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Fishing Reports

Last Cast Native Trout-a-thon Report

Joel La Follette - Thursday, November 01, 2018
This week the fishing report is being preempted by a travel log of my efforts on the Last Cast Native Trout-a-thon. As I never was much of a runner or jogger, an actual marathon would never be on my list of things to do. A Trout Bum road trip, on the other hand, is right in my wheelhouse and I took on the challenge of the Trout-a-thon with a focus garnered from years of planning such an adventure.

First, you should know the idea for this event came to me at 3:30 in the morning as most of my silly ideas do. I got up, wrote out the concept, and sent it to several of my friends at Trout Unlimited and the Native Fish Society at that very early hour. The plan was simple:
  • Bring awareness to the general population of the importance of wild native Trout to our society and our world. 
  • Challenge local anglers to discover native Trout species they may not have known about. 
  • Encourage local anglers to explore more of their state and its waterways. 
  • Raise money for restoration projects to benefit native Trout.
  • Have fun.

Since I wanted to participate and not oversee this event I passed the idea off to TU and NFS and acted as a consultant. Then I started making my plan.

The first order of business was to choose the species and their home-water that would score the most points. Then I determined the best driving route to be on location at the optimal time thus maximizing my success. Understanding the odds and setting a time limit on the effort for each location would hopefully lead to accumulating enough points to take home the title. After several revisions, I made a plan and fished the plan.


Appropriately, my day started at 3:30 on Saturday morning when I got up, tossed a few extras into the 4Runner and headed to the Deschutes.

The number one target on my list was a wild native Steelhead and the 15 points it would tally. It was also the species I was most concerned about. Given the current state of the Steelhead population in the Columbia basin, finding and landing a wild Steelhead on demand would be only slightly more likely than finding a hundred-dollar bill in the couch cushions at a Motel 6. Add to the fact that the Deschutes has a larger population of hatchery fish and you can see why I was concerned.

The odds of scoring a wild fish would have been better on the John Day, but the chance to add a Redband Rainbow and Whitefish, both 10 points, made the choice of starting this adventure on the Deschutes easy. The Deschutes was a target rich environment; if I didn't score a Steelhead, I could always focus on Redsides and Whiteys. At least I'd score points.

Having swung flies on the Deschutes since the 70s I have a few places up and down the river that stick out when it comes to encounters with Steelhead. I needed a place I could get to by first light and close enough to the highway as to allow a timely transition to my next target watershed. I picked the spot and hoped that no one else had the same idea.

Daylight came slowly as clouds prolonged the night. At 6:51 AM the phone in my backpack buzzed with a “Good Luck!!” text message from Tracy at the Native Fish Society. I thanked her and slipped the phone back in the pack and waited for enough light to fish.
My first cast touched the water a few minutes after 7:00, but I didn’t work down the run until I could see the line clearly on the surface. Keeping close to the bank to maximize the swing I worked down to where I expected the fish to be. When the fly swung through my perceived bucket there was a light tug on the fly, followed by another. The fly continued swinging but was intercepted again, this time a little more enthusiastically. One last jolting grab and the game was on.

From the hook set, it was obvious that this was the holy grail of Trout-a-thon fish, a wild native Steelhead. The fish ran frantically for the tail-out, but I was able to turn it back by easing on additional pressure. It then turned and charged straight at me, breaking the surface in an aerial display that gave me a brief glimpse of its adipose fin as it reentered the water. Now I was nervous.

After a few tense minutes, I was finally able to slide the fish towards shore and slip my net under its powerful body. A quick photograph to record the catch and prove its wild origins, then a gentle release to continue on its journey.
 


I must have looked crazy to the unknowing observer as I tossed my Spey rod into the grass and sprinted for my Trout rod as the Steelhead made its way back into the current. I dropped in at the head of the run and start to cover the water with a Silvey’s Super Sinker and a Perdigone dropper tied by Mike McCoy. Recent Czech nymphing experiences have increased my faith in this technique to produce quick results. In a few casts, a scrappy Redside lay in my net followed minutes later by a chunky Whitefish. It was time to move on to the next target. I checked my watch, and it was 8:30 by the time I was out of my waders and heading up Hwy 197 towards Antelope.



A couple years ago I had been infatuated with the idea of finding a healthy population of West Slope Cutthroat in Oregon. I spent hours pouring over maps and documents before settling on two watersheds to investigate. During an unusually good water year, I mounted an expedition to see if my research was correct and check a West Slope Cutty off my list of Oregon species. I found a short section of stream in one watershed where the gradient allowed for pools and riffles. There I found my Cutthroat living happily as they had for hundreds of years. I was now counting on them to still be there.

After hours on winding back roads and highways, I made my way up the rough trail to my destination. As I approach the stream I rolled down the window to listen for the sound of water. All was silent. I worried that my efforts would be met with a dry creek bed and a very long drive to the Metolius. I continued on and finally arrived at the GPS coordinates I had saved only to find my worst fears had come true. The creek was a shadow of its former self and trickled through the rocks and boulders without much fanfare. I was deflated.

Rain wept from the low-hanging clouds that encircled the mountaintop. I grabbed a jacket and headed into the brush to see if there was a pool or riffle that might hold a fish. I hiked upstream only to find my path blocked by a downed tree, its branches making an impenetrable barrier to any progress in that direction. I turned and headed downstream, quickening my pace as I saw my efforts slipping away. Suddenly ahead I could hear the sound of water falling into a plunge pool. I pushed through the brush and came upon a Cutthroat oasis in the middle of a dry landscape.

