your own, borrow somebody else's. There's more to fishing than catching fish.
Troll on long lines or cast to the shore with minnow imitations at Lake Billy Ch
inook for bull trout.
For a big walleye, drift a bottom-walking rig on the middle Columbia River the first two weeks of April.
East Lake and Paulina Lake, Ore.
Early season is a great time to target brown trout at East Lake and Paulina Lake, where the toothy predators cruise the shorelines. While there's still snow on the road and most anglers are home by the fire, stand on the bank and cast spinners and minnow imitations, like the Fish Belly Twitch Bait. The trout can be as long as your arm, and after a long winter under the ice, they're hungry.
Along Paulina's eight miles of shoreline, the easiest bank-fishing is in the northeast corner of the lake by the black slide.
Weedbeds in both lakes often offer excellent fishing. Logs, stumps and boulders close to shore create good cover for timid trout.
Wading isn't easy along Paulina, but East Lake has a lot of shoreline.
Rainbow trout are also on tap. While chasing browns at East Lake early in the year, you'll probably catch an Atlantic salmon or two.
East Lake's biggest fish may have a build-up of mercury in their bodies, so it's best to let the big ones go.
For information, reservations and boat rentals call East Lake Resort at (541) 536-2230, or Paulina Lake Resort at (541) 536-2240.
Near Seattle, troll for cutthroats and rainbows up to 20 inches on Lake Washington.
Oregon's Diamond Lake in the Cascades is back. Expect holdover trout and aggressive stocking from ODFW.
The Chewaucan flows northwest out of the Fremont National Forest to the town of Paisley, and then southeast into the Chewaucan Marsh and Abert Lake. Managed for native redband rainbows, the fish average 6 to 10 inches, but there are a surprising number of 14- to 20-inchers.
The Chewaucan is a clear-running high-desert, forest stream with slow, shallow pools, swift runs and small waterfalls. Good streamside habitat protects trout and provides insect production. Anglers will find dead junipers cabled into the bank at strategic places to control erosion and provide consistent cover.
Watch for the March Brown hatch, and carry a few soft-hackled Gold-Ribbed Hare's Ears, Prince Nymphs and March Brown Sparkle Duns. Be ready for a stonefly hatch.
Caddis flies are another important food source on this river. You may see hatches of caddis from June through October. Caddis larva and pupa patterns are important, as are No. 12 to 18 Tent Wing Caddis dries.
For more information, call Larry Duckworth at The Fisher King's Fly Shop in Paisley at (541) 943-3360.
Want a big lake trout? Head to Odell Lake and drop the downriggers for mackinaw this month.
To stack your boat full of fish, hit the Columbia River
The great thing about bass is that you can throw something that resembles nothing they've ever seen before and they'll eat it -- at least once.
Bass are spread throughout the Columbia, but your best bet is between Bonneville and the Tri-Cities.
These are aggressive predators, feeding on smaller fish, insects, leeches, snails and crayfish. Since big bass do eat little bass, the smaller bass tend to stay in schools away from larger fish. If you're catching little bass, move to deeper water to target the larger ones.
Crankbaits, spinnerbaits, plastics -- whatever you use, stay on the move to keep putting the bait in front of new fish.
Central Oregon's Crane Prairie has been producing good catches of rainbow trout in the last two years. July is the best month.
Make the run from Ilwaco, in Washington's Pacific County on the Long Beach Peninsula, for albacore tuna up to 50 pounds.
Kokanee Crescent Lake, Ore.
Oregon's state fish might be the chinook salmon, but in Central Oregon, it might as well be the kokanee -- those landlocked sockeye that average 10 to 18 inches. On Crescent, there's a five-fish limit.
Kokanee follow their food up and down in the water column. As soon as the sun hits the water, the plankton and the kokes both go deeper.
Employ an Apex Glo-Bug or a Wedding Ring Spinner. Hit it with a flashlight to make the lure glow in the dark water.
Tie an 8- to 10-inch flasher to the main line and a four-foot leader terminating at the lure. Most anglers add bait. White corn is the hands-down favorite. Guide Steve Kroll marinates it in Pro-Cure's Kokanee Special.
