by Jason Brooks, February 02, 2017
Bank bound anglers have to watch boats go by, and as one of those formally stuck on the bank, I often thought about how I need to get a boat to become more “successful” on the water. For years I stood on the banks, hiked along the trails and stood on boulders just knowing that I could catch more fish if I just had a boat. Finally, after getting a drift boat and learning how to navigate rivers I was the one who now floated by, trying to be polite, and not fishing the waters where the bankies were “stuck”. A few years went by and then one day my fishing buddy JR Hall gave me a call. He wanted to tell me about his day steelheading one of our favorite rivers. He hooked several fish and was able to keep a couple of bright fish to take home. I began asking which float he did and that is when I learned he left his drift boat at home and spent the day hiking into some holes and bank fished.
At first I couldn’t believe how a person who owns a nice drift boat would rather drive to the coast and bank fish. JR explained he did this all the time. He had a free morning to go fishing and instead of trying to find a buddy to go with or pay for a shuttle service, as well as commit to an entire day on the river, he opted to hike along the banks. JR has some merit to his way of thinking and bank bound anglers can be very successful. Here are a few things to consider if you are bank bound and want to become more successful.
Know the waters. Don’t fall into the trap of going to the same place, same river or hole where all of the bank anglers go. The Cowlitz river for example is notorious for this, especially places like Blue Creek and barrier dam boat access areas. I have fished Blue Creek access several times and all of the bankies line up at the same places.
One day, while out on a jet sled, we took off upriver and found a nice slot, as well as a lone angler swinging spoons. We watched him hook a fish and play it to the bank while no other anglers were around. Go downstream a mile or two and it was shoulder to should, wait your turn to cast, and lots of arguments over who’s rock belonged to who.
Along with knowing where holes or runs are on the river, find rivers and even lakes that have public access. One of my most favorite rivers on the Olympic Coast runs almost entirely in the National Park and National Forest. A road parallels one side of the river with several access points and the other side is a bit of a hike but offers long gravel bars and a few braids where the road side doesn’t. It is worth hiking the mile from the far side to the river’s edge and after that you can hike the entire bank, spend hours on the river and never fish next to another person. Plus, this river tends to put out large steelhead.
Study the drainage of the river. Use on-line aerial maps such as Google Earth. You can find access points and gravel bars by doing this before you even leave the comfort of your home. Scouting a river starts with doing your homework before you leave for your trip. The WDFW website shows access points and county websites often show public parks. Then there are state parks as well. The Green River in King County for example has a couple of city parks on the lower stretches, a few county parks, like Metzler’s and then Flaming Geyser State Park on the upper stretches.
After finding waters and places to fish it comes down to using the right gear at the right time. The right time comes down to water conditions. Look up the river graph before driving to the river as this can tell you a lot. For example, if it recently rained and the river is still high but stable then it will probably be a bit off color as well. Use contrasting colors such as dark colored spoons or spinners and a lot of scent. With the higher and swifter water you can even switch out which types of scents you bring along, like take a bottle of Pro-Cure Super Sauce which is sticky. When the water is low or on the drop it will be a bit clearer and so you want to downsize gear and even use a bait oil or Pro-Cure’s water soluble scents.
Check the weather report and if it is a sunny day then know that the fish will be in riffles and deeper slots to hide from predators and stay out of the sunlight. On cloudy or overcast days the fish will be in the flats or along the edge of seams. Rainy days turns the water off color and on the rise which means fish will be on the move. If fish are on the move then you don’t have to be. Find a good run and stay all day as the fish will come to you. Back to low and clear water with a sunny day and pack your hiking boots as the fish will stage. After you hook a fish or two at one spot you will find more success by letting the water rest and find another hole.
Now that you have done your homework, looked over the maps, river graphs, and weather reports its time to pack your gear. A backpack is a must. Break down your gear to how you want to fish, and then pack only what you need. Floating jigs, bobberdogging (yes, you can do this from the bank too, just on a shorter scale), and drift fishing can all be done with one rod. For example, I use a North Fork Custom’s Series One 9 ½ foot spinning rod rated for 6 to 10-pound line. Spool the reel with 30-pound braid and you can fish using a float or drift gear. I do pack a second rod, one that is 8 ½ feet and rated for 8 to 15-pound line, as this rod allows me to swing spoon or spinners and can be used in a pinch for float and drift fishing if I break my other rod. Plus having two rods means you can have two riggings already tied up to switch out techniques in an instant.
Plano 3700 series plastic tackle boxes fit the flat leader boards by FishEng products. These leader boards keep my pink worms straight, spoons ready, and jigs clean and organized. You can pre-pack all your gear in just a couple of the Plano boxes which are clear and easy to pick out which one is needed. Everything fits into the backpack, along with my small Stryker Stove by Camp Chef and a few bottles of water and some cup of soup and coffee.
Nothing beats a hot lunch on the edge of the river to keep your energy up. Waders can be tied on top or use a pack that will hold them and your wading shoes. I like to hike to the water’s edge in my hiking boots and then change into my waders so not to put a hole in them or get too hot hiking in. If you find yourself fishing with a chance of catching fish to take home be sure to pack a strong plastic garbage bag so not to get all of your gear and backpack slimed by the fish. I also pack in some zip-loc bags as I like to take the eggs out of any hens while on the river’s edge, use the river water to clean them and then keep them clean for the hike out.
By preparing ahead of time, planning your trip, and packing the right gear you will be ready to head to the river or lake. Being bank bound doesn’t mean being stuck. Instead find the freedom to get away from people, find your own special spot and enjoy the day. Then head for the truck and drive home without having to wash and put away the boat.