The Current Magazine Winter 2016/17 - Page 38

The SF Eel has a variety of water to choose from including killer swing runs down low to nice pools and pocket water up high. There are two ways to fish the SF, from a drift boat, or wading. If you are in a boat, it’s nice because you can cover a lot of water. Many people fishing nymphs or eggs under a bobber set up prefer to drift the river. This can be an effective way to cover water and pick up moving or holding fish. There are a number of great floats on the SF that are easily available for day trips. The main problem these days, is that with so few fishable days, there can be a lot of people wanting to float the same runs. This can put excessive pressure on some stretches of river. I’ve seen days where it’s just boat after boat coming down the choice stretches. So get there early or be prepared to fish behind other people. If you get stuck behind a couple boats that are using bait and you are using flies, good luck! Also, fish often move through the system in waves. Sometimes there will be a lot of fish in a ten mile stretch one week and the next they will all be up higher, lower or even gone. It’s hard to determine where the fish are without just getting out there and putting in time working the water, talking to other anglers in the area and comparing notes.

Wading is the preferred method for spey fisherman interested in swinging flies to aggressive fish. Typically, the lower river is the best for swing runs. Not all runs are accessible by foot so bank anglers are limited in the places they can fish. My suggestion is to scope out some runs ahead of time and know where you intend to fish before you head out in the morning. If it’s a section you know will have boats, your best bet is to fish the lower runs before the boats get there. You will always have a better chance of hooking an aggressive steelhead on a swung fly if you’re the first person to swing to that fish that day. Once a few boats have come through and the fish have had row balls and glow bugs bouncing in their face, they will be less likely to roll or aggressively attack a swung fly. One the other hand, fish that have had flies swung to them and did not move, are still likely to grab a fly or bait that is presented down deep and slow. Point is, never loose faith and believe in every swing.

I’m not going to list off specific fishing runs or access points for floats. I’ll let you all figure that out on your own like I had to. But I will say, the SF Eel is a great river to explore. Fish or no fish, a day spent on that river is never a day wasted. The beauty and ruggedness of the watershed is of the highest quality. There’s something really special about being in the redwoods of Humboldt County in the winter. Take some time to look around and take in your surroundings.

Tight lines and be sure to check out all the fantastic work Darren Mierau and Mary Burke from CalTrout are doing up on the North Coast and visit Humboldt Steelhead Days for fishing information and great events in the area this season.


Michael E. Wier

Spot Check continued