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Fishing Reports

High water, high hopes

Joel La Follette - Thursday, December 10, 2015
For the next few weeks I will be leaving the details of the fishing report up to the newest member of our Royal Treatment team, Josh Linn. While voice recognition software handles the problem of my one handed typing for most of the newsletter, it can't replace that "on the water" knowledge from weekly fishing trips. Since I'm benched until the first week in February, I am counting on Josh, Nick and Corey to get out there and harass the winter Steelhead. They should be able to keep you posted on what's going on.

As I mentioned earlier, I did make it over to the Deschutes this weekend for my last shot at summer fish. There were a few grabbers on Sunday, but the changing conditions on Monday ended the day early. The D below White River was on its way out with the increase in glacial flow overwhelming the Deschutes. The river above the White remained in good shape and could provide some entertainment next week if conditions don't degrade much more. You could always go fish for trout on the Metolius.

Take it away Josh…

Working on a fishing report today is hard because I'm still riding a high from the fish I caught on Sunday. The day was short and it was rainy. Nick and I got down to Oxbow and there was an accident on the road that closed the park for the morning. So we headed to another walk in spot, wadered up and rigged the rods. Nick asked me what color fly I was going to use and I told him whichever he didn't. My fly color choices were either going to be black and blue, or pink and orange, because I have complete confidence in both. I have three basic criteria for flies and I'm happy; color, size, and weight. Flies matter as long as you have faith in them and they fish the way you want them to.

I started high in the run just to do my due diligence. I made about three casts. As the fly came over the ledge I felt that unmistakeable stop and then a light pull. I knew it was a fish. Another light pull and I set the hook. Woo ha! Fish on! After about ten minutes and a few jumps and runs the fish finally tipped over. What a way to start the winter.

Now, things have changed dramatically.The rivers are up. Rain is falling and fishing is over for the week. This report is easy. Clackamas flooded. Wilson flooded. Sandy flooded. Trask flooded. Oh yeah don't forget about the east side. The Deschutes is blown out. The John Day fished Monday, but is gone today. If you are thinking about fishing this week it may be best to reconsider tying some flies instead.....

Flooding aside, pretty much everyday for the last two weeks people have been asking if there are fish in the rivers and whether they should go chase winter steelhead, almost asking for permission. Well, I give you permission! I would go when the river levels drop. If you call me and ask if you should go I'm going to tell with a lot of excitement in my voice to go and do it. Get out there and get after it as soon as it is safe again. Go make your own fishing report because if you are reading how good the fishing is you probably missed it. I know it's early, but what's the harm. When the water drops there will be chrome plated unicorns in the river. See if you can find one and then come back and give me a fishing report!

Who's in the Dog House?

Joel La Follette - Thursday, March 12, 2015
No, I didn't screw up, this time. Brian really did take the photo at the top of the page of Bryan. Confused? Me too. You see, Brian Silvey is the number one guide on the Sandy according to the number two guide on the Sandy, (Marty somebody) and Bryan Peterson is my number one guy when it comes to payroll. I like doing business with people who fish and as you can see, Bryan fishes. Sometimes even with Brian. Now, before you hit the delete key let me explain.

Bryan sent me a fishing report from his adventures this past week and included this photo. His report eluded to his turning 50 and his residence in the doghouse for bringing along his love interest without explaining the day in greater detail. Some critical issues were excluded from description of the adventure, causing Bryan to lose a few points. Mostly having to do with waders as a fashion statement and the restroom facilities along the river, which means there aren't any. These things of course rarely cross the mind of an angler bent on chasing winter Steelhead so Bryan's should not reside in the pooch palace for long. I thought it best to focus on the positive aspects of his report and leave the drama out and so here I provide my interpretation.

Bryan caught fish. Even in the low water conditions we found ourselves in last week, Bryan and his nine year old son, Adam, landed fish on a coastal stream, on swung flies. No beads and bobbers for these guys. Three fish to hand on the coast before heading to the Sandy the next weekend where Bryan’s stint in the Bow Wow Hotel started. In all fairness it did sound like things were tempered by a beautiful sunny day allowing for some vitamin D intake. All in all I think our payroll guy came out fine with one tanned girlfriend and a nice 15lb wild fish to hand. Am sure a nice dinner out on the town will clear the slate.

