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Adventures on the Oregon Trout Trail with Bruce Buckmaster

Joel La Follette - Thursday, July 14, 2016

ODFW Commissioner Bruce Buckmaster reports from the Trail this week as he recounts his adventures with publishing icon, Frank Amato. 

It is so easy to settle comfortably on a favorite trout stream and forget that you really have some appealing options. For the intrepid angler, Oregon offers an embarrassment of riches. Fellow traveler, Frank Amato was eager to make a trout loop around Southeast Oregon and who could argue against such a plan? 1250 miles and four rivers later eagerness was rewarded with fond memories. Beginning on the Williamson we missed the height of the fabled Hex hatch, but found plenty of large fish willing to take a sealy bugger on the swing. After an easy drive up the bucolic Sprague, we fished for Great Basin Redband Trout on the Chewaucan River. While there was no evidence of either the wild potato that gave the Chewaucan its name or 30 inch Redbands that once grew in downstream marshes, respectable trout are available in the pine forest west of Paisley.

Heading east we crossed the Hart Mountain Antelope Range stopping only for photos of “fast goats” and a leisurely soak in the hot springs. It had been more than thirty years since Frank had fished the Blitzen River and his excitement was infectious as we pulled into Frenchglen. To be honest we had been warned by the Royal Treatment Newsletter that the mosquitos were voracious. Joel had even issued a personal appeal for our safety when we fished with him on the Williamson. Did we listen? Yes. Did it stop us? No. Should it have? Absolutely! Frank suggested that we could rise early, use rain gear and “deet” soaked Buffs to approximate hazmat attire and venture an outing. We made it for five hours of fishing without either significant blood loss or significant trout. My guess is that every fish in the river is stuffed to the gills with the little vampires. I’ll be back to this gem of a river, but not until I’m sure the mosquito season is over.
Being run off the Blitzen was too ignoble an ending for our trip so we headed north and east through the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The infamous Refuge office is still closed but a quick discussion with three USF&W employees convinced us to visit the Malheur River at ODF&W’s Riverside Wildlife Management Area. The river at the WMA is a handful of miles below the Warm Springs Reservoir and is a beautiful tailwater fishery when water levels are ideal.
The formula is simple. 1. Bid farewell to your homewater. 2. Enlist a friend skilled in map-reading, history, and fishing (in no particular order). 3. Head out on the Oregon Trout Trail, and 4. Be awed, amazed, and inspired by all that Oregon has to offer!

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