Summer steelhead still swimming free in the Siletz

Matt and I decided to skip the higher water on the Mckenzie on Sunday and head up to the Siletz river where the flows are more managable. The Siletz heads in some of the highest mountains in the Coast Range and hosts runs of spring and fall chinook and winter and summer steelhead.  The summer steelhead run peaks in June so we were a little early but as summer wears on and the flows become lower you can’t float a drift boat. 

At 3.75 feet the “around the town run” from Illahee Park to Greenthumb Park is easy to float and judging from a couple other boats coming down as we launched at Illahee you can also run down from Twin Bridges to Illahee. Moonshine to Twin Bridges is not recommended. If the river is running at less than 3.5 leave the driftboat at home though locals still float the river in pontoon craft.The “around the town run” is unlike anything I’ve ever floated– there is easily enough river to provide full day of fishing but the takeout is less than one mile from the put in.  In truly disorienting fashion the river makes a long loop around the town of Silezt bringing you almost full circle.  The takeout is about one mile after a green bridge on the right. 

The only notable obstruction is a downed cottonwood that almost completely obstructs the main channel.  The tree is located a few minutes downstream of the concrete bridge right after the put-in.  Your safest bet is to avoid the whole scenario and walk your boat through a skinny side channel on the right. That’s what we did and it went much better than the boat in front of us which got pinned in the branches of the tree and was really lucky to make it through there gunwhales up. No shame  walking your boat–better to live to fish another day.

The river itself is fishy looking in that stretch with multiple riffles, nice runs and deeps pools. We didn’t observe any steelhead early but did see one that had been dressed out by someone recently. As the day wore on and we reached a long flat I decded to turn downsteam and haul getting us into fishier water.  After about a minute of really pulling through the shallow flat it was like we stepped on a steelhead land mine–a school of fish scattering in every direction.  A few were pushed a little downstream and held where we could see them.  The spooked fish didn’t want any part of our swung offerings.

There are fish in the river now and the run is still building.  If we continue to get intermittant rain the river should remain floatable into June. Another good rain could lead to fabulous fishing on the Siletz.  If the river drops, its best to focus on the Siletz Gorge which is strictly a bank fishing affair.  One more thing, when heading up to the Gorge keep an eye out for a 25 mph zone shortly after you make the left towards Moonshine–if you don’t you might be sorry, I was.–KM

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