New Driftboat – Tricked to the Hilt

By Josiah Darr. When it comes to drift boats there are a fairly endless number of options and accessories available if you have the money and are willing to spend it.

Do you want a metal boat? Fiberglass? Maybe a classic wooden boat? Willie and Koffler make great aluminum boats and Ray’s River Dories makes a wooden boat like none other, but with friends already working for ClackaCraft Drift Boats, knowing how easy they were to row and maneuver, my decision to guide out of a Clack was a no-brainer.

Deciding the model was also a piece of cake. A ClackMax 18’ Sidedrifter with the flat floors and box seating is easily the most versatile and fishermen friendly boat I’ve ever been aboard.

Bill battles another while Ryan, his little brother Owen and their dad Brett look on.

Once the stickers were stuck and the rods were loaded I took to the water. Luckily the fall Chinook fishing here in the Tillamook area has been better than most people ever remember so it didn’t take long to get the boat bloody. And like my warm up trips with friends were supposed to do, they pointed out a few minor oversights in my options and design that I wanted corrected ASAP to dial the boat in even further and essentially create the ultimate river and tidewater killing machine.

Julieanne with her first ever chinook on her first ever trip into the Oregon Coast tidewater.

The first little add-on that was obviously was an oversight when ordering was the fact that there were going to be a lot of times when I needed a kicker besides just the sticks. With a little help from Rodger in shop at Clackacraft and a few minutes the drifter was ready for power.

The small plate Rodger installed not only gave me a place to put my kicker, but it did it in such a way that that I was able to leave the anchor centered. The plate kept the motor just high enough that is cleared the anchor are giving me full mobility. It also kept the motor tipped slightly more upright so the nose of the boat stayed down when I was cruising.

The motor mount easily supports a gas or electric motor.

With the elevated motor mount, the motor can turn freely.

The last little touch I needed just to make the motor mission complete was my prop guard, but not just any prop guard. We’re talking the mother of all prop guards made right here at Clackacraft. Not only is the guard made out of heavy duty galvanized steel right there in the shop, but it’s attached with a compression fitting so no holes need to be drilled in your new kicker. The guard with it’s oversized fin also helped keep the boat plained out when cruising along while deflecting any gravel bars or logs I might hit…..Okay, will hit.

The cage is ready for fish seeking navigation.

The compression fitting only take a few second to install. So easy even I can do it.

Another feature that I quickly realized I couldn’t live without with the bow drop front anchor. It’s so easy to use and when bobber fishing and especially backbouncing. I found out quickly precise boat placement is the difference between one fish and quick limits.

A simple tug on the front anchor rope and the boat settles right into position.

After a trip I realized when I’m running my motor I don’t need the anchor hanging in the way so one more call to the shop and 3-5 business days later the anchor holder was installed and the problem was solved. The anchor is in the water when needed, out of the water and securely stored when it’s not.

The anchor next keep the anchor when fishing or trailering.

Most the extra boat features like a walk-around rowers bench, upgraded Lamiglas oars and the holes drilled for the ability to place and secure the seat boxes depending on the type of fishing and type of fishermen were all already taken care of, but a few more little tweaks to the boat once it was out and fishing took the brand new Clackacraft from a really nice boat to one of the most functional boats on any river, anywhere.

The counterbalanced Lamiglas oars were an easy decision.

When it all comes together, it’s a beautiful thing!

Nate with his first ever backbounced chinook.

It doesn’t get much better than big chinook on the coast in the sun!

World Class boats for world class rivers….

If you’re interested in fishing the Tillamook area rivers for either salmon or steelhead out of my new Clackacraft give me a shout at (206) 660-1490. Fish On!

Josiah Darr – Outdoor Line “Young Gun”
JDarr’s Guided Fishing
Tillamook, Oregon
(206) 660-1490

Going with the “Flow”

By Joseph Princen

The past few weeks have been nothing short of challenging, trying to persuade those silvery ghosts to commit to the presentation you spent hours prepping, tying, wrapping and curing. One thing is certain, when it all works out there is nothing more spectacular than rolling fresh chrome in shallow gin-clear water. Its an image you’ll never forget. Its burned into your mind and it will replay over and over in slow motion bringing you back again and again for more.

