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North Coast: , by Drew Griffith: North Coast odyssey : 3 stars

The past few weeks have seen glimpses of near perfect conditions for swinging up some steel on California's rugged Redwood Coast. Two weeks have past since the coast saw it's most significant winter storm in more than a season. The Smith River spiked to just over 20 feet on the Jed Smith gauge on January 20th and fell into shape by that Tuesday. I spent the day on the water with Confluence Outfitters own Andrew Harris and his friend Jim from Red Bluff. Jim was new to the spey game but picked up the fundementals within a day of fishing and mananged to swing up a nice coastal cutthroat in the last run we fished. The bigger prize remained elusive. 

The next few days saw near perfect water conditions on the river, but with it came intense amounts of pressure from other guide boats and bank anglers alike, creating another set of tough conditions. During the middle of the week I fished with Carlo from Stockton and had Sean and Paul with me over the weekend. Despite tough fishing we were able to hone in casting techniques and enjoy some remarkably nice weather for late January. By the beginning of last week the Smith had dropped to the bottom of 8 ft and was running clear. I fished with Doug and Rob, two old friends who were both brand new to spey fishing. The first day we floated the lower river and were pleasently surprised to have only a few other guide boats on the water with us. A few exceptionally large fish were spotted from the boat as we slid down one tailout after the other. I saw one big buck that almost made me fall out of the boat! After a full day of going over spey fundementals both Doug and Rob made huge strides on day two as we explored some up river stretches. It was both fun and rewarding watching them progress from square one to firing off some worthy casts.

At the end of the week I bid farewell to the Smith and headed south with hopes of finding green water on the Eel. I fished with Kris and Doug the dog on Thursday on the lower S Fork Eel during near perfect water conditions. The S Fork was glowing, the perfect pitch of steelhead green, giving Kris and I high hopes that we might be in store for an encounter or two. In the third run of the day Kris got a soft grab in the head of the run. We couldn't get him to come back. We had another opportunity before we broke for lunch when Kris got a little rip on the first strip after the swing, but again, we couldn't convince him to come back and play. The day ended without a fish to hand but we were both excited for having excellent conditions and fair weather. 

Fishing on the Eel was just starting to heat up when another wet weather system came in to crash the party. Some reports that were coming in from guys fishing up high were red hot. The Smith also saw some good days for guys fishing gear. The take away being that a good amount of fish have come into our coastal rivers and that this trend should continue through this next series of storms into February. Right now we have a storm that is weakening in intensity over the coast. Projections for river rises are being downcast, a few days ago it looked like the Eel was out of the picture for the next 10 days, now the picture is not as clear. The temperate weather that had given us so many pleasant days on the water also looks to be coming to a close. This next system is going to bring some low temps along with it. Lot's of snow is forecast to fall over the next week. This could also see less dramatic river rises than what is being projected. It'll be interesting to see how this current storm plays out. If you're looking to get out on the water February offers some of the best fishing opportunities of the steelhead season. Good things are in store. Stay tuned...

Carlo in some epic water on the North Coast
Carlo in some epic water on the North Coast
Perfect water conditions on the S Fork Eel
Perfect water conditions on the S Fork Eel
A silver bullet straight from the salt.
A silver bullet straight from the salt.
Up river
Up river
Kris and Doug ready to hit the next run.
Kris and Doug ready to hit the next run.
A few intruders on deck ready for action
A few intruders on deck ready for action
Next 10 open days for Drew Griffith: Mar 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21
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