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River Outlook: Nov. 19, 2009

ROGUE - The upper Rogue is a bit slow for summer steelhead now that the chinook spawn is over and the steelhead are less apt to be so myopically interested in single salmon eggs. The middle Rogue continues to be a good place primarily for catch-and-release fishing for wild summer steelhead, and the lower Rogue bay has slowed for a mix of a few late coho and chinook as coastal anglers this week scrambled elsewhere for fresh chinook.

That means the upper Rogue now cedes its best-bet moniker to the middle Rogue, where steelhead fishing has steadied and is good for bait, plugs and flies. The best areas to fish steelhead are riffles near the mouths of tributary creeks. Steelhead are starting to stage off these creeks waiting to shoot upstream for spawning. Some nice hatchery steelhead were caught this week in the Galice and Merlin areas as the fish that have held court in the lower Rogue Canyon much of the fall move upstream.

In the upper Rogue upstream of the Shady Cove boat ramp, anglers are side-drifting small pieces of roe or egg flies and doing fairly well for summer steelhead in tail-outs and around boulders. Bait returned to this set of water Nov. 1, and some steelhead remain keyed in on single salmon eggs floating down from the gravel shallows.

Plug fishing will work for some of the bigger summer steelhead when the sun's on the water. Downstream of the Shady Cove ramp, anglers are relegated to artificial flies, lures and plastic baits but no regular baits like roe or worms. Single-egg patterns side-drifted from boats remain very effective all day along this stretch.

As of Nov. 1, 5,446 summer steelhead and 550 coho salmon had been counted at Gold Ray Dam. Flows out of Lost Creek Lake have held steady at 1,090 cubic feet per second all week. The reach remains low, largely because of low tributary flows.

Chinook fishing is hit-or-miss in the Agness area, with catches fair, but most of the fish are big and dark. Many of these dark chinook will shoot up the Illinois once flows rise there. Catch these fish now in the Rogue by side-drifting roe. The Quosatana area remains best.

Halfpounder fishing remains good and fly-fishing for them around Agness is very good thanks to low water, but look for fly-fishing success to wane if the river rises over 3,000 cfs at Agness. The lower Rogue Canyon remains decent for a mix of adult steelhead and halfpounders, with angling no longer restricted to artificial flies and lures. Worms or roe side-drifted from boats or crayfish plugs work well, while flows remain low enough for good catching on streamer flies.

All wild steelhead must be released unharmed riverwide. The far upper Rogue and its tributaries upstream of Lost Creek Lake are closed.

UMPQUA - Chinook and coho are on the move in the mainstem, and remnants of both can be found all the way to the forks. Fish the coho with red spinners and chinook with roe and sandshrimp combinations either back-bounced or fished beneath a bobber in slack water. The majority of catches are wild coho that must be released unharmed. Summer steelhead fishing is fair to slow in the flies-only waters of the North Umpqua, where cold water has kept the fish down. Chinook fishing is closed in the Rock Creek area.

CHETCO - Fishing opens today upstream of the Highway 101 bridge. Catches today should be only fair as anglers try to intercept fall chinook migrating upstream on a rising river. These chinook are tough to catch as the river rises, and forecasts are for the flows to get too high for angling Friday. When the water starts to drop Monday, look to intercept these chinook on plugs fished on the inside of turns and close to shore. The limit remains two chinook a day, but only one wild per day and two wild per season.

ELK - Chinook have distributed throughout the river, and fishing was excellent earlier this week, but persistent rains likely will raise and dirty the river to unfishable levels. When the water starts to drop, look to catch plenty of chinook on plugs. The run is dominated by 15-pound hatchery fish so far. The bag limit is two chinook a day, but only one can be wild. The wild limit is five per year.

SIXES - Fishing for chinook has been fair to good on occasion, but persistent rains likely will leave the river out of shape for fishing much of this weekend. Look for good catches of wild chinook, and a few hatchery fish, throughout the river. Kwikfish will out-produce roe until flows stabilize.

Fly-fishing will be slow until water levels drop. The limit is one wild chinook a day.