Feb 11, 2014

Fly Fishing Chronicles: The Oregon Coast

In Search of Chrome
We are some of the newest members of the Gorge Fly Shop crew and this is just one of the many lessons (I mean Adventures) we have learned while in search of Chrome...

As the story goes..
Since Jeff moved here last fall, I have been telling him about my favorite “secret” winter steelhead river out on the Oregon coast. Our time finally came in early January; we both scored the same two days off during the week and the conditions seemed perfect. Recent rains had brought the river levels up and they were hovering in that “perfect” zone, where the river was dropping between average and low flows, and the water temp was creeping up. All things were lining up in proper order for an epic trip of steelhead opportunities.

My fishing adventures usually start late in the evening with a long drive to a desolate river in the middle of the night. This trip was no different. We got off work in the evening; packed up Jeff’s rig, stopped by the liquor store, and then grabbed some tacos for the road. We drove until somewhere around midnight, and found a spot to set up camp off an old logging road not too far from a nice run that has been a known producer.

After we set up camp and drank some cheap bourbon, we went to bed. I was bolted awake around 4:00 am by the sounds of diesel engines. I was a bit afraid we were about to be run over by some heavy equipment or possibly arrested for trespassing.

No Contest
It turns out that there was a full-on logging operation going within sight of our camp that we hadn't noticed the night before when we were setting up. It also turns out that the logging crew starts the de-limbing machines around 4:00 am, and that they are incredibly loud and totally scary at 4:00 am.

When the first hints of morning light finally came around, we made some bad coffee in the jet-boil and tried to start the camp stove. No bueno… My new camp stove seemed to be frozen solid and non-functional; somehow it was 20 degrees at camp when we were expecting lows in the mid 30s. So no breakfast, but on the river early…

No sign of steel.
We fished hard from sun-up into mid-afternoon with no hook-ups, no bumps, and no sign of steel. Even in a spot that has produced more fish than any other run on any river for me, we struck out. When we went back to camp for some late lunch/breakfast around 3:00 pm, we noticed that our camp site was still frozen solid. Ice covered every inch of our site, even though we were in the open with no trees within 100 feet in any direction; while that the run on the river we were fishing a half mile away was in the 40’s and beautiful. Obviously we found where the “polar vortex” had creeped down into a 400 square foot section of Oregon forest. We quickly ate some protein and fished until dark, this time each getting a solid grab and I landed a couple of cutthroat.

Early to bed, slow to rise.
After polishing off our bottle of bourbon, we slept like babies that night, going to bed by 7:00 pm, and waking even earlier the following day. Again, we fished hard, hard, hard, hitting every spot that we could get to. In two days, Jeff and I each had a solid grab and a handful of cutties, Jeff landed a little jack coho, but there was no steel to be found anywhere.

Although our story is short and the grabs where few and far in between, our story still rings true... 

Photo courtesy of Sam Sickles
Every day of fishing provides an angler with learning opportunities. I learned to be more careful in selecting a camp spot, to never camp in that spot ever again; I learned to check logging schedules (my favorite run on earth was closed off due to logging). I learned that even on a river that I had conquered in years past, that no steelhead is guaranteed, even if conditions are perfect. I also learned not to tell my friends that we are going to slay steelhead; it’s just a recipe for disaster…

Andrew Perrault

"Fly Fish the World with Us"

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