Editor’s note: I’m not going to be blogging very much this week (even snarky ones about wolves!) because of print deadlines and trying to get out of here for the upcoming rifle deer opener.
Dry conditions are making the hunt look like a tough go, but dunking his drifter into the loooooow Humptulips, our contributor Jason Brooks found biting salmon.
Here’s his report from the Hump:
By Jason Brooks
Myself and five of my buddies were seriously hoping for rain last week to fill the rivers with fish and keep us from having to drag our drift boats across gravel bars. Last Wednesday I was just about to panic as we were to set out at 4:00 a.m. for a two day fishing trip on the Humptulips in the morning.
With the extremely low water conditions I gave my friend, Rob Gardiner of Peninsula Rivers Outfitters (360-590-6243, see page 146 of this month’s issue of Northwest Sportsman for his ad) a call. He put me at ease when he told me that they landed 6 fish out of the 15 fish they hooked that day.
Normally Grant Blinn and I hit the river during the first week of October as a day trip but this year we decided to float it twice in two days. This “guy’s trip” turned into 4 more of our friends joining us for the first day, taking two drift boats and then Grant, Brian Chlipala and myself would hit the river again the next day.
Rob did say that we would have to weed through some pretty dark fish if we wanted some chrome to take home. He also added that we would have to float the lower river which we had never done before.
One thing I can say about Rob is that he was more than kind to let me know where, what and how he was catching fish, but one thing he couldn’t help us with was rowing the drift boats. This stretch of the river is packed full of log jams, sunken trees and stumps and very skinny water with root wads and deep holes that our 30 feet of anchor rope wasn’t close enough to anchoring in. I highly recommend hiring him for this lower river float.
Day one, Thursday, Oct. 4th. The parking lot was full when we launched at the Copalis Crossing at first light, right around 6:30 AM but there wasn’t a drift boat in sight. We fished our way downstream about a mile and came around a corner and found out why. It was combat fishing at its finest except that everyone was very nice and helped each other out. No profanities, no drunken brawls, and a lot of fish.
This first hole was deep with some sunken trees and a rock point. We floated eggs where I hooked up 4 fish landing 3 of them including a really big hen about to burst with eggs but all were way too dark to even think about bonking.
We floated down and I hooked a few more fish including another dark king and one foul hooked Coho. In Brian’s boat they landed several kings and one nice Coho but out of the six of us we only killed two kings and one Coho.
We also ran into another guide buddy of mine, Duane Inglin (253-307-7219) co-host of the Outdoor Line radio program. He gave some advice for the takeout, which is to take the cut through some timber under the 109 bridge keeping us from having to row upriver to the launch. The lower river is about 1 mile of fishing, another mile of floating open flats and 2 miles of forward rowing so don’t expect to fish the entire time like at the upper river. That night we pulled into the Quinault Beach Resort and learned only the lounge was open for dinner so our steak and beer turned into a ½ pound hamburger and fries (not a good idea after floating all day in hot sun!).
Day 2, Friday, Oct. 5th. Brian took the sticks and rowed all day and as we approached what we were calling the “combat meat hole” we rowed right past and went to a lower hole where we had seen Coho splashing around the day before. We slid the boat along the grassy edge and cast jigs into the corner. Grant proceeded to put on a twitching jigs clinic hooking a fish on his second cast and then five more in the next 20 minutes but each time they pulled free. It is really hard fighting mid teen Coho in shallow water. Finally Grant puts one in the boat.
Five minutes later Brian nails another great Coho. We then decide to head back upriver to the combat meat hole for some king action.
Grant hooks a small fish and turns it loose. We notice all of the fish are dark in this hole and decide to head downriver a bit. We stop at a small slot that we found the day before and I finally get a fish to the boat, a smaller Coho twitched up on a 3/8 oz. Mack’s Rock Dancer jig in black/purple.
A little further down we see two older guys nailing kings on just about every drift with eggs under a float. They invite us over to anchor next to them and tell us their secrets including depth and bait additive (take sandshrimp…).
Thirty minutes later and my bobber goes down and I finally get the 21 pound bright buck to the boat.
I am just one Coho away from my Humptulips limit. I try my best to talk Grant and Brian into leaving the king hole to head for some Coho frog water but it wasn’t happening. With several more bobber downs Grant finally gets one to stick (another hint, use big hooks, we used 3/0 and there wasn’t enough hook sticking out of the bait, causing a lot of missed fish). Grant’s fish finally hits the net and after bonking and bleeding he puts it on the scale, a 24 pound hen, big fish of the day.
We have to leave the hole with 3 miles to float in just 2 hours, most of it forward rowing. Getting to the take at dark and loading the boat via headlamps we head for home. Next year we plan on doing it again, hopefully with rain and fresher fish in the river.