Having hosted three long-time friends and anglers on the river this past week, I thought I would have them relate the fishing conditions that we observed thus freeing me from writing the report myself. Due to the turmoil in Salem this past week, Mr. Atkinson was excused from this homework assignment, but made it in under the wire this morning for full credit, Mr Drew and Mr.Tritscher were less procrastic and offer here their timely submitted report. We shall start with Mr. Tritscher's account of the past week. The Editor
“Winter Steelhead?"After 4 days of serious sleep deprivation and extensive casting exercises on 3 different rivers I came to the conclusion that there is no such thing as “Winter Steelhead” in Oregon.
They just are a myth - a fictional creature like Big Foot or Sasquatch in the PNW, the Yeti in the Himalaya or the Wolpertinger in Bavaria. Actually, I came to believe that “Winter Steelhead” is just a scam - one big conspiracy by fishing guides and some fly shop owners who want to keep the myth alive in order to extend their season to the winter month. Sure, 15 minutes into our first day I saw what MIGHT have been a wild “Winter Steelhead”: Joel landed a fish that actually looked like a steelhead and we even got some pictures of it, but as we are talking about conspiracy here, I now think it just was a big hatchery rainbow which the guide has brought in a live-well and stuck to Joel’s hook when I was not watching - again fly shop owner and guide working together to keep the myth alive... You see - it all fits together.
Real(?) Fishing Report
Last Friday Joel and I floated the Sandy with Brian Silvey. Water was very clear with level ~10.5’. As hinted above, Joel got a nice fish of maybe 9-pound first thing in the morning - and yes, I actually did see him hook it. The weather was very nice - bright sunny and unusually warm - it felt more like May than mid-February. We didn’t have any more takes all day long, but nevertheless it was a very pleasant day on a very beautiful river with a good friend and a very nice and competent guide. We also saw some bald eagles and the first butterfly of the year and finally there were Kellie’s delicious cookies!
No fishing on Saturday as I joined Joel in the shop. Lots of fish talk with his customers and friends though and also a very fascinating presentation from Jay Nicholas about off-shore fly fishing in Oregon.
On Sunday we left Woodsprite Lodge at 4am to drive to Tillamook. I cannot believe how hard it was to get a coffee early in the morning it took us 4 attempts at different McDonalds to finally get me a coffee and that was not good at all (why can’t Starbuck’s open earlier???). We met Gil Muhleman at 6am on the Trask River. The water looked perfect, a light steelhead green, but plenty of visibility. Well, apparently many fellow fishermen also thought these were ideal conditions and despite the inhumanly early time there was quite some traffic. A lineup at the boat launch and boat after boat coming down the same drift Gil had chosen. Some of the operators also lacked basic etiquette as I literally had boats rowing over my line. We saw a few bright steelhead caught by gear fishermen, and watched a family of river otters, but found no fish interested in our flies. As the traffic got worse, Gil decided to end the drift early and do another drift higher up in the system. Here we had more room to ourselves and Gil put us on some we very fishy looking water. Joel got one very nice sea-run cutthroat and I had one good, heavy grab, but the fish would not come back on subsequent casts. The weather again was very nice and unusually warm. It also looks as if spring has already started on the coast - we saw rhododendrons and other flowers in full blossom. Again, Kellie’s cookies were one of the highlights of the day.
On Tuesday we fished for half a day with Rob Crandall on the Clackamas. Rob took us to some very good looking spots with his jet boat. We fished classic steelhead runs and some little pockets and on every cast I expected us to have a grab, but the steelhead simply didn’t want to cooperate. Again the weather was really warm and sunny - not really what you would expect in Oregon in February. Oh before I forget - did I mention that Kellie makes very good cookies? Rob’s cinnamon rolls were delicious too!
So I fished for four days on some of the most beautiful rivers I have seen (amazing that you can find these within less than 2 hours from downtown Portland) and although I did not catch any of these mythical “Winter Steelhead”, I had a wonderful time with good friends, excellent guides and nice weather (probably a bit too nice for catching steelhead)!
The following are excerpts from Joel’s birthday float:
Marty: “Hey, want coffee and a cookie while Stefan fishes this bucket?”
JAA: “Ya….these taste familiar”
Marty: “Kellie made um.”
JAA: “Does Stefan know about these?”
JAA: “Then I’ll have two more and carry the rest in my waders.”
Brian: “See that sturgeon?”
JAA: “Give you a dollar if you jump in after it.”
Marty: “What are you fish'n”
JAA: “This orange Silvenator”
Marty: “that won't work.”
Joel: “ I want a team photo”
Everyone: “Smile or Simms guide cool”
Joel: “guide cool”
Then Joel smiles in his own picture.
The only thing that wasn’t heard was because of what wasn’t seen.
Oregon's North Coast Rivers are becoming low and clear. This past week has been magical with fantastic weather and lots of fish around. Boat pressure on the common drifts were as crowded as I have ever seen them though fish were found by nearly all. I preach knowing when and where to be in these rivers and now is the time folks. Great tides are still bringing sea lice fish daily regardless of the low water. The good news for us fly anglers is that many of these fish have moved rapidly into the upper reaches and away from the crowds. Yesterday we found excellent fishing and solitude up near Jones Creek on the Wilson. These fish were predominately chrome bright with just a couple fish showing color. On sunny days (unusually common this year) look for shaded runs. In low water most fish are found at the head of runs with appropriate flow or in longer runs with plenty of large rock structure. Good luck out there!!! Gil Muhleman, Water Time Outfitters