Changing Plans on the
I obviously miscalculated.
The Collins River had been described to me as a gentle flow with no
significant rapids. I therefore figured the Collins would be an appropriate
destination for a paddle-up/fish-down trip when a Friday off presented
itself. Upon arriving at the Collins, I saw water ripping downstream at a
pretty good clip. While far from raging whitewater, the smooth water was
moving at a pretty good clip. I parked the truck and walked to the water's
edge. There was no way I'd be able to paddle upstream here. I checked the
water temperature. 54 degrees. Brrrr. I wasn't real excited about hopping in
the water and dragging my kayak upstream here either.
I decided to consult my maps
and look for another access point. Luckily, there was another good launch
site about fifteen minutes away. The water was moving pretty good at this
bridge, but was much slower than the previous spot. As it turns out, the
Collins River gets slower and wider the closer it gets to Great Falls Lake,
and the last 15 or so river miles are basically flat water. Had I ventured
downstream a ways, my paddle up would have been easy. Of course, I wouldn't
have really been on a river either. At least not the way that God originally
made this river.
Anyway, I am sweating bullets
trying to paddle upstream and the bridge is frustratingly still in sight.
Note to self: 1,000 cfs and 3.7 on the USGS gauge is a little too high to
try and paddle up the Collins this far upstream. At the first riffle, just
around the bend from the bridge, I have to hop out of the kayak and walk the
boat upstream. I've made about five casts in an hour. Every time I make a
cast, the current pushes me downstream by the time I can grab the paddle
again. Note to self: Whatever a jet boat costs, it's worth it.
"Can't you paddle any faster than that!?!"
The original plan was to
paddle about four miles upstream (stopping occasionally to rest and fish)
and then fish hard on the way downstream. I obviously wasn't going to make
it four miles upstream in this current, so I needed a new plan. I decided to
hug whichever riverbank had the least current, wedging the kayak up against
whatever tree or rock I could find. I'd then fish the area thoroughly before
paddling up to the next "parking spot" and repeat the process. Knowing that
I wouldn't be able to see much of the Collins today, I needed to make the
best out of the small amount of river I would see.
I started out throwing a 1/8
ounce spinnerbait and mixing in a 4" curlytail worm rigged on a 1/16 ounce
slider head. On about my third stop, I felt a slight tap and set the hook
into the year's first smallie, who treated me to a couple jumps and was nice
enough to pose for a quick picture. I was able to catch smallies of similar
size at my next few stops before the water began getting shallower and
quicker. It was time to drag again.
This is the look of a guy who didn't get
skunked after all
The shoals I encountered on
the Collins were more like wide, shallow, and flat spots in the river. There
didn't seem to be a lot of big rocks or other obstructions for fish to hide
behind. Maybe these places reveal themselves at lower river levels, but I
wasn't finding many juicy places to cast. Another problem was hangups. I
don't know the exact geologic makeup of the Collins riverbed(Limestone?
Sandstone?), but whatever type rock that is loves to collect jigheads,
hooks, and bullet weights. Tumbling the small worms down the current was
getting expensive quickly, and I wasn't catching any fish from the type of
water from which I expected to have the most success.
When I had finally worked my
way nearly to the top of the shoal area (dragging the kayak behind me), I
came to a large downed log in about three feet of water adjacent to the
fastest current. This was classic smallie water, and if I couldn't pull a
fish from here, I should just turn around and head home. I cast my small
worm (I had moved up to a 1/8 ounce Texas rig by this point) right next to
the log and a nice smallie hit immediately. The outcome was in doubt until I
was able to get the fish out from under the log. Though far from a trophy,
this was a really solid fish. Starting to gain more confidence, I pulled
that fish's twin from the same log on my very next cast. This day was
turning from bad to good pretty quickly!
Another bass off the log!
Up above the shoal, I
encountered the slowest water and the slowest fishing of the day. I ran into
Ernie and Richard from McMinnville who informed me that this area was known
as a pretty good spot for large muskie, which the Collins is developing
quite a reputation for producing. Ernie and Richard fish the Collins often,
and have caught quite a few smallies in the four pound class. I asked them
how the river was upstream, and they said the next mile or so upstream was
kind of shallow and not very productive. They suggested I check out a
good-sized tributary just upstream. I paddled into the tributary, ate some
lunch, and admired the scenery for a bit. It was a pretty stream, and I was
able to wade around and pick up a tiny smallie and a few nice rock bass (on
the small spinnerbait) before paddling out and heading back up the Collins.
Pretty tributary of the Collins
Ernie and Richard were
correct about the Collins upstream from this point. It was shallow, fast,
and unproductive. I gave up on this pretty quickly and started fishing my
way back downstream. On my way up the river, I had walked my kayak up the
sandy side with less current. The other bank, I noticed, was rocky and
eddies formed occasionally up against the bank. On my way back downstream, I
pulled into each of these eddies and fished them thoroughly.
I took this while wading upstream on the
slower sandy side of the river. On the way back downstream, I fished the
other side. There were more fish over there hanging in and around current
breaks and small eddies near the bank.
The key to catching fish
without getting hung up was to throw the worm upstream and reel it in
quickly enough to keep it ahead of the current but slowly enough to hit
bottom occasionally. I managed about five more smallies and ten sizeable
rock bass using this method. I also stopped by the log from earlier in the
day and pulled another nice smallie off it. All told I managed 12 smallies
and 20 rock bass for the day, which is a solid day in my book. I also added
a pretty effective fishing technique to my repertoire (slowly reeling the
worm just off bottom) that I feel certain will work in other smallie waters.
This was my third nice bass off that log so
I figured it deserved to be in the picture too
I also discovered a pretty
cool river. The Collins is not a wilderness river by any means, but the
houses I saw were located well off the river and there weren't a lot of
them. This may change farther downstream, but I was pleased with the
relative lack of trash and the good water clarity. I would liked to have
seen more of the river, but the strong current (which is about normal for
mid-April, I've come to find out) kept me confined to about 1.5 miles of
water. Next time I'll either arrange a float trip or come when the water's
lower. I'd also like to figure out the best time of year to fish for muskie
and throw some big lures for some really big fish.
I didn't see any muskie in the Collins, but
I've got a feeling this guy has seen one