One moment its just another slated gravel bottom and you can see every rock, every detail, your mind telling you its too shallow and you should move on. All of a sudden those thoughts are pushed aside as you see the shallows exploding with big bright flashes and white water foaming on the surface as a thick steel tail slices through the cold winter water. Its only in these conditions that a steelheader will get to see the strike first hand from the bite to the finish. An angler never forgets these moments.

A steelheader must think smarter, harder, and longer about how he’s going to spend his time on the river though. Even if its just an afternoon trip to the local home-river or a 3 day excursion to the coast to backpack or drift boat into his favorite water. Low water means you need to consider all the options, such as which section of the river you will choose to fish.

Here’s some things to consider when searching for low water winter steelhead:

Does the river fork anywhere? East or West fork? Does it have streams and small creeks that dump into the main stem?

In low water it is MOST important to try and gain as much flow as you can get. This means to fish below any forks, streams, creeks or major sources of water that relay into the main stem of the river system you are fishing.

Get to know your river! Google Maps on your smart phone will show you detailed satellite imagery of small creeks, streams and river forks that dump into the main river.

That means to concentrate your efforts on those lower portions of the river and spend very little time higher in river systems. Staging fish will be below those forks in appropriate deep water areas making it easier for you to locate water that is suitable to hold multiple steelhead. These fish are far too smart to risk being attacked by misjudging safe living conditions and hurrying up river to hold in shallow, exposed areas.

Don’t waste your time fishing the fast 2-3 foot gin-clear sections or those 1-3 foot “long runs” on the sides of the river that you would normally beat up all day in medium to high flows. Even with overhanging trees and shaded cover those fish simply are not there in any fishable numbers when the water is low.

Its a numbers game and by numbers i mean… how many feet deep! In low flows steelhead will lie in deeper water making it safer for them to break cover from the safety of the depths to hit a plug or lure. After all, the most important thing in any steelheads tiny little mind is to ensure that their genetics are passed on from generation to generation. Deep water with a bottom covered in boulders provides the cover they need to feel safe.

As soon as it rains these types of runs will be full of migrating fish and I specifically target those long runs that dump into deep canyon holes that low water fish have been hunkered in during periods of low flows.

– Which water holds low water steelhead?

It’s imperative to find those slots that have water with walking speed flows that you could physicality walk into and the water would be over your head, especially those runs with shade and size to the pool that gives steelhead an element of safety. These fish will set up shop in these areas when water visibility increases past the 5 foot margin to well below median stream flows.

Why risk the threat of their journey being cut short laying in risky, shallow water when you can lay in a deep, “walking speed” canyon slot that’s 5-15 feet deep, preferably shaded, with structure and most importantly a riffle at the head of the pool.

Riffled surface water provides full, all around cover from the sides, top, and bottom.You have to think that most the time in low water conditions its sunny, cold, and clear out so having riffles or choppy water on the surface of a hole is vital to feeling secure from anything that poses a threat looking down into their holding area.

– How do I fish for low water steelhead?

Going small with your baits, jigs and plugs will always pay off. A good rule of thumb for 7-10 feet of visibility is using nickle-size baits and decreasing your Cheater or Corkie sizes to size 14’s or smaller. Using neutral/natural color schemes with your presentation really helps and pays off too.

By neutral I simply mean colors that aren’t neon, radiant, or vibrant. This includes shrimp pink’s, peaches, whites, and that opaque and translucent look that looks like worn out egg skein (peach/white). Using small sand shrimp and very lightly cured medium sized tiger prawns that are coated with just Mike’s Gel Scent and sugar can be deadly in this situation also.

