chinook salmon

Drano Lake 2018

I’ve spent 11 days in May fishing our favorite place, Drano Lake which included a lot of time off work and busy weeks! Overall, Drano was okay to us. It can’t be great fishing every day, but this year there was a whole lot of random boats doing well which I’m happy for, really, I am……..But when a bone isn’t thrown our way every once in a while and you don’t see the normal boats doing that great either, it makes you wonder what’s going on. You make changes, clean things, try different things, and still……We never felt like we had it figured out like we have in historical years but sometimes, that’s just how the Fish God’s play the game.

Birthday Weekend:

We kicked off the season with Jeff’s annual birthday trip with his parents. Jeff & I made it down Friday to see what was going on while his parents & his uncle met up with us later that evening. We managed to get a few that evening and having missed the entire morning, we were very happy with where we ended the day. We skipped the morning bite that entire weekend so that we could sleep in and be ready to go all night which ended up paying off……..Most of the days.

 

Saturday night was May 5th (Cinco de Mayo) and it was sure a site to see in the toilet bowl! There were more people than normal that night celebrating with a few extra beers and the fun began! Fishing wasn’t that great, but it didn’t matter because the entertainment was enough to keep us out until dark! There were a few people, and even a pup, that went swimming – mostly by mistake and a WHOLE LOT OF LAUGHTER! This place is where the friends are made and after 10 hours in the bowl, your guard is gone and part of your sanity is also gone. We got a few more fish Saturday but still, it wasn’t limits and we certainly weren’t one of the top 5 boats.

Sunday quite a bit slower during the day and I think we scratched out one fish all day. There is something about Jeff’s dad on a Sunday night after he’s had a few beers that the fish really like. After 5 PM we ended up losing a couple but putting another 6 fish in the box for a final count that was one shy of a limited boat. This is the fishing that we’re used to. We couldn’t even get all of our rods back out before we’d get another fish! We called it a night before getting that last fish and decided once again to sleep in for our last morning.

What a mistake that was……..His uncle left Sunday and his parents were done fishing, leaving mid-morning. It was only Jeff and I so we only needed 4 fish and after a night like Sunday night, we were feeling pretty confident that we finally figured out the key and we were going to be heading home early. I launched the boat around 7:30 and there were a couple of guides taking out. “already tired of spinning circles, huh?!” HAHAHAHAHAHAH Turns out the morning bite was on fire and they were done for the day. Oh boy. We’ve never got our gear in the water so fast…..But we were a bit too late.

We did get a fish on the first pass which we felt was a fantastic sign! I even got it tangled up with a bank angler and we ended up having to go all the way to shore to get our fish. This is where people end up hating Drano but usually, if you’re nice, people are nice back – and if they’re not nice, they get to listen to my version of what chipmunks sound like in the woods and hear a cute little lady wish very ill things upon them using provocative and rude language. Thankfully, these guys were awesome and were more than helpful so that I could land my fish. We quickly got out of their way and back on our side of the line thinking that we weren’t actually too late for the morning bite! We started back up where we left off and had ANOTHER bite before we’ve even made a complete pass. I lost my first fish this year…….I struggled to keep a fish on the surface because I wanted it in so badly and Jeff took a risky shot and stabbed my fish off. We learned that getting a fish first pass was bad luck. We went 1 for 6 that morning and we left around 1 PM with our pride in our almost empty fish bag.

Weekend 2:

We took another long weekend, although this time only 3 days. Fishing appears to have been great – according to social media – that week so we were excited to be back! We weren’t missing another morning bite but the boat ramp was a nightmare! I was there at 4 AM and parking farther away than when I got there at 7 on the weekends. Our friend had the CUTEST little puppy that we got to spend the weekend with. We ended up with a couple that day and got up even earlier Saturday for another day out! We have this superstition that sunscreen is the biggest fish repellant that could ever exist. I put some sunscreen on in the morning and wash my hands thoroughly, but I do not reapply throughout the day – I layer up.

Our friend met up with us a little bit later and it was apparent that he loaded up on the sunscreen in anticipation of the nice weather in the forecast. We had a couple that morning already, but that was the end of our bites for the day……….Thankfully everyone except me had already gotten at least 1 fish for the weekend – I lost mine. The next morning, again bright and early, I finally got my fish on a plug in the main lake. I used to have to be the one you’d keep an eye on. I’d take your rod right out of your hands if you weren’t doing a good a job. I’ve been really good the past 2 years and I even call fish out for other people and hand them the rod if they haven’t had a fish yet. Being that I lost my only opportunity this weekend, I ran quickly from the bow to grab the rod as soon as I saw it going off. I landed it! My skunk is over!

Weekend 3:

We headed back again but this time just for the weekend. We were fishing early in the morning this weekend. We didn’t too very well, losing a couple of fish the first day. We continued to watch what seemed like an episode of Opera….You get a fish, and you get a fish, you get a fish, one for you too!

