Sturgeon have excellent taste
The recent rains provided a chance to get back to my kayak fly fishing for sturgeon research. Joining me on the Willamette River was Steve Lent, a friend and well-respected and proficient local fly fisherman. I shared with Steve my goal of catching a sturgeon on a fly from a kayak. Our discussions led to his belief that the perfect fly for the quest was a lamprey fly. Obviously, he said, lamprey are an important part of the sturgeon diet and a big fly would certainly work. My thoughts were leaning towards a smaller and simpler fly designed to look, and smell, like a sand shrimp. The results tell the tale. My research on fly fishing for sturgeon starts by finding the fish with conventional gear and bait. Because the weather was uncertain, and I left my kayak jacket in the back of one of my fishing buddies car, we opted for the sled. The Sunday trip was in place of the Next Adventure sturgeon kayak meet-up on Nov. 26. And, it gave me a chance to see what Steve's fly could do.
I decided to go for the conventional gear while Steve prepared his Stinky Lamprey fly (click here to see the YouTube video on my channel). After about an hour of fishing, I had several bites but was unable to hook anything. We also saw several sturgeon jump around us, including one about 6 feet. After getting several bites, I changed over to my sand shrimp fly, which is basically some Pro-cure scent on a hook with several dingleballs, to see if I could get a fish to bite. Steve decided to mix it up a little and tied a sand shrimp on his fly. Within 15 minutes he was getting a bite. Unfortunately he was following my lead and not able to hook one. I was unable to entice anything on my fly so we decided to motor upriver to another hole. That turned into a bust with no bites and several snags. I decided we should bail and head back to first hole, telling Steve it would give us a chance to get the boat packed up and ready to head home.
We motored back to the hole and anchored up. By this time we were both using bait - the last two sand shrimp. Steve soon got a bite and I told him how to set the hook by waiting for a good tug on the line and then lifting the rod quickly. He did exactly what I told him, but he didn't think he hooked the fish and put the rod back in the holder. After a few minutes, I told him to reel in and check the bait. He started reeling in and discovered he had a fish. It ended up being about 15 inches. But it was still a fish and we were not skunked for the day. We didn't have any shrimp left, so we broke open the squid. This proved to be the magic bait and Steve became the sturgeon king catching four fish that day (including the one in the video posted with this blog entry). I, on the other hand, was unable to hook a single fish. This, I told him, was because I lost my fishing hat at Swift Reservoir and I needed a new one to improve my fish karma.
The day proved a little wet but fun. However the most interesting thing going was that the sturgeon were able to distinguish, by scent alone, between real bait and artificial. I could understand that better if the bait smelled strong, but sand shrimp seem to have little smell, yet the sturgeon can distinguish between the two, even in cold, dirty water. I still need to do more research.