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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Summer Days

As summer has progressed slowly into fall, I've been reflecting on some great times on the water.

In early August, I had a wonderful few days on the water with my good friend Keith Tymchuck.  Keith and his wife Jennifer and daughters Blair and Bailey spent several days camping along the North Umpqua.  Keith kindly saved a campspot for me and Wendi joined for a couple days as well.  I met up with Keith for the evening session on the day of my arrival and we fished each morning and evening for the next three days.

Keith reported that our friend Craig Coover went over and joined him the day before I arrived for an overnight stay.  Apparently Craig raised a steelhead at dark at one of our favorite runs.

Keith and I fished pools between the lower fly water on up to the Camp Water each day and got blanked for the first couple days.  On day three, we hit some new water that I was able to show Keith.  On one of these runs, sun was on the water so I put one of Mike Papais's wets on, the sunny rat.  About mid way down the run, I had a good pull, could not get it to come back.  Keith fished over the spot, still nothing.

On our last evening session, we started at a run new to us.  Keith showed me this spot and we really like it.  A good stretch with two nice runs.  I started at the shorter top run, fished through then got into the second run and fished short casts on the near side of the chop.  As I started getting into the heart of the run,  a steelhead came up with a quick gulp and fish on.  This is a tough spot for landing fish with no gravel bar or sloping bank.  I got a good  scrap from this little hen, probably in the 4-5lb range.  I had her up to shore and was about to grab her tail and she was off, a perfect release.  We fished a few more spots to close out the eve with no further action.

The following day, we debated on whether to start at either of two favorite runs.  We gambled on going for one of them first then doubling back to the other, hoping to get both before they were occupied by other fisherman.  We did get the one run at first light and Keith went through first and I hit the pocket water above before going in behind Keith.  When I got to the first exposed rock, I put my cast right in front of it and the current pulled my skater downstream along the wake along the side of the rock.  A steel form appeared and casually gulped the skater.  The line came tight as the current pulled the belly against the fish.  I kept my rod still, waiting for the fish to turn after feeling the pointy thing it it's mouth......instead, I then felt the tension on the line being released as the fly somehow slid out of the fish's mouth - dang!!

I went back with a smaller skater and a small wet, nada.  Keith came up and fished over the spot, still nothing.  Oh well, it was a great thrill seeing that steelhead come up for the fly, it looked to be in the 9-10lb range.  Funny thing is, I just happened to be at an angle where I was able to see that fish come to to fly, but the actual rise was very subtle.  I wonder how often this happens on fish we don't see??
Keith and I then took off for the other run we were hoping to get - funny story here- we approach the pull off and see another SUV coming from the opposite direction.  Keith puts his left blinker on and pulls in.  Just then the SUV puts it's blinker on and pulls in as well.  Come to find out it's a couple guys I know who are friends of friends.  We ended up just telling them to take the run, but we were a bit disappointed at missing the opportunity to fish the run.  Oh well, no point in competing for water.

Keith and I then ended up closing out the morning's session at another run that is new to us.  Glad we did.  I had fished this water in full sunlight in the past, but it's a whole different deal with shadows on the water.  What a beautiful dry fly run!!  Starts off as a gentle riffle, then comes into nice bedrock structure in the lower end.  The flow is gentle enough that it is pretty much a self mender and my skater was easily visible most of the time.  I could see a shark attack coming at any moment.  Alas, no such thing happened, but Keith and I were thrilled that we discovered this beautiful piece of water that will be more fully explored on future trips.  This run reminds me of some runs on BC rivers.

All in all, a wonderful trip and Keith was kind enough to chauffer me around the whole time, plus he kindly held my campsite for me.  Wendi come over friday night so we got to visit with Keith and his wife Jennifer and daughters Bailey and Blair.  Our friend Mark Stangeland and his family came over to visit one of the days as well.  Mark said he's had a good season so far, hooked/landed a good number of  steelhead so far, lost a few more, and getting his clients into fish regularly as well.

