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Northern California: , by Drew Griffith: Smith River highs and lows. : 3 stars

Yesterday I had the opportunity to get a day of fishing in on the Smith River with fellow angler and friend Colton Schwenning. It's been a wild winter season to put it mildly. We've had an unprecendented amount of rain, leaving most coastal rivers completely blown out for weeks on end. The Smith, which can rise and drop within a 24 hour cycle, has become our saving grace for a chance to swing up the much coveted winter run steelhead. Yet that is no easy propostition, especially on the Smith. The river is notoriously challenging to fish. It guards its secrets well, and I'm not just talking about the fish. Half of the battle on this system is finding the right water for swinging flies. The Smith is an incredibly deep river and has some extreme hydrology. Having an assortment of heavy sinking tips to really get that fly down to where the fish are is paramount to success. What do I mean by heavy tips? I like 13.5 ft of T-17 for most of the runs I'll cover in a given day, but I've gone up to 15ft for when I really want to dig em out! 

Back to the other day. Bad weather was imminent. We could see the storm churning off the coast as we descended into Crescent City. We fished the lower river first, both hoping that after the recent rise and drop we might intercept a fresh push of fish coming out of the estuary. After an hour we decided to save ourselves the hassle of jockying for good water on the lower river and go above where the guide boats can access the river. The rain started coming down heavy and the temperature was falling rapidly, but the river was in perfect shape. It had fallen just below 12 feet at the Jedediah Smith park gauge and was holding color beautifully. Nothing can raise the spirits of a weary steelhead angler like the emerald glow of this river. We fished our way up the middle fork and lucked out on scoring a few choice runs to ourselves. Suddenly the rain turned to snow. It came down in big fluffy flakes through the canyon and soon it was hard to make out the ridgelines. We fished until our hands were frozen and we were soaked through and through. It had been a good day. 

You don't always find them, but it's the pursuit and anticipation that make this sport so special. It can take you to places that you would never find yourself in otherwise. Always in the back of your mind is the memory of the last time one grabbed and the hopes that some day you will find that big scary fish to remember for a lifetime.

I have open dates through March for guided steelhead trips on the coast. There is still lots of great fishing ahead!

Colton firing another cast to the far bank on the Smith River.
Braving the elements. Steelheading in winter is like working for the postal service. Rain or shine.
A perfect Smith River hen. Fish like this are what its all about.
Snow day on the Smith.
Next 10 open days for Drew Griffith: Mar 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28
View All Reports by Drew Griffith    |    View All Northern California Reports
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