Another G. Loomis Column from the Archives………
Stan is also known internationally for his casting skills. He has been featured in outdoor shows all over the United States as well as a number of foreign countries. He is a member of both the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as well as the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. He has also been honored by the National Professional Anglers Association.
By Stan Fagerstrom
There simply is no substitute for knowing the water you’re going to fish.
I imagine there are some whom visit this web site who remember my book “Catch More Steelhead.” It had two printings way back in the 1970’s. I wish I had copies left because I still get requests for it every now and then. I reached a number of conclusions in doing that book. I want to share a couple of them here.
There are a number of things that go into the makeup of a good steelhead fisherman. It’s a given you’ll need quality balanced tackle and to develop the ability to use it. But there are other considerations that newcomers to the sport fail to give the study they deserve.
One such is knowledge of water. I’ve known steelhead anglers who didn’t have the most expensive gear, and who really weren’t all that great at using what they had, but they still caught fish. Why? Because they consistently spent more time where the possibilities were better than their buddies who were better equipped.
We often hear that 10 percent of the fisherman get 90 percent of the fish. There’s much truth to it. What you don’t hear nearly as often is that only 10 percent of a given river or lake contains about 90 percent of the fish we are after. I’ll gaurantee the 10 percent of anglers who put 90 percent of the fish on the bank or in the boat are spending their time where their chances are best. Doing that isn’t as easy as it sounds.
The best way to go about it is to stick with one stretch of river until you know it like you do your own kitchen. Gary Loomis, the famed Washington rod builder, earned a deserved reputation for being one of the top steelheaders in the West before he built his first rod. I always figured it’s one of the main reasons he went on to produce such good ones. Fish with Gary, and I have a number of times, and you’ll find him doing exactly what I’m talking about.
“Part of the success for a steelhead trip lies in the planning,” Gary says. “The first thing I try to do every time out is fish over water that holds fish.”
Gary draws on his own knowledge of the river in the process. Once he finds an area where he knows fish are being caught, you’ll find him concentrating on those specific spots he knows have held fish on past trips.
“Actually,” Gary says, “If I haven’t had a chance to get out recently myself I ask around to find out where prospects are best. I check with friends who are good fishermen. Sometimes information is available at bait shops. Once I decide where to go, I concentrate on those exact spots in the different holes where I’ve caught fish before.”
One of my all time favorite spots for steelhead was on the North Fork of the Toutle not far above where the North and South Forks come together in Southwest Washington. The area was about 15 minutes from my former home on Silver Lake. I caught more fish from one 100 yard stretch there than I took out of all the rest of Southwest Washington’s rivers put together. The reason I did was I fished it enough to learn something about it.
This, of course, was prior to the time Mount St. Helens blew up. I spent darn near all my weekend mornings on that part of the Toutle. And I went there every other chance that came up.
There were three spots in this 100 yard stretch of river that held almost all of the steelhead that were caught. I could predict with accuracy who would and wouldn’t catch fish just by watching where they presented their bait and lure.
There was always a steady stream of fishermen who came by to try the same area I was fishing. Most were so eager to get to the next spot up or down the river they failed to realize how productive the water they were on was. That was all right with me.
If you’ve read my steelhead book you may recall a chapter that told about Bernie Wright and Ron Boyea, of Longview. That pair got to know intimately one stretch of the Kalama River back when the summer run there was really strong. In the process they hooked more fish in one season than many angler see over a lifetime of steelheading.
There just isn’t any substitute for knowledge of water. If you want to become part of the 10 percent who take 90 percent of the fish you’ve got to develop your own feel for things. And don’t get so set in your approach you fail to adapt if conditions on your favorite steelhead drift changes. That spot I mentioned on the North Toutle changed several times in the years I fished it. Sure as there was heavy wintertime flooding, the holding spots steelhead utilized became different. Sometimes much different. I had to learn that stretch of river all over again when that happened.
Be observant every time you’re on a steelhead stream. Use a recorder or your pencil if necessary to keep records. That might sound like a lot of extra bother it may be, but it will pay dividends somewhere down the line.