Tuesday, February 16, 2010

And Finally....

Some odds and ends from the Oregon trip.
If you scrolled around on that Google map of a few posts back you may have noticed that I was in the middle of some pretty nice coastal rivers. The Umpqua was just north, and less than two hours to the south was the famous Rogue. The camp would likely provide cheap housing for any group--such as, oh, I don't know, my brothers and me--who wanted a base from which to hit a few name Steelhead rivers. Here's one of the cabins tucked away in the old growth forest.
A correction: the museum in Myrtle Point is the Logging Museum, not the Logger's Museum as I wrote in a previous post.
Whatever the name, chances are this guy isn't going to get his own display anytime soon. I found this on the two track on the way to the stretch of the South Fork I fished on Friday. Yeah, that's a wedge and a chain locked in that cut. At least he salvaged his chainsaw.
Here's the trail leading to that cabin. There are many such rustic accomodations there. And a modern kitchen, and umpteen woodstoves and fireplaces. Just saying.
And finally, on the way back to the camp after our trip to the beach Sunday we rounded a bend and saw this herd of Roosevelt elk out for their evening graze. Nice capper to a very nice trip.
And I'm pretty sure there's still a Steelhead in Oregon with my name on it....

Where Steelhead Get Their Steel

Sunday afternoon, before heading home on Monday, we drove less than an hour to Bandon, on the Oregon coast. Good to see the Pacific again.
It's a vast, deep testing ground for the young steelhead, and where the survivors get their steel.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Day Two: South Fork of the Coquille

Yep, I headed up the South Fork this morning. I figured I only had one day left to maximize my chances, so I'd better keep an open mind. So I drove the South Fork upstream from Myrtle Point to Powers and found some nice water.
I drove by myself. Thanks, Pat.
The first place I came to that looked like I could get some casts in was a boat ramp. The water was deep and not too fast, but after an all-night rain it seemed to me to be running murkier than yesterday. It was still raining hard when I waded in.
I used a sinking tip, and tried a stonefly with lots of flash. Nothing.
About halfway through the stretch I figured I could reach, the clouds began to break up and the sun hit the water with silver light. Then the rain quit and the sun came out. I saw a nice fish come out of the water right there around the point just where that first run tails out. I tried everything I could think of that wouldn't endanger my life to wade down there. I climbed back up to the parking area and looked for fisherman's trails. I found one but it ended abruptly where the bank had sheared off in high water. It was a 20 foot slide or drop to get down, and then I would have had to wait for a boat willing to take me back to the boat ramp. Instead, I headed up the road. I found another boat ramp, but there was a muddy two track stretching away parallel to the river. It was blocked to vehicles, but looked inviting to a fisherman on foot. I headed down. At the end I found this wonderfully wide open space with plenty of casting room. There were human tracks, but it was deserted. I moved right in.
It wasn't deep--maybe three to four feet--but the current was lively and it looked like there were some slots and submerged rocks. I kept the sinking tip and tied on a white conehead zonker. I worked it good as far as I could wade downstream.
I waded back up and took a second pass with a silver-bodied fly with a black wing and a red hackle collar. But it wasn't my day. No fish.
But the birds--oh my. More Robins, Stellar's Jays in the bankside trees, geese and ducks, Killdeer in big herds, and this Eagle. So, no fish. But...I've had the experience of fishing for steelhead in Oregon, and a sweet taste of Spring weeks before it will hit at home. I didn't mention the blossoming trees (!), both white and pink, shining on the hillsides and roadsides even on an overcast day. And the flowers in people's yards, Daffodils and Jonquils, big as life. It has been good.