For information, or for a guided trip, call Crescent Lake Lodge at (541) 433-2505.
Cast big Bunny Leeches or mouse patterns for largemouth bass in Central Oregon's Davis Lake.
For great scenery and fishing, take a ferry to the San Juan Islands and put your baits on the bottom for lingcod and rockfish.
Deschutes River, Ore.
By the first week of September, steelhead can be found throughout the lower Deschutes, from Warm Springs to the mouth.
Fly-fishing is best in the evening or in the morning, until the sun has been on the water for two hours. When the sun is high, the fish are less likely to move as far for a fly, so use a sink-tip to put the fly closer to the fish.
In most cases, the steelheader doesn't need a long leader. When the fish are deep, a 3-foot leader is sufficient. Ten-pound-test is about right in the Deschutes' turbid water.
It's hard to go wrong with black or purple Articulated Leeches or classic steelhead flies, with a little bit of red for swagger.
For guided trips, call Fly and Field Outfitters at (541)
318-1616, or The Riffle at (541) 388-3330.
If you've got a taste for salmon, now's the time to head to Tillamook Bay for big kings. In Washington, the North Fork Lewis River is a good bet for coh
o and chinook.
Klamath River, Ore.
When everyone else is gearing up for deer season, grab your gear and head to the Klamath River. The river opens Oct. 1. Fish the six-mile Keno Reach below Keno Dam. Access is good from Highway 66. Find a trail down to the river. It's pocket water with heavy current and a few fast-moving pools around big boulders.
Spin-fishermen should tie on a heavy orange or brown Rooster Tail. Cast and retrieve, or let the current tumble the lure. No bait is allowed.
The Keno Reach is a great fly-fishing destination as well.
Best bets at this time of year are October caddis patterns, Zonkers, Kiwi Muddlers and Blue-Winged Olives. When fishing nymphs, try a tandem rig with beadhead flies beneath an indicator. Get the fly to the depth right, and you'll catch good fish in this stretch of river.
Most anglers consider this section unboatable, but Darren Roe, of Roe Outfitters, runs a raft through it. For a guided trip, call (541) 884-3825.
Smallmouth bass fishing can be red-hot. Try surface plugs on the Umpqua River early in the month.
Use jigs and spinners on Washington's Kalama River. It should be pulsing with coho salmon in October.
Grande Ronde River
The Grande Ronde starts in Oregon and flows through
Southeast Washington. For most Northwestern anglers, it's a long drive. But after a couple of days on the river, that's one of the things you'll like about it.
If you want to catch steelhead on a fly, then this is your river. It's intimate, classic steelhead water with long runs that are easy to read. Look for water that moves about the speed of a fast walk. Use floating lines until the water drops below 50 degrees.
From Oregon, take Highway 3 from Enterprise. From Washington, take Highway 129 down from Clarkston. It's possible to drift the Grande Ronde, but most anglers fish from the bank. For flexibility, have a license for each state.
For a guide, try FishHawk Guides at 1-888-548-8896. For information, go to www.westfly.com
The John Day River doesn't get the press when there's so much else going on in November, but it gets the summer steelhead. For tackle-busting chum salmon, the Skykomish River is Washington's best bet.
Fish Washington's Hoh, Queets, Calawah and Bogachiel on the Olympic Peninsula, for wild and hatchery steelhead.
These rivers host strong runs of hatchery and wild fish from late November into April. Olympic Peninsula rivers are short and steep, average 30 to 40 miles in length, and run straight to the ocean. With catch-and-release regs, management that keeps nets out of the water a few days each week, and no gauntlet of sea lions to run, many steelhead make it back to the spawning ground each year.
Hatchery steelheading peaks in December. Before heading out, check out the river flows at waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/rt You'll have the best fishing when the water is emerald green with 3 to 5 feet of visibility.
For a guided trip, call Jim Mansfield at (360) 374-9018.
Tackle winter steelhead as the run heats up in the lower 10 miles of Oregon's Wilson River.
Head to the Elk and Sixes rivers in southwest Oregon for winter steelhead and fall chinook.
Find more about hunting and fishing in Washington and Oregon at WOgameandfish.com