Meanwhile, as the clouds move in for the weekend anglers are torn between the hunt for Steelhead and the chance to toss dry flies at Trout. Skwalas have taken to wing in the valley and March Brown are also filing flight plans. The warmer cloudy weather is perfect for those interested in drifting the McKenzie, Willamette or Santiam rivers this coming week. If this weather pattern holds in the coming weeks look for the Caddis to show up a few weeks early.

Even still the Steelhead call is strong and after swinging through low water for the last few weeks, Spey casters are looking forward to a freshening of all Oregon streams with this current weather event. Forecasts don’t have things getting too out of hand, with dropping rivers by Monday. Of course we will have to see what truly comes to pass, but it is encouraging.

With the Clackamas and Sandy river bumping up a bit with the rain we should see improvement in the catch rate even though both streams produced for those willing to put in the time during the low water. The first summer fish of the year has made it’s way over Willamette Falls so I guess we’re rolling solid into spring. Dry line tactics are on the horizon.

Further south, the North Umpqua is a spring favorite and not as populated as some metro rivers. Fish are all the way up into the Camp Water at Steamboat, but remember it is important to avoid spawning fish. There are places that are easy to see that these fish have staged to spawn and we should leave them alone. Be smart, protect the resource and have fun. See you on the water. 

Let me be clear, crystal clear.

Joel La Follette - Thursday, March 05, 2015

Low and clear. I’m not telling you anything new if you’ve attempted a fishing adventure this past week. Water levels are at summer flows and rivers are running clearer that fancy crystal. It doesn’t matter where you head, there’s very little water to greet you. The good new is, hidden in the shadows, trenches and broken water of our low flowing streams are a few nice Steelhead. They have come home. They just happened to come home to a glass house.

With only a faint hope of improving conditions on the horizon we have to work with what we have and make the best of it. It’s time to bust out the low water bag o’tricks and see what we can come up with.

Fish early. In the summer we thrive on first and last light as fish are comfy under those conditions. Your best bet in low water is the crack of dawn. Not to say you won’t score during the rest of the day, but plan a nice steak lunch to reward yourself for all those great fruitless casts. If we get clouds, skip lunch.

Lighter flies. Unless you love tying or buying, switch to smaller, lighter patterns that tend to avoid the underside of river bottom stones. You might want to break out the summer box of super secret stuff. Lighter or slower sinking tips may be in order as well. No need for 15 feet of T-14 this week.

Broken water provides cover and cover makes for happy fish. Look for Steelhead deeper into the tailouts, under the chop at the head of the pool and tucked in on current seams where they feel safe. Structure, they love structure in times like these. I’m not saying you won’t find one hanging out in the open that is willing to grab, but my guess is he will be spooky.

Now that we’ve figured out what to do, we just need a place to go. Pick a spot. I’ve had reports from the coast with photos of big native fish (keep’emwet) as well as live updates from the Clackamas and Sandy, all reporting the odd fish. I sampled the North Santiam this past Monday in an attempt to intercept all those fish that jumped the falls a week ago. While cooperation was nonexistent we did see fish scurrying to get out of our way. Our host, Dave Carpenter, did whip up a nice shore lunch to soften the sting of insult.

You can always fall back on a favorite summertime activity and chase some Trout. This warm weather has jump started the Deschutes and there you’ll find miles of friendly Trout water. Surface action may be spotty, but emergers and small nymphs will draw attention from the residents. Try to avoid the heavy stuff where Trout have staged to spawn.

There is at least one fish on the Metolius for you to find and a day spent looking on that lovely spring-creek is never wasted. Caddis have been observed taking to wing, but Mayfly hatches have been limited to sun off the water times. If clouds grace the forecast, hit the Met.

