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Fishing Reports

Upsondowns

Joel La Follette - Thursday, November 15, 2018

Being able to take advantage of angling opportunities when they present themselves is important if you want to maximize your time on the water, especially with the changing weather patterns of fall. Wind and rain, or lack of it, can dictate where you find your best chance of success. You might have to travel, but somewhere out there the fishing is good.

Having the best shop guys in the business allows me some flexibility when the chance comes to wet a line outside of my normal territory and I have been known to take off at a moment's notice. A simple "Don't burn the place down" over my shoulder while walking out the door is pretty much the only direction the A-team needs from me. Such is the case this past weekend when the chance came up to fish the Klamath in Northern California with my friend, Jason.

Some of you may know my buddy Jason from his film "A River Between Us" about the water wars on the Klamath River. The Klamath runs in Jason's blood and his love for the river stems from his family history on this fabled stream. His passion for the wild Steelhead that call the river home is contagious and I never miss the chance to spend a few days at Upsondowns, drifting the river and swinging flies with my adopted brother.

Upsondowns is the Atkinson family retreat on the Klamath, a twisty drive south of the Oregon border. On the outside, the place reflects the local history, but lacks the local character of rusty cars and cast off washing machines. This is a place where generations have gathered to celebrate family holidays and summer vacations. It is a place that transforms each year from a family retreat to Steelhead camp when the cooler weather of fall draws the wild fish home.



Inside Upsondowns you will find a warm, welcoming fishing lodge atmosphere where both wet dogs and waders dry off by the fire. Decades of history adorn the walls in an eclectic collection of art, taxidermy and family photos. An old-school rotary phone hanging on the wall is your only connection to the outside world, and that's just fine. Time slows at Upsondowns and peace echoes from the walls and rafters.

While comparatively diminutive in size, Klamath Steelhead are game fighters and crush a well-swung fly. Buggy patterns are the rule, but the fish seem to take almost anything offered. Classics like Silver Hiltons or new-age Klamath Intruders produce grabs when presented to willing fish. Dry lines are productive, but sink-tips help during a sunny day when fish hold in deeper water. Lighter Micro-Spey rods in 4 and 5 weight are perfect on the Klamath and seem designed for this stream.

Over the years, I've caught Steelhead all up and down the west coast, but the Klamath fish are unusual in their shape and coloration. They seem to carry their weight in their shoulders and look much like bulked up bodybuilders wrapped in a silver cape. Some fish are heavily marked with spots while others sport a blinding mirror-like finish. On the grab, one never knows if a "half-pounder" or "adult" will come to hand as they smash the fly with the aggressiveness found in wild native fish. Wild fish that will soon find their home waters to flow cooler and cleaner as three dams are scheduled to come down in the near future.

Hopefully, I'll get the chance to see that day and fish in a river reborn. My bags are packed.


Veterans Day on the Elk River

Joel La Follette - Tuesday, November 12, 2013
This past Monday was Veterans Day, a day set aside to honor all of those who have served our country in uniform. Flags were flown, parades were marched, jets rumbled through the sky and heads were bowed in solemn remembrance. Many enjoyed the freedom earned by those we honored by spending the day in favorite pursuits. I was no different; I went fishing.

 

Standing in the Elk River near Port Orford, Oregon, optimistically casting for fresh Chinook Salmon, my focus was derailed when someone called out, "Joel, you're doing that wrong!" The familiar voice brought a smile to my face. I turned to see my favorite WWII veteran, Frank Moore, standing near a well used blue pickup truck with my host for the day, Dean Finnerty. I headed up the bank to greet my old friend and was introduced to his son, Frankie. Soon I was locked into the world famous Frank Moore handshake/hug, which is something you must experience to believe. 
 
Once air returned to my lungs we all visited a bit, then Frank and Frankie readied their tackle while Dean and I returned to fishing. A few minutes after stepping into the pool a bright Salmon broke the surface with a silver flash. "There's a fresh one, Joel! Catch that one!" Frank hollered from the truck. Three casts later my line went tight and the silver flash was streaking for freedom. The battle won, Dean pulled himself away from his fishing to tail the fish and snap a few photos. Then the wild fish was released to finish its journey.
 
Dean, Frank, Frankie and I continued to fish through the pool until my silly cell phone went off signaling the arrival of my slightly tardy fishing partner for the day, Jason Atkinson. Dean was very gracious, volunteering to retrieve my wandering friend so I could keep fishing. Soon the five of us were reunited on the banks of the Elk. Some of us old friends, some of us good friends that just met, but to a man, all of us friends of wild fish and the places they live.
 
There are days on the water that live with you forever. Some are marked by encounters with the creatures we pursue, a special place discovered or the chance meeting of an old friend. As we add to the years those memories weave into the fabric that keeps us warm and dry on those less memorable days. Those days when the rain blows sideways and fish seem to have vanished on the wind. There are some who will never make it past those days. They will miss out on watching a Salmon slipping over the sand to find its way home. They will not feel the solid pull of a big fish and feel its heart pumping through the line. They will not have the chance to greet an old friend stream side and thank him for his service to our country so many years ago. A sacrifice that allows us all to have those days that are so memorable.  
    

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