Here’s how I cure my tiger prawns for low water steelheading:
– 1 Bag raw medium-size tiger prawns
– Leave the shells on, but cut off 1/4 up from the tail end
– 1/4 Cup Orange Borax O’ Fire
– 1/2 Bottle Mikes Pink Gel Scent
– 1/4 Cup Sugar and Sprinkle salt on top.

Mix, mix, mix this all together by shaking the container gently until product is evenly distributed and then simply put the cured prawns into a fridge.You can even throw them into your boat on your drive out to the river and the prawns can be ready in less than 2 hours. Remove the shells and cut the prawns down the middle of the slit in their back or cut them in half into small chunks. Either the flap or the chunks will fish just fine but I prefer using the flap style because they bend and flex with the flow of the river giving them a more natural “free-flowing” appearance.

Over the past few weeks my boat has been on the Satsop, Wynoochee, Queets, Humptulips, and Hoh rivers. Call me a groupie, but I love to get around! Knowing each rivers positives and negatives gives a guy an advantage over just fishing one river and being limited to a small fishable area.

On the coast the Queets and Hoh rivers run through giant open gorges with classic gravel bar runs and giant boulder strewn stretches. One thing for certain that gives these rivers the “nod” in low water and that’s the fact that they are fed from grey clay cliffs!

These clay cliffs constantly bleed grey clay sediments into the river 24/7 giving the river the “carbon emerald green” appearance in ALL conditions. This carbon green look is IDEAL for low water conditions because it gives the fish a sense of security and they are more willing to continue their journey up higher into the systems. Fishing those 1-2 foot travel lanes can still produce in these systems and you’ll find me here more often then not in low water. Plus these rivers have naturally higher flows in terms of CFS than almost all of the others in our state so they fish better in low flows.

Below are some photos of the past 14 days in my driftboat. They are pictures of only some of the steelhead that have been caught in my boat, but each one was special in its own way. Steelheading is a lifestyle for me. It’s gotten into my blood and there’s no cure to get rid of it. Salmon season is just a time filler anymore and during spring, summer and fall I dream about those cold crisp wintery mornings when I finally get to hook those cold silvery steelhead once again.

Capturing the shot, sometimes we take 20-30 photos and only one works out

Wynoochee hatchery buck, this fish was caught by Daniel Hubbard and it was hooked way under a down tree. This fish was jumping into brush and we were able to pull it out from structure and get a solid net job

This enormous steelhead took over 225 yards of line at one point

This huge hatchery steelhead caught by John McCleery was just shy of the 20 pound mark

2ynoochee hen! this fish took red Borax O’ Fire Eggs!

Nothing like Limits in the fish box! Let the chrome shine!

A hatchery buck from the Wynoochee system just prior to release

14lb Wynoochee buck that fell to a yarn ball

My father with a beautiful hatchery buck that hit the Dr. Death K-13 Kwikfish

Spots for days

Limits by 9am!

John McCleery with a big buck caught at first light

Limits of huge hatchery steelhead that fell for backtrolled plugs

I swung by to take some photos of Duane Inglin and limits of hatchery steelhead

Rain or Shine – a true steelheader will fish in any conditions on any day just to feel that tug, see that float dissapear or the chance to capture the moment with a photo of the most elusive fish in the pacific northwest!

The release of a native steelhead very high on the Queets River last week.

A fine wild hen steelhead caught by fellow Outdoor Line “Young Gun” Lael Paul Johnson.

One of the many primitive launches on the Washington coastal rivers.

A hatchery hen with blue haze on her back, fresh as can be!

A customer with his first steelhead…and his second steelhead!

If steelheading is in your blood as much as it is mine please feel free to drop me a line to chat about your addiction or perhaps book a day of fishing with me on the Washington coast. Hope to see you out there and don’t be afraid to stop by and say hello!

Joseph Princen
Outdoor Line “Young Gun”
710 ESPN Seattle

(Joseph Princen operates Rainforest Wild Guide Service on the Southern Olympic Peninsula and he will be a regular contributor to the Outdoor Line. He can be reached at (253) 347-5300.)