All in all, it’s not totally hopeless. There are fish and we do have a little water to play in, we just need more. Wash your car. That means you Brian and Marty.

How low will it go?

Joel La Follette - Thursday, February 26, 2015
The chatter in the shop this last week has been mostly about about the weather, which is not in itself odd for February, but the discussion is not the traditional one. We are normally consumed with the subject of rainfall or snowfall and how it will effect our Steelhead fishing opportunities. The difference this year is we are talking about number of warm sunny days we’ve received versus the number of wet ones. We look to the mountain and see that the snow is not piling up as it should and we worry if it will this year. The last snippet of rain that blew through barely bumped the rivers before they began their crash dive to the low and clear conditions we have now. A walk through the neighborhood displays all the trappings of full on spring, with blooming trees and flower beds. Did we totally miss winter?

Even under these low water conditions anglers venturing out have found a few fresh fish. Although fishing has not been red hot, those putting in the time have been rewarded. The upside to the lack of water has been the lack of traffic on many streams. Where once a flotilla floated, now the hardcore regulars scratch out a day, finding a fish or two for their efforts. The reward in chrome and sunshine.

As I write this morning, faint drops of rain can be heard falling on the roof. Not enough as of yet to break us out of this early spring, but a sprinkle of hope for the days ahead. Maybe even a touch of snow in the mountains to hold water drops in reserve for the drier summer months ahead.

Rob Crandall and Gil Muhleman, of Water Time Outfitters, are also up early this morning and each sent me reports that I have blended here…. “Low and clear has been a difficult formula for anglers on the North Coast and a good shot of rain to pick things up would be most welcome.  We’ve been finding fish most days, but as the water drops it has been getting tougher.  The Trask, Wilson and Nestucca are often hitting prime time about this time of year so we are hopeful that conditions will improve. With a good shot of rain we expect fresh arriving chrome fish finning our favorite spots soon.

While low river levels require a bit more finesse, the last few days have been an exercise in enjoying all that Mother Nature has to offer us, including several hearty Steelhead. There are plenty of fish in the rivers to exercise and hone our skills. For those interested in getting away from the hustle and bustle of every day life, now is the time. Catching is not red hot or easy, but the fishing is excellent.

The Clackamas has been a drifters paradise with nary a sled seen this week.  We are looking at a bump in water levels later this week and that should help spice up the fishing.”

Brian Silvey called me just a few minutes ago and said basically the same thing. He sent these photos from the last few days on the river and added that fishing on the Sandy has been slow, crowds are light, but both he and Marty have been getting fish. A little rain would be very helpful in warming up the water and ramping up the fishing. The last few days have seen more fish moving in the river. They must know the weather is changing.

Now, we just pray for rain.

No snow, let's go.

Joel La Follette - Thursday, February 12, 2015
The thunder and lightening have rumbled east as buzzing chainsaws remove the trees blown over by this last passing weather system. Our rivers felt the effect, but they too are returning to normal and all is right in the Steelheader’s world. Fish were found both before and after this blustery event, with conditions looking most excellent for the foreseeable future.

Last year at this time we had Snowpocalypse 2014 throwing a blanket of white over us, postponing the Fly Fishing Film Tour and raising havoc on our streets. Then the meltdown blew out the rivers, leaving us with torrents of muddy water and cabin fever. While the timing was bad for the Tour, it was much worse for my long-time friend and fishing partner, Stefan Trischer. Stefan had flown from his home in Germany to attend a business conference in Vegas, but added a few days here at Woodsprite Lodge so we could catch up and chase Steelhead. On the plus side, Stefan got to attend the rescheduled F3T show, but we fished some ugly conditions during his visit.

You pay your money and take your chances when it comes to fly fishing travel and those of us that venture away from home know that to be true. You make the best of it, hoping that the odds will be in your favor next time. Well, Stefan has drawn a winning hand this week as he arrives this evening for another visit, right when conditions are near perfect.

Communications from the coast report dropping rivers and bright wild fish. Smaller waters came back into shape on Monday, even as falling rain tested GoreTex jackets to the limit. Most north coast streams are now fishable and producing.

