Guided: Cowlitz River Winter Steelhead

by Intrepid Insider on 01/03/2013 - 04:55 pm

Tag: Intrepid Insider


The glassy green water of the Cowlitz

´╗┐There comes a time in every fisherman or fisherwoman's life when he or she needs a little help finding the fish (well, pretty much all the time when it comes to Steelhead fishing). There also comes a time in these same people’s lives when they need to find that perfect Christmas gift for a relative (who also loves fishing) visiting our beautiful state from, say, Montana. Enter:  Christmas 2012 at our house.


With my mom and stepdad here for just over a week during Christmas time, I had plans to take my stepdad fishing. With our recent low water conditions and lack of rain, the fishing has been pretty slow to say the least, so I bit the bullet and did something I’ve never done before: hired a guide.


When it comes to fishing guides - especially in Washington State - there certainly is no shortage. Especially during winter Steelhead season on the Cowlitz River. Lucky for us, we booked Bob Sommer of Guidelines Fishing. Bob prefers methods of fishing that not only work well, but that are best used in parts of the river that no one else is usually fishing (at least on this particular day). This means less pressure on the fish, no crowds and best of all: a bit of isolation and peaceful scenery. We didn’t see a single other person during our first few hours of fishing.


We met up with Bob at the Barrier Dam boat launch (near Salkum, WA - about 2 hours south of Seattle) at 7:45am sharp and hopped aboard his 20’ Alumaweld boat. Our first fish was a small Coho, caught about 30 minutes in to fishing our first hole. About two hours later, just about the time we all stopped paying attention to the rods in the holders, my stepdad hooked in to his first-ever Steelhead. After a few jumps and a 5-minute fight, Bob netted her and brought her aboard. A 14-pound winter steelhead is a pretty amazing fish for someone’s first time ever steelheading.


A couple hours later, it was finally my turn – I brought in a beautifully colored native summer run steelhead, about the same size as our previous fish. The adipose fin still intact, the sign of a native fish, she went back in to the river to live another day.


Eventually, we trailered the boat, drove downstream and re-launched at the zoo that was (usually is) Blue Creek. The 300 yards above and below the boat launch was packed with boats fighting for a spot to drift their lines, competing with the fisherman lining the riverbank. We fished for an hour or so there with no luck and called it a day.


Even if we hadn’t caught any fish that day, the price we paid would have almost been worth the boat ride itself; zipping up and down the Cowlitz, skimming through the fog, over the deep green water, beneath the looming evergreens. But we were lucky enough to get all of that and a great time catching fish. It really was Washington at its finest.


Bob Sommer has been fishing the Cowlitz River for 15+ years and knows the river better than anyone else I’ve talked to. He prefers summer fishing but will more than likely put you on the fish, no matter what time of year you decide to go. Guidelines Fishing offers not only amazing rates and group deals, but also great packages that even include dinner on the boat during the summer season. For you winter-fishing types: There’s even a heater on the boat! To book a trip with Bob or for more info., call him at 360.270.1133 or visit his site: