It turns out that the Fly Czar, Josh Linn, had something to do with last weeks fishing report as he "coached" Mr. Skittles though that literary endeavor. This week, Josh takes center stage as he regales us with his New Year's exploits and kicks off the year with friends.
I hope everyone is off to a great start to the New Year. Turning that corner into a new year is exciting with new seasons and fishing adventures on the horizon. Adventures can be both good and bad, you never know what’s going to come your way. I personally have made a New Years resolution to fish more and I started on day one.
So this week, while Joel was busy remodeling the kitchen in his 4Runner (or finishing up the year-end inventory) and Nick was busy taking down his Christmas lights it was left up to me to write the Fishing Report.
I tried really hard to get Nick to forgo his family obligations, but while that didn’t work out I did find a couple of volunteers for the New Year’s Day Fishing trip. This cast of characters have appeared in other featured Fishing Reports over the past few years and are no strangers around the shop. Rob and Erin Perkins and Eric Gunter have been seen in box office hits such as John Day Bass Report, John Day Steelhead Report and my favorite, the Deschutes Salmon Fly Hatch Report. We have all fished together many times and make a great team.
We didn’t meet up too early for our trip as we were looking for a casual New Year’s Day float, plus you never know how busy it’s going to be out there. I used to float the Sandy for my annual New Year’s Day float, but the Oregon Whitewater Association or some similar group does a rafting trip that puts about 100 boats on the river that day. So, a few years ago I gave up on that.
We headed over to the Clackamas River which is definitely a favorite winter steelhead haunt of mine. It has plenty of classic swing runs and quite a few short little tucked-in hidden spots to explore.
I’ve been fishing the Sage Mod quite a bit lately and I like that rod immensely. It has a deep loading action that is perfect for tossing sink tips and bigger winter flies. My typical winter setup is a 13' 7wt rod, like the Sage Mod 7130
, matched with a Skagit head. I strongly favor the Rio Skagit Max and generally I’m tipping it with 12’ of T-11. My fly choice is simple, either black and blue or pink and orange. I carry a lot of both. Which one I tie on is usually decided by whoever I am fishing with. Whatever they choose I pick the other. This day was no exception as my buddy, Eric, put on a red and orange fly so I went with black and blue. My winter flies
are usually between 2.5”-3.5” with some medium sized barbell eyes for weight.
The river was up since we had that rain in the middle of the week so that meant we were going to have a little less fishable water. Not so many little tuck in spots on this day. The bright side is that when the river is up it’s typically a little more colored up and warmer. The fish will be sitting more in the soft edges closer to the bank and easier to get a fly in front of.
We pushed away from the boat launch and we were the only boat on the water. That was a surprise considering how late we were putting on. We stopped in the first spot and the clouds started to break up as mist was rising off of the river. It felt very fishy. We moved down the river a bit farther and pulled into one of my favorite spots. We parked at the top of the run and I spread Eric and Rob out in the bucket as I headed down towards the tail out.
A couple of rocks showed themselves at the bottom of the run and I was pretty confident about fishing over them. Sure enough when my fly was swinging into them I felt that little tug. The sudden stop and little twitch could only be one thing. A second later my reel was screaming as line melted away. What a great way to start the New Year!
A few minutes into the battle the fish positioned itself straight down below me not allowing me to get an angle on him. In my opinion, that is like the kiss of death and sure enough the he came unbuttoned. Oh well, I don’t need to touch the fish to be satisfied.
We fished plenty of awesome spots throughout the day, but didn’t encounter anymore takers. I did see a couple of fish landed and that just helps to build confidence for the next time out.
If you guys are thinking about going out and wondering if it’s time, well I have been saying this for the last month. It's time. Folks have been getting fish in both the Sandy and Clackamas rivers for the past several weeks. The coast has dropped back into shape and fish are being caught there as well.
Down south, the Umpqua is low with fish being caught in the lower river. The same holds true on the Rogue. Conditions will change for the better if we get rain.
Over on the east side the John Day is not frozen over yet so there are still opportunities over there if you're a hardy soul. Personally, I'd save the gas and stick closer to home. I wouldn't want you to freeze to death.
On the Trout front, guys are doing well on the Deschutes, Crooked, and the Metolius depending on the day, but I'm a Steelhead guy this time of year and that's my Jam.
As I look at the weather forecast for the week ahead all signs point to favorable Steelhead conditions west of the cascades. I’m already planning my next trip, but my biggest problem is deciding where to go. Stay local or head to the coast? Whatever I choose to do I’m pretty confident there will be fish.