The same story rolls in from the Sandy, where the storm’s knock out punch was just a slap and the river took it on the chin, recovering very quickly. Even a few of those anglers testing the rising river over the weekend were rewarded for their efforts. Again, big wild fish have been the story. The river is currently at 4140 cfs and dropping.

The Clackamas is the slowest to return to normal, as has been the case all winter. More low level drainage and less low level snow may be the reason, but I’ll have to confer with the experts on that. In any case, the Clack is at 13.71 this morning, but should slide below 13 by Friday afternoon. Fish have been found throughout the river.

I’m not even going to chat about Trout fishing this week as Stefan and I embark on a Steelheading marathon. We’ll be sampling the Sandy, north coast and Clackamas with Brian, Marty, Gil and Rob over the next five days, taking a break on Saturday to hang out in the shop. Stop by to meet Stefan and have a piece of cake. I’m sure it’s somebody’s birthday.

Back in the game

Joel La Follette - Thursday, January 22, 2015

Last weekend we watched football as rain fell and rivers leaped to unfishable levels in fairly short order. The super soaker storm moved through quickly though and by Monday dry sunny weather had returned. With very little snow to melt in the foothills, once the rain stopped those swollen rivers started to fall back into shape in rapid fashion and by midweek we were back where we started. Near perfect conditions and fresh chrome Steelhead swimming home.

This is a very volatile time of year and when favorable conditions present themselves we need to take advantage. I shouldn’t have to remind you that February 2014 brought snow, rain and high water conditions. Of course that was right when my friend Stefan flew in from Germany for a little Steelhead fishing. I’m not saying he’s a rainmaker, but he is planning a return visit in a few weeks. You have been notified.

Meanwhile, it hasn’t taken long for the local guides to get back on the fish with good reports coming from all corners of our Steelhead world.

The North Coast is starting to see a few of the big wild fish in with the mix of hatchery returnees and there have been plenty of those. Rob and Gil are hard at work there, not even coming up for air after their brief layoff. Rob did forward me this photo.

While not flooded with fish like the NFN, the quality of fish being landed on the Sandy River is incredible. Photos of fish over 18lbs. have landed in my inbox this week and plenty of husky fish in that 12-15 range. Just a reminder for those sending in photos, #keepthemwet.

The Clackamas was the slowest river to return to pre-storm levels and currently is still around 13.45 this morning, but is on the drop with no foreseeable upward trend. We should have plenty of fish all through the river.

This nice break in the weather, while not great for mountain snow, does offer the Trout chasers a chance to get out and stretch a fly line. The Deschutes has been rewarding those venturing there, as has the Crooked. The Metolius has been a bit more fickle, but what’s new about that?

As mentioned in the opening of the newsletter I’ll be heading off for a few days of chasing Northern California Steelhead and will be unable to file a report until I return. I also have a side trip to the Metolius on the books before the next newsletter hits your inbox so I can bring you up to speed there. We’ll see how that lovely river treats me.

Look to the Skylight

Joel La Follette - Thursday, January 15, 2015
Winter fishing reports address the moment and those that have recently past, but as we all know things change quickly around here. We use what resources we have to try and predict how these changes will effect our angling plans, making our best guess much like the weather professionals on TV. Sometimes we’re right and sometime we are less right. It’s a game to be played in an effort to better understand our rivers, their watersheds and the fish.

I started plotting river levels and rainfall back in the 80s when my source of information was the daily paper. To say this method was delayed and inaccurate is a bit of an understatement. It did offer me a better understanding of the cause and effect our Oregon weather has on my angling opportunities. Some rain is good, a lot of rain is not so good. Now I have websites and phone apps that give me updated levels, forecasts and predictions in an instant, but lately they have been less accurate than my old graph paper pinned on the wall. I’ve added another resource to my river prediction arsenal, my bedroom skylight. If the rain wakes me in the night by beating on the skylight, we’ve had a weather event and local rivers will be rising. If I sleep soundly to the gentle tap of a light rain on the glass we are probably in good shape.

