Boy, what a great week. I made two more trips up to Rufus Woods for triploid rainbow, and I did a float down the Icicle River, where the spring salmon are showing up in great numbers this year. It was a week of big fish and lots of them. If you get a chance I would make plans to experience both of these excellent fisheries yourself sometime soon.
The Icicle River is running high, with some color, and that's the way Shane Magnuson, Upper Columbia Guide Service, likes it. He has been catching very good numbers of the spring salmon that are returning to the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery. The hatchery only needs 1,000 fish to sustain the run of springers, and there are 9,000 fish forecast to be in this year's run. That includes both adults and jack salmon, and there are a high number of jacks this season. That usually means an even better return for the Icicle next year.
The day always starts early when floating the Icicle. One vehicle is left at the take out at around 3 a.m., then the boat is put in at the launch below the hatchery and you're drifting down to the appointed hole in the dark. Rods are rigged and baits applied by the light of a headlamp. Magnuson answers questions about how the fishing has been and what can be expected by the clients as they sip their coffee.
Magnuson uses nine-foot rods when in the drift boat. He has Abu Garcia 6500 C-3 reels loaded with 20-pound test mounted on the rods. A sliding dropper is placed ahead of the 20-pound leader, with the canon ball weight determined by the current flow. On the end he will put on either a whole herring, rigged to spin in the current or cured eggs. A Spin-N-Glo is put ahead of both baits. This will help float the bait off the bottom, where a cruising salmon can easily pick it up.
Once the drift boat is anchored in the hole and baits are cast, the waiting begins. If there are fish in the hole it won't take long for them to find the bait. If not, it may take a while for fish to cruise into the hole. When they do, a rod will begin to bounce. Most people want to grab the rod and set the hook immediately. That's not the case on the Icicle. Magnuson likes to wait until the rod is fully bent over and even line being spooled from the reel before the hook is set. These fish are just munching on the bait, and waiting until they turn and head downstream to put it to them results in more solid hook ups.
This is just what happened to Brett Telford. When he set the hook the powerful springer tore down river in the fast water. Time after time the fish was brought near the boat only to tear off more line and move out of the reach of the net. We were all relieved when Magnuson successfully got the net under the fish and hoisted it into the boat. I thought for sure the fish would pull the hooks free before we got it close enough to net. Just a few minutes later the same drill was repeated by Dave Crollard. The two anglers hooked a total of six springers and put three in the box that day. It was a great one on the Icicle. Snow-capped peaks loomed over us, against a blue sky background as we floated down the river. The two anglers said repeatedly that getting fish was just a bonus to the most scenic river float you can find anywhere. You'll enjoy watching the Fishing TV Show about the day on the river next month.
Rufus Woods Reservoir had been disappointing last fall and winter. There were good days and bad. The numbers of triploid rainbow, even with the Colville Tribal plants had diminished. That has changed.
Last Thursday, I traveled to Rufus Woods with Tom Kallas from Hooked on Toys and Pat Armstrong from Town Ford. We started just above the dam at Bridgeport and worked our way up the reservoir, winding up just below the lower pens. We had a very good bite soon after we arrived and put some very nice fish in the box. We missed a few hits, had some get off and one even broke the line. Dave Graybill/FishingMagician.comI was trolling against the current, pretty close to shore and when the fish were in a biting mood they hit everything I offered them. They hit Warden's Vibric Rooster Tail spinners, a number 7 Rapala in the purplescent color, black Wooly Bugger style flies and other lures. We watched a boat anchored near us take their fish with Power Bait. We fished bait-less to start so we could catch and release, and returned to the launch with a heavy cooler full of fat triploids.
I went back to Rufus for the annual Father's Day trip with my dad, Dave, and brother Rick. We started catching fish not far from the launch above Chief Joseph Dam, and didn't have to run more than a couple miles up river to get our limit of triploids. Fish can be found throughout the reservoir now.
Next week I plan to make a trip to Banks Lake to fish for walleye and smallmouth bass. I haven't been there yet this season and I know it will be great. Don't be surprised if I make another trip to Rufus Woods before that, though. I don't want to miss out on this action while it lasts.
Brett Telford (left) and Shane Magnuson, Upper Columbia Guide Service, pose with a dandy spring salmon taken on the Icicle River.