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June 7, 2011 / flogginwater

A Grand Gathering – Oregon’s Best Fly Fishers

So last weekend was the Oregon Fishing Forum Fly Fisher’s get together. This august gathering of Oregon’s best fly fishers (prove they’re not!) on one of Oregon’s most beautiful, best fishing rivers (prove it’s not!) took months (okay, a couple months of idle banter) to plan and bring together such a grand group.

There was Aaron (Eggs), Jim (OnTheFly), Rose (lilsalmon), Dave (Bigsteel), Drew, (Drew9870), Buddy (mrlindeman), Gene (GDBrown), Jim’s son Cody, Karen (Buddy’s GF), my nephew Tyler (from Tyler Tucker Outdoor Experience fame, and youngfishtyler on the forum), my wife Kay (the defacto photographer for me), and myself. We descended upon Shady Cove on the Little North Fork of the Santiam River – a federally owned campground.

The river was high, crystal clear, and cold as hell. To say the fish were lethargic would be over optimistic.

We (my wife, Tyler, and I) arrived a bit later than we wanted – getting there about 4:30, an hour and a half after I’d originally hoped, on Friday. The others were already there, and had already fished some – fished, but not caught.

We made camp in what’s probably record time for us (less than an hour) – so Tyler and I suited up and headed up river to fish. Did I mention the water was crystal clear? So clear that unless the pool was 20′ deep, the water didn’t even turn green. This presented an interesting hazard to wading – as it wasn’t always apparent when the bottom dropped off. Me being six-four, this wasn’t as bad a problem as it was for Tyler, who is maybe five-six on a tall day. He was taking water over his waders when I was just freezing my balls into my chest cavity.

Tyler discovered a deeper slot in an attempt to ford the stream to cast to the far bank on one nice stretch downstream of some truly deep water (the water so green you could hardly see bottom, and so deep and long you could stack a pair of semis pulling doubles on top of one another, and the tops of the trailer would be wet). I was tossing a double nymph rig when Ty hollered “I’m stuck!” – the current was too powerful for him to turn around and come back, and he’d waded a deep section and took a bit of water over the top of his waders. I waded around the hole and we buddy-waded back to the shallower water on the other side of the stream.

Buddy wading was the name of the game, with the current ripping the way it was. I’m almost 300 lbs, and it was picking me up, both feet at a time, in some places. I had a few close calls solo wading, and Ty is thankful he made it back alive.

Ty, not wanting to drown, wanted to climb the bank and try to hike our way to the road. Now, I must mention that Ty is a poor 18 year old who just graduated, and has not yet found a job. He wades in plain old hiking boots. Sucks for stream traction, but he’s like a mountain goat on dry land. I, on the other hand, have been wading with the same pair of Cabela’s all leather wading boots, felt soled of course, for a decade (though I finally killed them on this trip. All of the foam soles have finally finished coming apart, and there’s just no fixing them now.) So I follow the jungle boy up the hill side, only coming close to dying half a dozen times getting to the top of the first hill. There was no trail up there, so we blazed one.

We soon found ourselves way higher than we wanted to be from the river, so we headed back down hill – on an almost sheer slope that was covered in moss and rotted trees. Crashing down the brush, I was afraid of busting my rod tips, but made it closer to the river’s level in one piece. Then we found ourselves on the banks of Opal Creek, which dumps into the LNF. We fished the pool ahead of us for a short time, then forded the creek and hiked up the hill to the road, and back to camp.

I made dinner (hot dogs),

Then we headed over to the other OFFer’s camp for the camp fire. Jokes were told, stories were told, and it was great meeting many of these people in person. Drew even took all the ribbing about carp fishing in stride – and turns out that Drew really has a beautiful roll cast. Brandon made a claim he will come to regret, I’m sure – he stated that he would eat a whole carp in return for a new 3 weight flyrod. If I win the Power Ball jackpot, I’m showing up on his door step with a new Sage 3 weight, and a 50lb mirror carp fresh from the river. I’ll be nice and not make him eat the head đŸ˜‰

The next morning, we had planned to hit one of the high lakes up the road from the camp. Gene had forgotten his waders, and didn’t bring his drift boat – so he was bank bound, and couldn’t really fish the river we were camped on without one or the other. Gene wanted to head up to the lake with us, which would’ve been cool. The others had gotten up earlier (Kay & I forgot our air mattress, and sleeping on rocks and roots did not make for easy sleep) and had already fished the river, with no success. (Okay, Aaron did catch a single 5″ trout on his 3 weight.) I proved, while waiting for the others to get ready to join us (they wanted to try the lake too, since it couldn’t be worse than the river), that it was indeed too cold to wet wade comfortably. I lasted about 5 minutes before I could no longer feel my feet. At all. Made for a crappy hike back up to the car!