So, if you’ve glanced at the NOAA prediction for your favorite river this weekend and then made plans to go antiquing, you may have made a good call, or a very bad one. Steelhead have been plentiful on the coast and a slight bump up from a passing raincloud would be most welcome there. The numbers reported by Gil and Rob of Water Time Outfitters on the NFN this past week were silly. My buddy, WaterDog, and his friend Duane had an epic day on Monday, tangling with at least eleven fish while fishing with Rob. They report plenty of chrome bright fish in the mix as well as some very large wild fish.

Meanwhile, the Sandy and Clackamas have been sharing some lovely fish for those enjoying the mild January weather. While sunshine is not something we normally encounter in the depths of winter, armed with our Costa sunglasses we have endured. While not as prolific as the coastal streams, these watersheds have been producing some impressive bright fish. 

For those wanting to tangle with some prime winter Steelhead, look south to the Umpqua. Dean Finnerty reports it's swinging time on the Ump and there are some big fish around. While it's a bit longer of a drive, you may miss the rainstorm. If we have a rainstorm.

I’ve often suggested having a plan B in the event the rain does fall in Biblical proportions and truly takes the rivers through the roof as predicted. Go Trout fishing. The Deschutes, Crooked, Metolius and Fall rivers are all capable of entertaining you for hours if you just have to get away from football. Midges, BWOs and even little black Stones are on the menu, with subsurface presentations filling in the void. Even in cold, damp weather the fish have to eat.

By the way, rain just started hitting the skylight very lightly.

Ringing in the New Year

Joel La Follette - Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Tomorrow will require a brand new fishing licence, but for today you’re good to go. Lucky for you our rivers have fallen back into shape after the pre-Christmas flooding and all are reporting fresh fish. While the east wind and chilly temperatures may keep many anglers at home close to the fire, those impervious to the cold do have a fairly good chance at success if they venture out. 

The coast is only slightly warmer than here in the valley as it doesn’t have those biting east winds. Rob Crandall emailed a photo yesterday afternoon of a fresh hatchery fish that was heading home to celebrate New Years with a very happy client. Rob reported an excellent day of fishing and added, “Steelhead are showing in the Necanicum, NF Nehalem and all Tillamook area rivers.  The last shot of rain is finally subsiding and rivers are dropping and clearing nicely.  This blast of icy weather will have fins frozen to the rocks so the fish will be low and cold. Drop down on fly sizes and think deep!”

Over on the Sandy a few fair sized chrome wild fish are showing up and taking swung flies. The river is flowing a tad under 11 feet and dropping. With no forecasted rises in the near future conditions are perfect, if not a bit chilly. Look for things to warm up on Friday with “warm” being a relative term.

Same holds true for the Clackamas where flows have yet to drop below 13 feet. The color is a very nice Steelhead green and we shouldn’t see any adverse affect from the rain moving in this weekend. Barton to Carver has seen the best of the limited action.

Overall, your chances of encountering a fresh winter Steelhead are good and will only be getting better as we move through winter. Pick up a new fishing licence and ring in the New Year right.

Wet boots and Weather Forecasts

Joel La Follette - Thursday, December 18, 2014
While river forecasts are helpful in planning your next angling adventure during the changing winter months, they are only as good as the weather forecast. As we all know those can be less than reliable. Junk in, junk out as they say. In the information age, the problem may be we have far too much intel at our fingertips. Which eventually muddles our reasoning and sends us out the door expecting sunshine when dark clouds are looming overhead, or keeps us huddled under the blanket when only a gentle breeze blows.

Being tuned in to current weather patterns and how they may effect your plans is important during the winter months as things change rapidly, but don’t let them keep you tied to the sofa. Take the opportunities that present themselves and we will all make it through to spring in one piece.

And now the bad news…

As you can see the weather guessers are calling for a bit of the wet stuff, yet at the same time they aren’t totally convinced it’s coming. They’re keeping an eye on it. Well, you can too. Keep an eye on it while wearing your boots, waders and jacket in your favorite stream, but have a plan B. The next few days may be wet, but very fishable.