Any Time is a Good Time to Chase Wild Steelhead

Do you ever run into a situation where you are looking to find information on how a river is fishing? I do, and sometimes you just need to decide to make your way out to the river and get a report yourself. This is the situation that fellow Outdoor Line “Young Gun” Joseph Princen, Phantom Custom Rods owner Kris Jellesed, and I were faced with early Monday morning. Ideal conditions were all around us on many rivers but we were in search of much more than a limit of hatchery fish. It may seem a bit early for the chase of natives to begin for most but the search for a trophy with the anglers involved in this trip never stops.

After making a three hour plus drive to where I had landed a 21.5 buck last year in April, we began our journey. The area on this morning was completely void of any other anglers which makes you think “has the river changed since last year? Is it safe? I wonder if there are any obstructions I cannot navigate through safely?”

I do not recommend to anyone blindly floating a river but in the quest for being a hero risks must be taken. As we ventured out on the “steelie green” water we noticed that the water was about 500 cfs lower than our previous float, but the obstacles and sections of river where fish were caught last year were remembered.

On the right side of the river about an 1/8 of the way down the float Joseph recognized a rock shelf that had deep slow rolling water which produced a fish last year. This time was no different. With a three plug rod spread and a K-13 Kwikfish attached to all of them the slow back troll began. Right after the boat had passed a large boil and the plugs began to track straight again…..BOOM…FISH ON!!!

I took control of the oars as Joseph grabbed his rod and the fight was on. The 13-14lb chrome hen gave us a great fight that lasted about 6-8 minutes and then came to the boat as I gently netted the fish. I rowed to shore quickly to begin the revival and the snap a picture but before my camera was out of my bag the feisty native slipped out of Joe’s hands and slowly disappeared into the emerald water.

Anglers remember this! Steelhead pair up, so if a female is caught there should usually be a larger, more aggressive male nearby. Repeat the process that was used to hook fish number one and it should yield the same results.

With all of minds thinking the same thing we began to slowly back troll again with my rod on the far right closest to the rock shelf and again…..BOOM….FISH ON!!!

I had thought that the fish had come off after about thirty seconds but of course she was just running with blinding speed right at the boat. After that she took about 40 yards of line of and then I began the slow retrieve to bring her back to the net. As I lifted the head and Joe scooped her into the net the hook of course fell right out. The power of a steelhead is amazing!

Personally, I have landed many fish on plugs over the 20 pound mark and I have not until this day seen a hook bent back 30 degrees by a 14lb fish. Joe rowed to shore as before and we snapped a couple of pictures for the fish album, I revived and released the beautiful creature, then we began to move down river to another section of water that had similar features.

As we approached the long back troll slot which produced my 20 last year and gave birth to the Dubb Club it was a very slow to get a fish to take. When back trolling a section of water be sure to completely cover the water until the plugs reach the tailout and start striking bottom. Seconds away from instructing Joey and Kris to reel up, the left rod in front of Kris went off….FISH ON!

This situation was a little different due to the fact the fish came off after about 30 seconds but again in the same type of water we had already hooked fish in earlier that day. Recognizing the water you need to produce fish is very important, so when you find fish continue to work that same type of water effectively.

Knowing that time was not on our side and that a very long moped turnaround was ahead of us we decided not to run the plugs again and move down river. During our push toward the takeout Kris hooked a very nice fish on a pink worm that came off due to the speed of the boat moving down and the fish running  up.

This is a very hard situation to control but if you can gather yourself after the excitement of hooking up, dig the oars very hard and try to stop the the boat without throwing anyone off board. Going 2 for 4 is not a stellar day by any means but searching and finding wild fish on a river with no reports is a wonderful feeling. The opportunity for success is always there, all you need is the confidence in yourself and your fishing abilities to make your day memorable.

Good luck and tight lines,

Lael Paul Johnson, a.k.a. LPJ
Outdoor Line “Young Gun”
710 ESPN Seattle