If you've been out looking for winter fish this year, its there. Water and lots of it. This of course is a good thing for all the reasons. And you know, its actually normal for a good snow pack year.
Many have been lured into a false reality as far as winter fishing goes the last few years. Especially on the North Umpqua.
People have been dancing around in almost summer low conditions for the last 5-6 years thinking that's the way its supposed to be. Easy access to runs, easy wading in low flows, early and predictable returns due to low water, much easier to locate fish because they have been much more concentrated in the runs etc etc.
In reality, what is perceived by many to be a year with continuous high water is really pretty normal. And the fishing was tougher for it, a fact I am glad of.
Its never an easy game but this year tested all the skills in everyone's toolbox. When you have your back to the brush and under the trees in every run, waded in to the top of your waders just to try and get a small D loop off your shoulder, it separates the men from the boys. Doing it day after day can drive one insane, but that's why we love it. It ain't easy.
Those that consistently found fish did so working their tails off in often unpredictable conditions. Those that found fish, found fish in places they would not normally have fished. Marginal conditions push you to explore new water.
That run that looks bad at 3000cfs might fish great at 5,000cfs. Trust me we had plenty of water to explore to our hearts content. I found some new high water spots that I have never fished before in 30 years. They worked. It was cool. These fish gotta go somewhere, find them.
Winter fishing can, and I think more importantly, should be hard.
This year reminded me that you have to be in it for the long haul. Keep doing what you know will work and eventually it does. Patience and perseverance always prevail. This year was a great example of what winter steelheading can be (HARD) and how it pays to stick it out even when its tough.
James 1:12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.