Here’s a few options, starting close to home.

The Clackamas is right at perfect this morning and should remain in very good condition though Sunday morning, or beyond if this pending storm heads elsewhere. If it hits here in full force, it could get ugly. Get out while you can. Winter Steelhead have been encountered all the way up to McIver Park with the Barton area being the hotbed of activity. Current level would suggest a type 6 or 8 tip, or 10 feet of T-11. Maybe matched up with one of Mr. Crandall’s new flies.

The Sandy River is, if anything, a tad on the low side. Winter fish have been reported in the Oxbow area, but there should be a few fish throughout the system. The cause for concern is higher freezing levels if this weather moves in. In any case, we’re good through Sunday. Brian Silvey is starting his Sandy River season this week and hopefully we’ll have an good report to pass along soon.

Over on the coast we’ve seen fish move in with every bump up in flows. Once entering the systems they have spread out pretty quickly so fishing has been spotty according to the Water Time Outfitters crew. So far the fish landed have been smaller hatchery fish, but they are nickel bright.

The Deschutes River, while being a go to summer Steelhead destination in September through November, is often deserted during December. Summer fish are still grabbing flies there and a few are fresher that others. Hatchery fish are still available and should be removed from the river if captured. Smoked up they make great Christmas gifts.

Winter Trout fishing is also an option on the Deschutes, especially if temps stay warmer. While waiting for a BWO hatch you can always tumble nymphs or toss streamers. Fish tend to pod up in the winter so you have just have to find that target rich environment.

Mudslides and Icicles

Joel La Follette - Thursday, December 04, 2014

This photo to the right was sent to me by Mia Sheppard of Little Creek Outfitters. If you've been wondering why the John Day has been running off-color this fall, this would be the reason. Mia locates this issue 12 miles up from 30 Mile Creek. As you can see this is a big pile of moving debris and it will take a good high water event to flush it out of the system. Slight rises in the river level will draw more of this muck into the stream. Currently, the river is rather chilly and iced up in some location, but if we do get conditions that allow for angling opportunities, head on over. Mia says fishing should be great as there hasn’t been too many flies cast there in awhile. Dress warm.

Mia also wanted me to pass on a special chance to fish with the Little Creek Outfitters team of Marty and Mia Sheppard by buying a trip they have donated to the South Wasco County School fundraiser. Our small school districts get much smaller pieces of the pie and need to bolster funds by counting on the community. Since Marty and Mia are now calling Maupin their home base they’re getting right to work helping in this endeavor. There is only one of these trips available so click over to the fundraiser site and pick up a great deal on a guided trip. You have two hours before I buy it myself, starting at 10:00 AM, today.

Speaking of Maupin, Brian Silvey was iced in yesterday as the back side of the Cascades turned into a skating rink. Cold temps mixed with moisture from the south added a festive, yet dangerous covering of ice. The current system moving though may scour out the freezing rain. If it does, there is the possibility of chasing Steelhead and Trout on the Deschutes. Keep an eye on the forecast and current conditions before heading over. While Brian may be iced in, he's not just watching the tube. Currently he's dusting off the tying bench and working on patterns that he is planning on sharing at the Tyer's Table next month. You won't want to miss his visit.

Both Mr. Silvey and the Sheppards are also getting geared up to chase winter Steelhead on the Sandy. If you are interested in testing the waters there, give them a call. It's never to early to book a trip. Head over to the Guide Shack for more info.

We’re still getting reports of winter fish in the Clackamas River and now a few blips of news are coming from the Sandy. Both rivers will continue to see fresh fish as we move deeper into the winter months. Focus efforts on the lower sections until we see a big push of fish spreading throughout the systems.

On the coast we are seeing enough early returners to interest Gil Muhleman in running a few trips on the North Fork of the Nehalem River in December, from the 13th to the 16th. If you are getting a slight case of cabin fever or just want to avoid the holiday hustle and bustle, drop Gil a note. These trips are discounted to entice you off the sofa. 

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