The lake we were headed to is about 13 miles up a gravel road, which climbs pretty high up toward the spine of the mountains. The first 10 or 11 miles was clear and dry, with warm weather. It never occurred to us that it would still be snow bound anywhere up there. We didn’t see a lot of snow on the peaks. And there wasn’t. But there was snow on one shaded, sheltered bend in the road. And in the middle of that damn snow field? An 18″ diameter tree partially buried in the snow. I didn’t have a chain saw, or snow chains. We were boned.

Turning around and heading back, we met the other two vehicles packed with OFFers. We all decided to try the river again. Really, what else was there to do, other than driving to Detroit and trying that lake, or hitting the mainstem Santiam, or driving up to the Breitenbush River. (Gene did that, the others stayed on the LNF.)

We ran into some of the OFFers when we tried going to fish one particular pool that they’d headed to after getting denied access to the little lake. Too many splash & gigglers and plastic hatches going on, so they were fishless. We all headed back to the camp water.

Ty and I wound up going off by ourselves again, while the rest of the group headed elsewhere. Ty and I fished the stretch of river between our camp and the bridge.

I even broke down and tried my spinning rod, with a micro jig and a bobber. Nada. Switched back to my fly rod and fished a Prince nymph, with a soft hackle wet dropper, under an indicator. That was the ticket – the Prince nymph – that is. I managed to beat the skunk off with that rig, dredging three successively larger trout up out of the seams in pocket water. First fish was a 4 incher, the second was alittle more than 6, and the largest, and last fish of the trip for me was an 8 incher. Sadly, no pix of the fish. I forgot to charge Kay’s camera, so I gave her mine to use for the trip.

About half way between camp and the bridge, we encountered a plastic hatch. Dozens of brightly colored plastic boats, with funny looking occupants came zipping down the current, not expecting to run into wading fly fisherman.

Some ran over the pool I was fishing, others, more daring, ran the chute behind me, between myself and Tyler (who was staying closer to the bank).

Wankers. Yeahyeahyeah, share the water, multi-use and all that crap. It still doesn’t make one happy to deal with these lower forms of water recreation enthusiasts. If they REALLY wanted to have fun, they’d ditch the silly little boats and pick up a fishing rod, right?

Once we reached the bridge pool, we hiked up and back to camp. Kay & I wanted to revisit a water fall we visited on our honeymoon. Ty and I wanted to try fishing Opal also, so we loaded into the Jeep and headed up the road.

The falls were still there, and still really pretty. Ty and I probed the pool to see if there were fish there. Our conclusion? Nope.

But we got some good pix.

Across the road, where the pool plunges down into Opal Creek, there’s a trail onto a point out over the creek. On the trail there – we found a weird ass shrine, apparently to a dead cat. Who knows.

We drove up the stream, all the good spots had campers already there, so we couldn’t fish. Back down to the camp water. Ty and I headed upstream, Kay stayed in camp. Ty was starting to have a rough afternoon – tangled lines, wind knots, snagged flies – it was like something out of one of Cofisher’s posts!

A small hatch came off, and only a couple fish rose, but none would take a dry fly. For that matter, none would take a nymph dropper either. The current was ripping so fast, that 3 bead head flies, with split shot on the leader ahead of them, couldn’t get down to the bottom in 3 feet of water. I guess I should’ve brought a few 1oz canon ball weights.

Ty got frustrated and headed back to camp. I fished a bit more upstream, before saying “Sod it” and headed back to the camp water. Still no fish. Ran into other fishers, who all had the same story. No fish.

Soon it was dinner time again, this time I made pork necks, fried green beans, onions, and carrots. Then off to the camp fire. Jim and his son had to leave earlier, and Gene had packed up and headed off to Detroit. Dave, Rose, Brandon, Drew, Aaron, and us sat around until 2:30 bullshitting and telling jokes – it was good.

Another sleepless night, we broke camp after breakfast, and Ty and I crammed a couple more hours of fishing in. The water was still cold. There were still no meaningful bug hatches getting the fish up and about, and we didn’t catch a damn thing. But it sure was fun!

Plans for another camping trip are already simmering, and there’s talk of another OFF Fly Fishers trip, maybe when the weather warms, the high lakes are open, and the fish are active.

Gorgeous weather, gorgeous water, good peeps, and some nice, little trout (even if they were caught by the dirty indicator nymphing technique and not the proper dry & dropper! hehe!)



  1. John Montana / Jun 7 2011 20:58

    Pretty water up there…

  2. Mark / Jun 17 2011 00:09

    Yep! It's usually a trout haven up there, that high, fast water just made for miserable fishing.

    If you ever need a break from that killer, kickass carp fishing, it's a neat place to relax and recharge with some tiny trouts

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