Crowded Ringold Springs full of sights, just no fish

Too many anglers make an enounter with a coyote the highlight of an excursion on the banks of the Columbia.

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A coyote runs away from the road upstream from Ringold.

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Anglers try their luck from the bank of Ringold Springs.

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Nora takes a break from running the sand.

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An angler on the Columbia river appears to have a fish on.

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An egret fishes near Parking Area 4.

Nora the Schnauzer and I arrived at Ringold Springs at 7:49 a.m.

We arrived too late.

Anglers clogged the bank of the Columbia River about 30 yards apart, or closer, so that we couldn’t squeeze into a spot.

Nora, of course, introduced herself to the nearest man. He smiled a bit grudgingly, and I called her back and fastened her collar to the leash connected to my waist.

Then she found where a fish had been killed and licked at the blood on a rock.

She looked up at me with red whickers.

I led Nora to the spring creek’s hatchery outlet that rushed into the river and washed her face before considering our options.

The popular fishing area, as I understand it, extends to markers about 1/4-mile downstream from the swift-flowing Ringold irrigation wasteway outlet to the markers 1/2-mile upstream of Ringold Springs Creek (hatchery outlet).

And about half-a-mile separates the wasteway outlet and the hatchery outlet.

Well, pickups and other vehicles lined the spaces between the two outlets, and bunched-up near the outlets.

I looked upstream where two or three boats trolled or back-trolled with lures.

One boat drifted by where we stood and two anglers on board tossed spinners toward the shore.

I had Google-searched "Ringold Springs" before venturing to fish there and found a 1980’s article by Fenton Roskelly, who wrote for the Spokane Daily Chronicle.

He once arrived to fish Ringold at 5 a.m. and found the shore lined with at least 50 anglers, and he eventually hiked way upstream of the hatchery outlet to fly fish with a sink-tip line and a red-and-orange fly.

Roskelley mentioned that bank anglers often berated boat anglers who drifted by and tossed lures into their fishing areas.

Well, I didn’t make it at 5 a.m., and I didn’t want to fish with a crowd.

Besides, I couldn’t see anyone else along the line of anglers using a fly rod.

And fishing with Nora on the leash, or leaving her in the car, wouldn’t work for me.

So, back in the car, we putted on up the 8-plus-mile gravel road toward the locked gate where the Hanford powerline crosses the river.

With camera ready, I drove slow and studied the terrain on both sides of the road for deer or coyotes.

At Parking Area 4, I turned off to let Nora stretch her legs.

On the way to the end of the road, we passed a warning sign that always gives me pause: "If you hear a steady 3-minute siren leave this area immediately," it says.

No problem.

I parked and saw a white spot, probably a great white egret, 100 yards or so up on the far side of the water.

I fetched the camera with the big lens and focused on the spot.

It was an egret.

So, with Nora racing ahead I walked along the steep bank to get closer.

The egret worked its way toward us along the far bank. When it came to a tumble weed in its path, it flapped its wings and floated over it.

After I took photos, we continued on the road to the locked gate, parked and walked along the old road.

A boat trolled upstream in the river below using a whirring electric motor.

We didn’t walk fast, but we passed the boat. Once it looked like the man had a fish on, and I watched.

Must have been snagged, because he eventually reeled in his naked lure.

As we walked along, however, very large, dark fish did occasionally break the river surface, often slapping the water with a SMACK.

And three terns repeatedly dived into shallow water near a sandbar after something that I couldn’t see.

After a mile we turned back, drove down the road at Parking Area 7, and I rigged up the fly rod. I tied on a No. 6 green-butt skunk fly pattern, and fished at a rocky point below the graveled boat launch area.

With the low water, a sandy beach stretched for several-hundred yards down stream.

Nora raced around, kicking up sand, while I cast and retrieved dozens of times.

After an hour or so, another car parked nearby, and a fly fisher walked past, heading downstream.

He asked without pausing if I’d had any luck and I said, "Nope!"

He started fishing about 100 yards away. He made short casts and held the rod tip straight up, a technique that suggested that he was dry-fly fishing.

Humm! That hadn’t occurred to me, so I kept an eye on him. I didn’t see him catch anything, though.

I thought I had a strike once and lifted the rod tip hard and tugged.

The fly pulled free, however, and when I reeled it in the barb was broken off.

A cheap hook, I suspected.

Or when I crimped the barb, the hook cracked.

Anyway, a bored Nora finally lay in the sand, and I decided to leave.

On the way downriver well after noon, with Nora snoozing on my lap, I saw a coyote 20 feet off of the road to my left. I braked, grabbed the camera from the passenger seat as Nora jumped to the open window.

Pushing her aside, I snapped off two-dozen shots of the not-so wiley coyote as he sped up the hill.

As he neared the top, I whistled. He skidded to a stop and looked back.

"Nice shot," I said to Nora.

I drove one more time to the wasteway outlet and nobody was there. I checked the time: 1:25 p.m., and it was shirt-sleeve warm.
Well, you never know.

So, I rigged up the fly rod again with a purple peril pattern and started casting.

After another hour, I knew. Skunked again.

I loaded Nora into the car and we headed home.

Contact Don Davis at dondavis@wwub.com or 526-8326.

If you go

Ringold is about 75 miles from Walla Walla. Near Pasco, drive north on Highway 395 from Highway 12. At Eltopia turn left, and drive to Homestead Corners and turn right on Glade North. At about two miles, look for a small Ringold sign and turn left on Eltopia-Ringold Road. It’s about seven miles to one more signed left turn to Ringold.

Ringold Springs is a rearing facility for fish transported from other hatcheries. The fish are raised to be harvested.

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