To be honest our June Fish A Long for Shad started off a little rocky, but for the Clackamas Fly Fishers this was a first time exploratory shad mission so some difficulties were not totally unexpected. The Hamilton Island parking area was packed with cars and there was literally no place to fish, with bank anglers plunking for salmon every 10 feet as far as the eye could see, which was pretty discouraging. But, we persevered and found a good place to fly fish but it was a little over a mile hike downstream from the parking area (see updated map above). Fortunately we were able to walk on a flat, well kept trail.
Once we settled in to our spot we started catching shad right away. As shad migrate in waves, the action comes in waves. By lunchtime, everyone had caught fish and some of us did pretty well. Chris Brehm, who found “the spot” had particularly good luck and every time I looked upstream he had a fish on.
While rain was forecast, that didn’t happen and we were blessed with nearly perfect weather. The Columbia River was in good shape for fishing, with green tinted water that was 61 degrees, which made for comfortable wading. The water height was 18 feet at the Bonneville guage and at this bank fishing spot you wouldn’t want it any higher.
The current seam was just offshore so long casts were not needed, but you did need a sinking line or at minimum a sink tip line. The best presentation was to cast across the current, let the line sink for several seconds and then strip in the fly at it started to swing across the current. Most strikes came when the fly was about 45 degrees downstream swinging from the faster to slower water. When a wave of shad came thru it was not uncommon to hook fish on consecutive casts. A Red Bill Schaadt Shad Fly was the hot ticket. Fortunately we had plenty of them, as the bottom could be a little snaggy.
Special thanks to Chris Brehm for venturing downstream, finding a good place for us to fly fish and then coming back to get us. Also, thanks to Paul Brewer & his crew who went in search of easier to access water down by Beacon Rock. While they didn’t find good fishing, this was an exploratory day and they gave us good information. We’ll definitely do this trip again next year and will have a better idea what to expect.
Thanks to everyone that came out and made this fish a long a success!