Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fishing Report: The Grande Ronde

On October 9 my brother John, from Maine, my brother Pete, from San Francisco, and I converged on the Grande Ronde in southeast Washington for a few days of steelhead fishing.

Home base was Tamarack cabin in Fields Spring State Park.

Early planning had us in a tent, but John booked the cabin, for which we are eternally grateful. Turns out an arctic air mass settled into the area just when we did. It was cold.

The cold temperatures broke hundred-year-old records. Most reports had low temps in the high teens, so this little thermometer might not be the most precise of instruments. But then again, who's to say it wasn't really 10 degrees ouside the cabin?

But along with the cold and frost came high, clear skies.

And we had come to fish, so fish we did.

After each day on the water, with feet like half-thawed steaks, we looked forward to a fire in the evening. The park provided plenty of wood and a maul for our use.

Turns out Pete, the city boy, is a pretty mean fire builder.

My kids wanted to know if we had anything to eat way down there in the wilds. Yep. Pete and I had stocked up on a few basics at a grocery store in Spokane when we passed a Costco, one of Pete's favorite places. So we stopped and Pete warmed up his Costco card and got the good stuff.

So between shore lunches and cooking over the propane stove or on the fire we ate plenty good.

We even went out to eat--breakfast at Boggan's on the river. The boys tucked in while I was still waiting for my order.

Mainly, though, we fished. We covered a lot of water and used a lot of different flies.

We went down into the canyon via Shumaker Road and explored it to its end.

All too soon Pete had to catch his flight, so we took a morning and drove him back to the airport in Spokane.

John and I were back on the river in early afternoon. By then the weather was moderating; it was still chilly, but clouds and rain moved in.

We fished that afternoon and most of the next day, our last day, in rain.

In late afternoon on that last day the sun began breaking through the clouds.

John geared up to fish one last run and then took off for the airport.

I stayed a little longer and watched the day close with one more display of beauty, then climbed out of the gorge and started for home.

And what about the fish, you ask? Well, we caught a few of these...

And lots more of these.

They were beautiful little trout, cold and hard and lively, like holding a squirming popsicle in your hand.

But the steelhead eluded us. The cold had dropped the water temperature 10 degrees in a day, and the river was running at 40 degrees. The steelhead were deep and off the bite. A few guys were catching some on bait, but we couldn't get any to come to a fly--any fly, fished in every conceivable way.

Such is steelheading.

But was it a great trip anyway?