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Event Article: Fishing the Smith River

Chasing Winter Steelhead on the Smith River (continued)


There is no doubt that the wild fish are better fighters than the hatchery fish, and they seem to behave slightly different as well, more readily going aerial in attempt to shake hooks. We released all our fish and encourage anglers to definitely let the wild fish go, they are easily identified with an intact adipose fin. The Smith is one of the rare rivers where taking a wild fish is legal but this may be changing shortly depending on regulations. It is important to check your local regulations before coming to the Smith as well as bringing your Steelhead Report card, trust me the fish police were out in full force when we visited. 


Gary rows back up for another pass


Be Prepared: Even though we were fishing out of a Drift Boat on this trip I highly recommend wearing waders even when planning on fishing from a boat. It not only makes it easier to get in and out of the boat but enables you to pull over and wade fish in the best spots, places that are normally hard to reach from shore. It is also important to layer up and bring a quality waterproof jacket.


Gary makes a bait check, he prepares his own bait to ensure the right amount of tackiness and proper presentation. Actual roe is not a must but Gary believes it does get fish to hold on that extra second longer giving anglers a better chance to drive that hook in


Even though I hate fishing with a hood on as it dulls your senses it is a necessary evil on the Smith. The weather can turn quickly and on this trip the weather changed from blue skies to absolute pouring rain a number of times. It pays to be prepared and the rain isn’t a big deal as long as you have the right gear. The rain doesn’t seem to affect the fishing as long as the water flows and height doesn’t change too rapidly. In fact some of the best Steelhead fishing here can occur in the worst of conditions.


Shore anglers on Smith can catch quality fish but we highly recommend drift boat fishing to maximize hitting the best spots


What it costs: We have fished with a number of guides and Gary is among the best I’ve personally ever fished with. His knowledge of the river is second to none but what sets him apart is his sheer dedication. He wants to put anglers on the fish and that really shows when you put him behind the oars of a drift boat. He must have burned thousands of calories humping it over fast moving water to get us on the best drifts time and time again. When we first met Gary a few years ago he was just our guide and we enjoy fishing with him so much now that we call him friend.


At times the Smith can look and feel like something straight out of a movie


A full day trip includes transportation from the meeting place to the river and back.  Gary utilizes shuttle services whenever possible so you're not inconvenienced before the trip or after.  He provides top of the line gear and tackle from GLoomis, Rogue, Gamakatsu and others as well as terminal gear and bait.  If you decide to keep your fish he will clean and bag your fish for you. 


Time to pull out and head home


A full day drift boat rate is $200 per person with a 2 person minimum.  Gary is able to accommodate large parties with advance notice by utilizing the network of guides. Gary asks that anglers provide a 50% deposit at the time you book your trip to guarantee the trip date.  Deposits will be refunded if trip is canceled 4 weeks in advance of trip and he will refund deposits or reschedule trips due to weather or un-fishable conditions.


The Smith river ranks high up on my list of picturesque and fun to fish rivers and lives up to expectations as a world class Steelhead fishery during the winter


Conclusion: Even though I consider myself a bass angler first and foremost it is easy to see why so many anglers are enamored with Steelhead fishing, and the Smith provides a picture perfect backdrop for an epic fishing adventure. Steelhead are pound for pound easily some of the hardest fighting fish available to anglers on the West Coast and it is worth a trip to Smith just to experience just how well these burly fish can get drags to sing. It doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced steelheader or just a beginner looking to get a taste of the what fishing for Steel on the Smith is all about, Gary Hix will do everything from putting you on the fish to baiting your hook. If you’re a more experienced angler Gary gives you the room to try out your preferred techniques and will never quit trying to give you every opportunity to drift your roe or toss your fly in front of a trophy fish. After this trip I have to add yet another river to my favorite destinations, and definitely plan to be back both for next year’s salmon run as well as to pursue additional hard fighting Winter run Steelies.

Looking for a guide for the Klamath or the Smith River?
Contact Gary Hix (707) 954-1004, or via email and tell him you want the TackleTour treatment.










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