 (An evening on the Willamette with Tony Torrence)

The surface bite on the Willamette had slowed down in August for some reason, hope that changes soon.  However, I took my son in law Shaun on a float on a sunday in late August and he hooked two steelhead on wets on a dryline.  One was on a #2 Yogi (Keith's fly) and the other was on a #2 peacock bodied green butt skunk given to me by a guy Stephan from Germany that I met in BC in 1999.  The one steelhead was brought to hand, then it slipped out of Shaun's hands, swam between his legs and broke off.

The other one got off due to Shaun's new Echo Ion reel jamming.  Shaun had also just bought one of the Cabela's TLR switches for $80, the 11'6" 7wt and broke it in nicely.  I also bought the same rod the week prior, so now I have two 80 dollar Cabela's rods.

In the latter part of August into September, I continued with trips to the North Umpqua, often on solo ventures.  During one of these trips,  I ended up going over on a  thursday evening.  I fished a favorite run until dark.  Right in the sweet spot, a steelie explodes at my skater and misses.  Same cast, nothing.  Changed to a smaller GB skater, shortened up a few strips and when I worked back out to the same cast  length, the fish explodes at the mini skater and misses again.  Same cast, no comeback.  I changed to one of Mike Papais's flies, the undertaker.  Shortened up and again, at an "8 strip" cast, I feel a good yank at the fly but no hookup.  I was bummed figuring that the fish either felt the hook on the grab or felt the resistance on the other end.  Ah well, I cast again and as the fly came out of the chop, yank,..... fish on.......  At first the fish kind of did some short runs and came right in and when it got in close, it started to get serious about putting up more resistance.  Just as I was starting to think about things like how I was going to beach the fish and imagining a photo of a steelhead with Mike's fly in it's mouth, the hook pulled out.  Turns out the steelhead actually bent the hook on Mike's fly!  I think Mike's fly was so juicy that the steelhead really chomped down hard on it. A bad word may have came out of my mouth, not sure, no one else was around, but I was actually happy that I encountered what I assumed was a steelhead within my first 20 minutes of the trip.

(Mike's Undertaker was so juicy, a steelhead chewed it up and bent the hook)
I grabbed a campspot since Wendi said she might come over friday eve.  It was nice to have a break from sleeping in my car.  I pitched my tent in the dark and cooked a quick gourmet dinner of a pair of brats.

The next day, I fished several favorite runs and discovered a couple new spots.  It seems exploring is sometimes worthwhile and gives a break from fishing the same old places.  Nice day, no fish.

The following morning, I made a quick couple passes through a favorite run before heading back to help at a church event.  No morning steel materialized.   I ended up doing some pruning work the day before during mid day.  I went back down to a favored run, tied my pruning saw to a stick and cut down and pulled down some of those annoying branches that keep catching our lines/rods when we forget to make a low, sidearm cast.  Folks may appreciate my manicuring next time down there.

On the day before leaving for my trip to BC, a morning's fishing proved uneventful, but with the longer shadows with fall approaching, I was still able to find a pool with a bit of shade remaining at noon.  I was daydreaming when I heard a rise as my fly come into the bottom half of it's swing.  Turns out the rise was to my fly!  A little hen was pulling against my vintage glass rod with my Green Butt foam skater in it's mouth.  I landed this little beauty and measured in at about 21".


  1. Great to see you posting again. Thanks for the nice updates and the river pictures.

    1. Thanks Terry, glad that you are going out and congrats on your recent surface steel on the Willamette. Hope many more come your way.

  2. Great update on your latest Oregon steelhead surface exploits, brother! I think I do so much better reading about these grabby steelhead than actually listening to the stories. For example, I know you already told me about your Undertaker fish with Mike's fly, but reading the method that you used to get that player to take just inspires me. It's all in the little juicy details. Keep it up!

    1. Thanks Adrian. Yes, getting those players to come back is becoming more and more fun to me. In the past, I'd make a few casts and if the fish didn't come back, I'd just move on, but anymore I'm like "wait a minute, it takes me long enough just to locate a player so I'm not giving up without putting in a good effort on a fish I have located". Can't wait to get our BC blog entry put together and I'll write about that player I encounterd up there.