Steelhead Camp

Pull your waders off and prop your feet up by the fire. Steelhead Camp is a collection of adventures from across the Pacific Northwest and Canada. Steelhead anglers are a special kind of crazy, but you already knew that.

State of Jefferson Road Trip

Joel La Follette - Wednesday, February 04, 2015
I've asked my good friend, Jason Atkinson, to write a guest post for the Steelhead Camp blog this week after our visit to a river that is near and dear to his heart. I have refrained from expounding on the fishery in an attempt to secure an invite back to this little slice of Steelhead heaven and leave the telling of the adventure to him. If it seems generalized and cryptic it is for a reason known only to Steelhead anglers. 

You can tell a lot about the character of a person by how they describe the weather. If it needs to be sunny and warm they fall into one camp. If the threat of rain causes concern or a frost warning changes travel plans, then another. If winter weather causes you to pick up your smart phone every 30 minutes to check the river level and you own more GoreTex than neckties, you my friend are probably a Steelheader. 

It’s a small family, we who like bad weather and the thousand casts between stone cold Steelhead who don’t want to move to a perfectly presented wad of feather offerings, but then again most cousins all stem from the same DNA.

This time of year, the wiles of Northern California’s classic Steelhead waters call for the strong willed and cold blooded Spey chuckers who can’t think of anything they’d rather do. I’ve had the sickness a very long time, and last weekend I enjoyed spreading the germs to Joel.

For mid-winter between rains, we did well. Fish down there are shorter and more shouldery than their North Umpqua and Deschutes cousins that make for electric experiences. Certainly, Joel connected with nearly every sliver of silver and red that graced the runs as you might expect. However, unlike so many other tales ours also involved lunch at a yacht club, landing the largest fish at dusk with a mile of river and a class three rapid yet to float, and the hindsight knowledge that seven spey rods, 50 mph, and magnets don’t really do well in the same committee.

All aside, its winter and time to download and study your river levels. There is no better way to catch winter Steelhead than to know your home water- or call a cousin.

Jason A. Atkinson served 14 years in the Oregon Legislature and has just produced the national documentary “A River Between Us” and the book Inside Out (available at Royal Treatment). He is a Rodel Fellow with the Aspen Institute, a commentator and speaker on a wide range of issues. For more: and

The North Umpqua

Joel La Follette - Monday, August 14, 2006

The North Umpqua has always been one of the truly great rivers to cast a fly for steelhead. Some of the earliest pioneers of the sport found their way to this hallowed ground and left their legends etched in the very bedrock the river flows through. The names they placed on the pools and riffles have been passed down over the years and still inspire hope and faith in modern anglers. Fishing the Camp Water at Steamboat is like fishing in church.

One can stand in the cool waters and gaze up at a towering pallet of lichen, moss, stone and trees more inspirational than the grandest stained glass window. Fog, clouds, rain and snow add to the artist’s brush strokes. Occasionally a deer grazes across the rocky face. This is a living work of art that changes with the movement of the sun and the changing of the seasons. No two moments are ever alike, each is special, and each is different.

Miracles abound here and they too change with the seasons. Life blossoms and is born from the gravel washed for centuries by cool waters. Born travelers return hundreds of miles from far away seas to pass on their history, their purpose. Some live on and again make the journey. Others die and become part of the river. Some life travels only a few feet to break the surface tension and spread their wings. Their dance a testament to the purity of this place. Their birth a sign of the season.

Anglers, poets and dreamers also travel great distances to visit this place. Seeking inspiration and things that simple words can not express. It is not just for the challenge of the quarry that brings the angler, although that does call to us. It’s for the refreshing of our hearts and rebirth of our souls. This simple stream can rinse away the burdens we carry to its shores and leave us free to dream of the deeds we will do, the words we will write and the love we will share. It is a place of peace, hope, faith and inspiration.

As I wade the same water as great anglers have; I feel connected to them and the history they made. I feel part of that history and part of the river. One day perhaps anglers will look at this place in time and see a future that was made possible by the work of those who cherished the past and remembered it. For if we had never known of its greatness would we have held it so high as to make it a cause? Would it have just passed into memory? I know the river will always remain, but what of those things that make it special?

My hope is they too will remain. My faith in my fellow anglers’ efforts to protect and preserve this extraordinary place is an inspiration. Hopefully the river and the ghosts of her past will find continued peace. Peace in the cool green forest.

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21570 Willamette Drive West Linn, OR 97068

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