So here's to Oregon; until the next time.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Day One: Middle Fork of the Coquille

Once again the wonder of someone else's wireless has connected me to the outside world and made a same-day report possible. It's raining steadily as I write, but it held off most of the morning and limited itself while I was on the river to occasional showers. Now I'm at the camp at my little desk, warm and dry in the glow of the computer.
This was my first view of the camp this morning. Note the tall trees, and the green.
This is Pat, the friend I rode down with. I think he's telling me where the coffee is. The cat belongs here.
It did take awhile to get organized. We drove into Myrtle Point and got my license at the True Value, had breakfast at a little restaurant, and got a few groceries since no meals will be served until tomorrow evening. The grocery store was across the street from this guy, standing proudly in front of the Logger's Museum. That axe has been busy judging from all the clearcuts in evidence around here.
We drove around and explored the rivers a little. We looked at the South Fork, and in the short stretch we looked at there were lots of boat trailers and bank fishers letting their bait run deep. But it was narrow and deep with little or no wading options.
Reports, according to a guy who lives around here and does some work at the camp, are that the South Fork, the North Fork, and the Middle Fork, are full of steelhead. So we drove back to the Middle Fork and found a nice wadable stretch with forest instead of sheep pastures along the banks.
The river is beautiful...
...but running a bit murky. But I climbed down under this bridge and fished downstream...
...to this bridge, where I climbed out. I must have a thing for bridges.
There is more fishable water on down below this bridge, but I'd been fishing for a couple of hours and Pat was waiting in the car reading a book, and checking on me once in awhile to make sure I wasn't floating out to sea. That's not really the solitary fishing I most enjoy. Pat used to fish a lot, but he has a bum leg now that limits his mobility. So he enjoyed driving around and watching me fish, and that's OK.
Tomorrow morning, though, I'll take his car on my own and probably go back to this spot, explore on downstream a ways and really immerse myself in fishing--not literally, of course. I hope.
Meanwhile, I had some good shots in some good runs.
It was a good day, and I have lots to think about as I anticipate tomorrow's flies and strategies. And it was a Spring day for all intents and purposes. I was way overdressed. Leaves are unfurling from swollen buds, a few Mayflies were eddying in the breeze, kinglets--probably Ruby-Crowned--were flitting in the streamside vegetation, flocks of Robins scattered across the road as we drove, and wild flowers are lifting their little petals to the light.
Happy Spring!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Report From Oregon

We made it here; a long but beautiful drive. The weather was rainy and misty with gauzy mountaintops hanging in midair or slowly rising up out of backlit clouds; Chinese watercolors everywhere you looked.
We shot down through the heart of Washington, crossed the mighty Columbia and threaded our way west along its banks past waterfalls and eagles. Then south into sheep country, the wooly ungulates grazing on emerald green swards, with not a mountain in sight. I felt like I was going to roll all the way to the edge of the contry and fall into the Pacific.
Then it was west again through the dark to the road the camp is on. The junction is right on the South Fork of the Coquille. So I'm sitting here just a few miles from the river. We arrived, unslung our gear, and moved into the housing to the sound of singing frogs and a burbling stream.
As you can see, the camp has a wifi connection. That was a nice surprise. So, if it holds up, I'll send a few reports while I'm here.
Meanwhile, I don't know for sure what tomorrow holds. There may be some necessary messing around, orientating, and coordinating with the guy whose car I want to use before I can hope to be on the water somewhere.
One way or another, though, it looks like I'll get wet tomorrow.
Thursday
Rainy
56F 45F

Friday
Rainy
54F 46F

Saturday
Cloudy
61F 46F

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Coquille River Retreat

I'm heading to a retreat in southwestern Oregon this week. The retreat begins on Friday evening, but, smart guy that I am, I'll be arriving Wednesday evening. That gives me two days to fish the Coquille River.
It has a run of steelhead, and fishes best January through March. Good timing, I'd say. Reports on the river have been good.
The camp where I'll be staying also has a little trib running through it. Perhaps they'll let me wet my waders in that.
I'll be taking the camera, so expect pictures and reports when I get back.

