Sunday, December 18, 2011

In my mind, prior to hitting the river this morning I had the title of this post as Chrome.  Instead of contemplating pictures of bright, winter fish I spent the drive home trying to figure out when the last time I spent a day fishing without touching a fish.  Frankly, it has been a few years since I last felt the dreaded skunk.  Streak over I guess.  Still, I was out, in the cool air, staring at water.  All was well.  I say that now, as I have a hunch that the tail end of this post might turn a little bitchy.  So for the record...this was a great day, and I am really looking forward to spending more time on the coastal rivers this winter.  So...

Things I liked about Winter Steelheading:

1). My new Switch Rod.  So in general, when you find a tool perfectly matched to the job at hand it makes doing said job much more enjoyable.  That is how I felt about the Echo SR switch.  I bought it in a 10 ft 10 inch 7 wt, and that rod is flat out perfect for what I did today..chiefly, nymphing a smallish river.  I could fling the flies with ease, mend like a champ, and roll cast in tight conditions better than I ever have in my life.  Bottom line is I suck as a fly caster, but the switch is such a tool that even a clutz like me can get the line out, and control it once you are on the drift.  I could not be happier with this rod. If I were a dies hard trout guy...I would absolutely own a 4 or 5 wt switch for nymphing.
2). The setting.  What can you say about the Oregon Coastal rivers?  Someone like the uber talented Erin Block could nail their beauty down in a few simple words...I can't, but I can tell you I was mesmorized throughout.  In fact, as a die hard nympher who has been known to talk about how boring swinging flies is...I sort of get it now. When you swing, you can look around...and out there, there is no shortage of beauty.  I want to share it with my wife and kids...the fog, the cold, the wet and all the rest of it.  

3). The Anticipation.  It just looks SO GOOD!  Every cast and drift looks like it should end with a steelhead on the line.  Sometimes things were so perfect that I just KNEW I would get a strike, and that maddening itch was tremendously enjoyable. was still Steelheading and despite the perfection of the water and seamless, switch aided drifts...I just don't think I was on top of fish.  Oh well, I never once "fished" like the river was empty.  It sure felt alive with possibilities.

Things I Disliked About Winter Steelheading:

1). You don't see the fish.  Ironic, I know, since I just mentioned that crazy anticipation...but I am flat out a sight fishing junkie.  I bet there are plenty of times a guy gets to sight fish in the coast, but I only saw a couple of moldy old chinook today, and the carp fisherman in me wants a target.  Can't help it...I like the hunt even better than the anticipation (though it is all pretty good!). I peered into the water all day for glimpse, but nada today.  

2). The crowds.  Winter Steelheading is a big deal in OR, and I can see why.  Unfortunately, it brings out the crowds.  In most cases you can just walk past the crowds and find your own water, but on these small rivers access seems to be an issue (foreshadowing #3 there). Today I struggled to find public access, and when I did there were a bunch of cars already clustered around.  I walked to the river and headed downstream, walking past a bunch of guys happily fishing away.  A few hundred yards later I found a spot and began two and dodging drift boats.  The drift boats came down in a never ending parade, and each time I had to step back into the shallows and get out of the travel lane.  99% of the boat guys were great...they passed as close to my bank as possible to avoid floating over any fish, and always said hello.  One guy sucked ass though.  He passed me, and slide into the hole not 20 ft below me and dropped anchor, leaving me a tiny slice of the drift. I watched for a few minutes, then slogged to shore and walked down to his boat and asked him how far downriver he would like me to go so that I could stay out of his way.  He said 100 ft would be cool (ironic since he gave me 20). I dutifully started walking the 100 fact I  was halfway there when I realized he was rowing to catch me.  I let him pass, and fished the water in front of me (he anchored up 70 ft away or so).  After a while I had worked my way down to his boat, so I reeled up and headed to shore.  The second my feet touched dry land...he pulled anchor and rowed to the next good looking slot.  This continued the rest of the afternoon...he simply didn't want me touching any of the water ahead of him, and was willing to race me downriver if necessary...I wasn't, so just fished behind him most of the day.  Until I came to this:

3). Access. I grew up in Montana, where the rivers (and river beds) belong to the people of the state. Pretty serious bummer to realize that in OR I can't fish the waters of certain rivers.  And yes, the OFC can kiss my ass.  I don't think I should have to pay dues to put my feet in the river.  I am not talking about crossing private lands, walking through fields or backyards, but where I grew up, once you are in the river, you can go where you want without threat of a $1000 fine.  Bottom sucked.  I walked to get away from the crowds, had a drift boat race me downriver only to come to this sign and have to turn back around.  Come to find out later, I had ALREADY gone past the public area.  As I walked back up river a bunch of guys I had walked past earlier told me the landowner had come down and told them to leave.  I do realize this is totally my responsibility to know where I was, but I honestly had no clue I had gone past the public area.  I crossed no fences, saw no signs etc. Overall, this was pretty frustrating as despite not agreeing with the law, I still intended to abide by it.  Near as I could tell, the "public" area (not really public, you paid $1 into a can to walk across the guys field) was only a few hundred yards long and full of people.  I drove upriver and stopped at some well used spots here and there...hoping that they were indeed public based on the well worn trails to the river.  This was disheartening.  Waters should be public.  

Again, I don't want this post to be negative.  Yes, I got skunked for the first time in years.  Yes, I dealt with a jackass in a driftboat, and yes, I disagree with the BS trespassing laws around rivers in this state, but for most of the day none of that mattered.  I was in a beautiful place, with a fly rod in my hand.  I can't wait to do it again.  
Seriously...some time out here and you could easily start to believe in Bigfoot.  Anything could hide in that stuff.


Mr. P. said...

I enjoyed our phone call on your way home John. Lots to think about...

John Montana said...

Yep...interesting times ahead!

And apologies for the typos. If anyone knows a good blogging app for the iPad, let me know. I used to like Blogpress, but it crapped out on me and I am having no luck with blogsy.

e.m.b. said...

The painted it perfectly! And gosh, I know exactly what you mean about sight a lot of small stream dries and then's unnerving to not see! Oh, and I do believe in Bigfoot. ;)

Gregg said...

Very pretty, nice pictures as well as prose, I enjoyed it anyway. However, I would have done something immature like cast into that guy's boat, I'm serious, I don't suffer fools lightly and I've done that exact thing before. One reason I gravitated away from most peak season trout fishing, life is too short for that kind of angst. Idaho is 63 or 66% public land, as is as you know Eastern Oregon. I'm blessed where I'm at, I think anyway. Skunked? I don't even consider it most times. (A good thing too.)


n.taylor said...

Man, looks like a nice place to hang out and take a 20 minute power nap on the bank. Great story, but I still want to go carping.

Wendy Berrell said...

I remember when we lit up that smallmouth tournament fishing guy in a bass boat when he got too close to our carp flat. Maybe you should have poured some of that on the drift boat.

And on the trespassing: love is bigger than government, copyright Jesse Ventura. Not sure I would have proceeded but waxing quixotic.