There were 2 or 3 guide boats that seemed to be doing pretty well, but other than them, it was completely random and frustrating to say the least. Even our buddy Steve who is ALWAYS one of the top 5 boats was doing worse than us. What is going on this year? This is our place. This is the place that we’ve put hundreds of hours into. This is where we’ve grinded for years so that we could quickly adapt to the ever changing fish in this system. It didn’t seem to be paying off for anyone that has earned the right to have phenomenal days. When it’s fish for EVERYONE, it’s awesome. But man, when it’s not fish for us or the usual anglers, it’s as confusing as being 13 years old. We like to clean the “funk” off when fishing is slow because it’s proven to fix things time and time again at Drano Lake. We told Steve to go wash his boat and the next day, fish after fish after fish. I’ve never seem him so animated and excited. His skunk was over, but ours was not and our boat had been cleaned about 10 times that weekend.

We lost more than we landed and again, we headed back even more confused than the weekend before.

Weekend 4:

It was just Jeff and I for the holiday weekend and we were determined to end our season the right way. We’re used to limiting on our last day and leaving early…..that’s just how it works out. I couldn’t tell if I was starting to get allergies (which I’ve never had) or a cold so I loaded up on all the medicine I could think of and we headed down at 1 AM so that we could get the morning bite. We showed up around 6 AM which was a little bit too late but we saw a couple of fish on before the morning bite died. We mostly fished the main lake with the damn counts as low as they were and as the day went on, I determined my issues were not allergies. I quit the allergy medicine and loaded up on the cold meds to get myself through this weekend grind. We pulled over and took an afternoon nap because we really wanted to be focused for the evening bite. With it being just us, the opportunities aren’t really there to take “shifts” and let each other nap like we normally can.

We had already lost one fish that day and after we woke up, we thought we’d try float fishing since it wasn’t something we’d done for a few years. That proved to be just as slow as trolling and we’d rather troll so we switched it back up and got back on the motor. We hooked up again and surprise! Lost that one too.

The next day, we were at the launch in the dark and ready to fish right away. Like the weekend before, we watched as random boats hooked up and their fish seemed to cooperate. they stayed down, right below the boat and when it was time to net, they came up quickly to the net. Why can’t ours do that?! I struggled this year between fighting the fish on the surface which is never a good idea and pulling too hard because I want the fish in the net so darn bad. We found ourselves a biter and my instincts kicked in and grabbed the rod before Jeff could see what was happening. I let it take out 14 ft of line before I picked it up and fought it to the surface. In an effort to get it to go back down instead of thrash on the surface, I tried to drop my rod in the water but there were still 2 other rods out and they were in my way. Trying my hardest not to lose this fish, I lost it. That was our last bite at Drano Lake and shortly after, we called it a really day and were on the highway by 9:30. We were set to fish another day but between my cold and our bad landing ratio, plus only having 3 bites so far, we decided to finally give ourselves a rest and get some housework done.

This year was humbling to say the least. Never let yourself get too confident no matter how many years you do well. We never did figure out what we were doing wrong or what the other boats that normally kick ass were doing wrong either. We’ve never seen so many fish spread out between boats; it’s usually very apparent who knows how to catch them down there, and who is still on their first year or two down there. We tried EVERYTHING and nothing seemed to change the situation so we have nothing left to do but hope that next year is back to what we expect. We expect to grind and work and try new things. We expect to have slow days and maybe even no fish days. We don’t expect to have slow days when we’re seeing fish around. We definitely don’t expect to go home empty handed if we’ve seen more than 10 other fish caught that day. We need to not only make sure we can make the fish react again, but also how to improve our landing ratio. I personally went 7 for 13 this year. That’s a 54% landing ratio. I’m not okay with that. Some were beyond my control but there were at least 3 that were 100% my fault and I’m only okay if that number is 0%.

This is why we love Drano Lake. It does this to us. It makes us try. It makes us put all of our skills to use. It pushes us so far beyond our comfort zone, that we start thinking outside the box. And when it works, there’s no fishery that rewards like Drano. <3

Here’s a few more pics from our trip :)

Updates!

Steelhead University has a brand new website! The new owner of Steelhead University, Terry Wiest, is very near and dear to Steelhead Girls’ heart. In fact, he’s the inventor of Steelhead Girls! I met Terry many years ago through, believe it or not, the Steelhead University Pautzke photo contest! We stayed in touch and met again at many fishing functions before I started blogging on Steelhead University. Terry reached out to me about a year after I was blogging and thought of the idea for Steelhead Girls, which I obviously LOVED! Steelhead University not only includes fishing updates and reports from some of the most well-known guides in Washington State, but many videos, articles, and product reviews. Go check out their new website and give their Facebook page a like!

http://steelheadu.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Steelhead-University/651083741685788?fref=photo

Now, for fishing! I have actually been fishing quite a bit the past few weeks, but since we’ve moved into our new house, I haven’t had internet hooked up! But I’m up and running, moved in and settled down, and………I’m graduating school this week! I couldn’t be happier about getting my life back and having time again to write more articles!

The past few weeks, we’ve been heading to Barrier Damn on the Cowlitz and I actually really struggled out there on the island because it’s so deep hip-deep on me) and you’re casting really, really far. If you don’t make the cast, you almost aren’t even fishing where the fish are. So, with the low water this spring, it’s actually been to my benefit! I’ve been finally getting springers out there again!

