Oct 23, 2014

EXPLORATION - Secret River

Secret Oregon River
The ______ River
5:00 am always comes as a surprise. No matter how often that alarm goes off early, I still always believe that I must have inadvertently set it too early. This time, the whiskey from the night before was pulling me back to sleep, but we were on a mission. Coffee, sausage, eggs, quickly. Then more coffee, wet waders, and into the truck.

The ______ River had been on our minds for quite some time. From the research we had done, it looked like everything we could want in a winter steelhead stream. The river had no drive-in access, almost no private lands, and most importantly; no reports in any of the books or web forums. There was (still is) a highway that crosses it down along the beach, and it seemed like a difficult task to walk up for several miles through the marshy tidewater to get to the thickly forested, emerald green pools that (hopefully) were waiting for us upstream. We would need to get really creative.

secret road to fly fishing river
Shhh don't tell anyone...
We had spent several hours the night before scouring maps and scrolling through Google Earth until our heads hurt. We had found what looked like old logging road that led to a retention pond that drained a mile or so into the river, or at least some scattered lines through the forest that resembled an old logging road on Google Earth. Based on previous experiences, those “roads” may or may not actually be there any longer. We saw no evidence that there were any gates on that road, but we had run into too many unexpected gates while exploring to be sure. That was all we needed for an exploratory trip.

Shaking off our hangovers, the hour drive to the coast gave us time to get our heads right. Now trying to read a printed-off page from Google Maps is not that hard, unless what looked like one logging road through a thick forest is actually an extended network of logging roads due to a fresh clear cut. This was going to be more difficult than we thought. We could see where the drainage was. It was just down that hillside maybe two miles away. We just couldn’t figure out which of these “roads” (mud pits) was going to get us there.

It took more than an hour of driving around these logging roads (once all the way back to the highway) to find the right place to park. We had driven past the right spur road several times already, debating its authenticity. We were basically as close as we could get to the river. A bit of a hike got us sweating, and then a tough, long scramble down to the river dropped us right on an amazing looking little pool.

Slow down, no need to rush here. We took a few minutes to string up, and most importantly, sit down and listen to the river. It’s calming and reminds us to take our time. My partner steps up first and rolls a nice cast right into the meat of the current. Fish on! It’s a nice coastal cutthroat, which wasn’t what we were hunting for, but it’s a good start. A couple more cutties came out of that run, but no chrome steelhead. We decided to head downstream, which turned out to be a bad idea because we quickly ran into that swampy tidewater marsh that we had been so careful to miss on the way up. It was high-tide (well planned) and we did see some steelhead cruise up a deep unfishable trough.

We kept on trucking downstream for some reason. We had seen that a little tributary met up with the main stream down here somewhere and maybe there were fish stacking up at the confluence.

Mud and muck and knee deep misery eventually forced us to turn around. We never saw any confluence, but our progress had slowed down to a muddy crawl. If bigfoot is real, he must live down there because no one is ever going to be able to find him there. That mistake cost us a couple of hours of precious winter daylight, but we would never wonder again what is downstream…

So four or five hours after our journey started, we had made just a couple of casts and really hadn’t found a whole lot of great action. Just chalk it up to learning. Heading upstream through some seriously thick underbrush, we finally found a nice little corner run. There was a log down across the front of the pool. It lay at an angle so that the deepest part of the run, right where the river turns, was cutoff. We either had to get a fly under or over the log, but there must be some chrome in the corner pocket.

Ryan drifts one under the log and lets it dangle… Bam! Fish on! A huge, chrome bright, fresh-out-of-the-salt 17# winter steelhead gave up an impressive fight, jumping and running through that small pool before popping off and slinking back into the depths of the river. All of a sudden, the day takes an amazing turn for the better.

secret river fish
 Bam! Fish on!
We let it rest for a good twenty minutes. This is very difficult to do. One must find something to preoccupy their time while resting a hole. Re-tie a leader, sing a song, or organize a fly box…

A sufficient amount of time passes, and then I step up to drift a few under the log with no success. I can see what we are going to have to do here; I have to throw one across to the other side of the log and let it drift all the way back to the corner. This was not a task which I foresaw much success, but one cast over the log, a slow drift, then FISH ON! A second huge, chrome bright, fresh-out-of-the-salt 17# winter steelhead is on but we have a problem; he is on the other side of a log that I cannot get around. We dance this little dance for a minute, but this is certainly a problem with limited options for a solution.

I knew he was going to jump eventually, so I got ready and when he came airborne, I pulled on him as hard as I could. Somehow miraculously, by sheer will alone, I got him to land atop the log, pulling him about five feet through the air in less than a second. I pulled my line to its max, and just as he was about to slide into the water on my side of log, he kicked hard and fell back onto the wrong side…. Needless to say, I quickly popped him off.

The End to something Victorious
The day was over. We had been defeated, yet still felt victorious. We did not land a single steelhead, yet this was one of the most successful days of fishing that I have ever had. The drive home was amazingly quiet and serene. We stopped and took some pictures of the sunset on the beach, then headed back to the house. We poured some cheap whiskey and then pulled out the map to look for our next place to explore.

Andrew Perrault
Gorge Fly Shop

"Fly Fish the World with Us"

1 comment :

  1. An hour to get your heads right and twenty minutes to re-tie a leader? Bonezone


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