View Larger Map'>http://
View Larger Map

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tuesday Fishing Report: Searching for the Key

I took another opportunity to get to the river this afternoon, as I will do whenever I can as long as the conditions are as they are now.
The skies remain overcast. It's raining now, but the rain held off until after dark. Daytime temperatures continue to hover around 40 degrees, though the forecast calls for temps moving up into the mid-forties. Today there was a light wind from the south, just right for hawks to ride.
I spent all my time on and around the long glide. Wonder why?
It was another monochrome day, and I was looking for that little explosion of technicolor in the middle of it. I thought, based on my success on Saturday, that maybe I had found the key, and spent time at the vise last night tying up a few flies for today. The key, I thought, might be legs, lots of rubber legs. Hence, my version of the Girdle Bug for steelhead.
I tied it on a big hook and weighted it well with lead wraps. I worked the glide thoroughtly, but had nary a bump.
So I moved upriver just a piece and worked my way back down to the glide.
I changed flies. If they didn't want legs, maybe the key was going fancy. I often tie up flies like this one I tied last night and then never fish them just for that reason: they seem too fancy. But I went with it today. Same big hook, well weighted.
Still nothing. So when it was time to work the glide again I went small. We must have heard a hundred times on the Grande Ronde, on that frigid second weekend in October, that when it gets cold, go small.
And, still nothing. But I fished hard and covered the water as well as it could be covered, and that felt good. I was in the water almost a solid three hours. If I hadn't caught that steelhead the other day I might have thought I was cold. But hey, I think now that it's February the water is a lot warmer than it was in January.
The highlight of the day were these Cedar Waxwings. I was wading across the river on my way to the glide and looked up and there they were, taking their turns to bathe in the river. A wonderful thing to walk in on.
They're a winter bird, but I haven't seen any until now. Who knows? Maybe an early migration due to the mild weather.
So, another good day. No technicolor, but the subtle colors of the Cedar Waxwings were still good for my soul. And I'm fishing.
I'll continue to search for the key to the steelhead. The trouble is, as I was reminded today, the fish keep changing the lock.

Our Own Winter X Games

The boys are really taking to snowboarding. As I've said before, I'm glad they're settling into the local mountain culture, and that they'll always have these memories of mountains and snow, no matter where life takes them.
Sunday afternoon, Jeremiah and I drove up out of the valley into snow country to meet Isaiah and his friends at the local ski hill. They were already there after a sleep over at one of the boy's house.
It's a small town, family ski area, and everybody gets to know everybody else. One of the runs is named after a family in our church who helped establish it and run it years ago. Isaiah said he felt good to be getting to know the people running it now, and to be getting known by them. He and the boys got there well before opening time Sunday morning, and he said the man who was opening up said, "I've seen you here before," and gave them free lift tickets for the day.
This was the third or fourth time the boys have been there this season. They graduated from the bunny hill this year, and are old hands at the chairlift now.
On one of the trips up--and down--I let Isaiah take my camera with him. These are his shots:
When the boys weren't going up and down the mountain and I wasn't taking pictures we were in the lodge by the fire enjoying something to eat. They make very good cinnamon rolls and serve them heated with a pat of butter melting in their center.
Interestingly, Jeremiah never did stop to warm up or eat. He made up for lost time. He had taken a couple of runs on the bunny hill when we first got there, to "warm up," and he later said, "I shouldn't have wasted my time on the bunny hill!"
All the boys went through another rite of passage; they braved the run called "Face" for the first time. The run they've been doing is "Heavenly" and runs not too steeply through the trees. "Face" heads right down the open face of the mountain. Here they come with a friend of Jeremiah's who was already there, and who has probably made this run before; his folks help run the place.
I could see lots of improvement in both boys. Both of them watched parts of the Winter X Games (they'd turn the channel when skiing was on and check back for the snowboarding) and there were a couple of sixteen-year-olds competing in the snowboard events. That gives Isaiah four years, and Jeremiah five years to get ready.
Might could happen. Meanwhile, we'll get back there some more before Spring rolls in. Isaiah keeps challenging me to ski. I made the mistake of telling the boys of my skiing exploits in the good old days. I taught myself how to ski with a book I checked out of the library by Jean Claude Killy. Anyone remember him? But that was 30 years ago--in Iowa. But, I'm here, and the opportunity is here, and I know a man here--the one the run is named after--who was still skiing when he was 91 years old.
If they ever have a Senior Winter X Games....