We went crabbing this last weekend and let me tell you, what was supposed to be an easy day, ended up being pretty torturous. We thought we would just catch the 7 AM high slack tide and crab for just a few hours, maybe 3 sets. We did our first pull and had 2 dungees and 3 rock crab. Great! If every pull was like this, we’ll be limited in no time!

So…..We set when low tide started moving out and we had about 100 extra feet of line so we figured, no big deal if the tide is moving fast, we’ll have the extra line to keep the buoys afloat…..Wrong! We watched our buoys go under and thought, well, we’ll probably see them again in an hour. Since we planned on only being on the water for a few hours, we brought no food or water for the entire day.

4 hours later, we finally see on of our buoys. We have been sitting tied up to a post for hours baking in the sun with no food or water. It took another hour for the other 3 buoys to appear and we were ready to get the heck out of there! It was 3 PM and I envisioned myself eating crab soaked in butter after a 2 hour nap by this time. It was low slack and we could see that close to the launch, there was almost no water. Good thing we have a jet! Again, WRONG!

We beached ourselves…..I waded back to the launch, ruined by favorite white chucks, got lost trying to get gas and food, and finally made it back just in time for the tide to have come in enough to take the boat out of the water. Did I mention how many crab we got though? 2 dungees and 3 rock. We should have stopped at our first pull. We are burnt to a crisp and hiding inside today. At least we have a few crab to eat! :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Graduation and hanging out at Hood Canal next weekend! Hopefully my sunburn heals by then!!!

Loving coastal fall fish

Some of the best fishing happens when we transition from summer to fall. The rivers are low and clear, the fall fish are patiently awaiting in the Bay for big tide swings, full moons, and bringing those water levels up and dirty so they can begin their journey up river.

The water conditions were perfect this weekend and we headed to the top of the river to get those traveling fish that are staging up for a little break. It started out very slow in our first hole and the few fish we did catch, were a bit on the dark side. Not quite what we were expecting. We headed down river and searched around for some more fish and found a few more pulling plugs.

The fish were biting alright, but we were having a difficult time keeping them on and most of them were chrome silvers. Jeff pulled over and let me give it a whirl on the oars! I’ve pulled plugs and divers before in the drift boat, but never got any participants until Saturday! I got my first plug fish and got to finally return the favor, and put Jeff on a nice fish!

 

We kept fishing around and were a few silvers shy of our limit but headed to the takeout to get the evening low tide and dig our own sandshrimp! I unfortunately spent most of the night doing homework, but was well rested for another day of salmon slaying!

Sunday, we headed down river a bit to see if we could find some brighter, fresher fish and we did just that! We released quite a few darker fish, but managed to fill the box with chrome! We even got a bonus hatchery steelhead! It was our friend Zak’s first time in our drift boat and he did great! We all got fish on so many techniques, but majority of the fish on Sunday were on eggs.

We had several groups of friends in their boats and it was another fall fishing trip to go down in the history books. I love steelhead, but fishing the coast each fall with tons of friends is the type of trip that I look forward to every year and it’s exactly the type of trip we needed to get our fishing “fix” after so many weeks of hunting and preparing for hunting!

Buoy10 2014

While I was whining and crying about having to go to my wonderful 3 year old niece’s birthday party on Saturday, I was wishing the worst on Jeff and his friends as they headed out to Buoy 10. I didn’t deserve the wonderful trip that I had on Sunday.

Poor Joey did end up getting quite sick, but not after catching a nice 23 lb’er. The boat got one more jack and a wild coho which was released.

They headed in and I met up with them to fish on Sunday.

It started out slow and spinners didn’t get anything the day before so we only put one out on Sunday with the other 3 rods fishing herring behind a flasher. We watched a few boats here and there hook and got one jack right off the bat, but nothing else for us for a few hours. As the tide changed, we headed below the Astoria bridge and watched the fog get thicker.

Zack got a nice 24 lb’er and as we were letting the rest of the rods out, I feel mine get bit. I’m just about at bottom and I keep paying out line. I’ve never had this happen and I can hardly think straight! Thank goodness for all the practice with back bouncing! I let out a couple more feet and finally set the hook. Fish on! This is awesome!

It takes me for quite the ride! I hit 80 ft on the line counter and begin to get worried. I let Jeff know that it’s going, 90 ft, 100, am I going to run out of line, 110, 115, 120 ft, crap! We head towards it and I was able to bring it back it. What a wild ride! We tango for a few more minutes and finally ease this beauty into the net.

I’m so happy and feel so bad for all the trash talking that I did the day before. What a poor sport! We find another school of fish and get everything back in the water and Herb gets a nice 21 lb’er. We hook a couple wild coho and finally Jeff gets his big king!

It’s 11:30 AM. We’re done! Forget finding hatchery coho, let’s get out of here!

Such a great day and all of Jeff’s hard work paid off for his first Buoy 10 trip! We won’t make it back this year as we’ll be heading out for Elk hunting, but fall salmon are in the air!!