Jan 7, 2013

Clackamas River - Steelheading Portland's East Side

Swinging the day away - Clackamas River, Oregon

Little more than 20 minutes east of downtown, The Clackamas River is considered to be one of Oregon’s finest "diamonds in the rough" among Portland steelheaders.  Although her lower reach is indicative of a metro area river and her aesthetics tend to resemble this fact depending on how far upstream you are, there is little doubt that she runs bold and beautiful when you regard her from the right perspective.  In fact, from her convergence with the Willamette River in Oregon City, up to the town of Estacada, anglers can take advantage of a wide array of spectacular fly water and even catch glimpse of a towering Mt Hood while scanning the upriver horizon.   You might see some homes with their manicured lawns, a few spray painted bridges and rocks, but more times than not, if you just turn your head, you might see the river running as it once did, tumbling freely through an overhanging patchwork of willow and alder.

Being so close to town, it is surprising that there aren’t more people on the Clackamas on any given day.  That said however, you will not be alone.  December through May brings the highest number of anglers to the Clack.  Drift boats, rafts and jet boats all vie for position out there by taking advantage of a number of boat ramps from McCiver Park at the upper end, down to Carver, closer to the confluence.  Numbers for winter steelhead start picking up in December and last through the beginning of April.  April and May can be a great time to get out there as temperatures warm and summer steelhead start showing up.  These summer fish are all Hatchery Fish and a great source for controversy however, because they are not native to the Clackamas basin and furthermore, their existence jeopardizes the prosperity of wild, winter steelhead.  You can learn more about the river and the detriments of hatchery fish by reading an Article by Clackamas River Guide, Jeff Hickman that he wrote for the Native Fish Society’s Quarterly Newsletter, Strong Runs.

Although fish can be found in the Clackamas year round, summer usually brings low water and a “rubber hatch” in the form of recreationalists bobbing down the river in inflatable tires and such, which tends to strip away the magic for most steelheaders. 

Bank anglers can find access to the river at a number of sites including, Mciver Park, Bonnie Lure State Rec Site and Barton Park.  Perhaps the best way to experience the river however is by boat, which lends anglers far greater opportunities.  Even more so, enjoying the river with the help of an experienced fishing guide is gold.  Tom Larimer of Larimer Outfitters and Jeff Hickman of Fish the Swing are both extremely talented fly guides here specializing in spey fishing for steelhead.  They put you where you need to be and perhaps more than anything, they hone those skills necessary for future success.

Have a good time,
Duffy & The Gorge Fly Shop

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