Back at the 4Runner I pulled my vintage Winston 4 wt. from the rod rack and grabbed my net, camera and a box of flies. Retracing my steps I once again pushed through the brush and took a position below the pool. There was no room to cast and only a small part of the pool that could offer any cover for a hungry Trout. With the fly in my left hand, I bent the rod back and fired a “bow and arrow” cast to the head of the pool. The little foam Humpy drifted about a foot and was engulfed by a fat West Slope Cutty. He knew his home waters well and raced for the cover of an exposed tree root. Carefully I guided him through the tangles and into my net. A quick photo and he was gently released, no worse for the experience.



I broke down my rod as I made my way back to the truck, arriving slightly damp from rain and perspiration. I peeled off my jacket and made a sandwich to fortify me for the long drive ahead. I now had 55 points on the board and over a three-hour drive to figure out my next move.

Night had descended on Sisters and a much-needed rain was dampening the streets. I fueled up the rig at the Chevron station and pulled into a parking lot to file an email report with my sponsors and post a few photos to my Instagram account. I would be out of communication once I made the turn to Camp Sherman, so I checked in at home and headed down the highway. It was now time to find a camp spot on the Metolius and get some rest.

The rain had splattered on the roof of my tent during the night, but the morning was dry and overcast. I broke camp, slid into my waders and grabbed my Bull Trout rod. The prize was in sight. I would score quickly and head toward the coast. I would be casting for Sea-runs before mid-afternoon and dining on clam chowder as the sun set in the west to mark the end of this adventure.

About this time the wheels came off the bus. I hiked upriver and down, unable to find a fish willing to grab my feathery offerings. I switched to a hunting mode and stalked the shore looking for targets in the cold clear water. All of my unusual spots were empty, and others held fish that charged the fly but backed off and lost interest. Two large fish connected briefly, but retired deeper into the pool, refusing to be tempted again. I watched one fish charge at my fly only to veer off at the last second and destroy a floating Kokanee carcass. Leaving a cloud of fleshy debris to drift off, adding decomposing nutrients to the river. The giant satisfied now settle into his place in the pool and ignored my offerings.

Bent, but not broken I changed my tactics and went to focus on improving my Redband and Whitey score by finding a couple of bigger fish. I ran into an old friend that I hadn’t seen in years and we stopped and visited for a while. It was clear that a Bull Trout was not to be, so I relaxed and took in the beauty of the river, and enjoyed a conversation with a friend. Soon we parted, and I grabbed my Trout rod and stepped into the pool. Two casts and the line twitched, and I set the hook. Expecting a large Whitefish to break the surface, imagine my surprise to see a foot long Bull Trout putting the bend in my rod. The net flashed, and a photo was quickly taken. The little Bull Trout rejoined the rest of the fish in the pool and I headed to the truck. 



Time was no longer on my side. My watch told me I wouldn’t be able to make it to the coast, and even a shot at the Santiam was in question. A traffic jam on the pass ended those hopes so I head home and pulled into my driveway 42 hours from when I left. I had driven 651 miles, caught 5 different species of native salmonids, scored 70 points and had a fairly dirty ride to show for my efforts. Was it worth it? Yup. I’m already making plans for next year. You should join me.

UPDATED!!!
I'm happy to report that in this past weekend's Last Cast Native Trout-a-thon yours truly cleaned up in the prize department taking top honors for most points, biggest fish and most money raised. This is great news for all of you who sponsored my efforts and donated $3885 to the North Creek Campaign through the Native Fish Society. I'll be raffling off all the prizes and adding a hosted trip on the Metolius to the collection.  Of course, after reading the report of the adventure above you might want to rethink spending the day on the river with me.

In any case, once all the donations have been gathered I'll be holding a raffle and announcing the winners here in the newsletter and on Facebook/Instagram. The prizes to be raffled off include:
  • Guided trip with Kyle Smith on the McKenzie.  WINNER:  JK Hussa
  • Guided trip for two with Mark Sherwood on the Rogue. WINNER: Rocky Dixon
  • A hosted trip on the Metolius with Joel La Follette (includes lunch) WINNER: Jeff Evershed
  • YETI Cooler WINNER: Michael Gentry
  • YETI Growler WINNER: Jeff Howard

Field Trip Gone Wrong

Joel La Follette - Thursday, October 11, 2018

by Josh Linn, the Fly Czar

Last Saturday, Mike McCoy from Snake Brand Guides shared a presentation on Czech nymphing. He then followed up with a great tying session at the Tyer’s Table. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the European nymphing techniques are gaining momentum here in the Northwest. If you want to catch fish, it’s a very effective method. 

The next day, Joel had an outing with his Reed College class so Nick and I volunteered to help. By 9:00 AM we were at Harpham Flats ready to meet up with the students. While we waited for the van to arrive I gave the boys a quick tutorial on Czech nymphing.


The first time I used the Czech nymph style of fishing was about 10 years ago. This technique is a little different from the other Euro nymph styles like French or Spanish. Czech nymphing uses a short line, nymphing right off the top of the rod technique. It utilizes a shorter leader with a low rod angle and leads the flies through the water. The other techniques involve a longer leader where you dead drift under tension with a little more range.

Nick and I stepped into the water and in a couple of casts, I had my first fish to hand. I was a little rusty, but it came back fast. We moved just a little further down the run and in no time I landed another Trout. At that point, I looked up at Nick and told him, “That’s how it’s done.”

We headed back to the truck to see what Joel was up to, but he and his truck were nowhere in sight. Thirty minutes later he returned. He had received a phone call from the van driver stating they had just crossed the bridge in Maupin and asked if he could come up there to meet them. Joel drove into town and didn’t see them anywhere. He called the driver and asked for specifics as to where they were. That is when the driver asked Joel to spell Maupin and put it into his GPS. He put the phone down and Joel heard cussing accompanied by, “How the heck did that happen?” The driver picked the phone back up and they were somewhere south of Eugene. Joel instructed him to return the group to the college. They would not be fishing today.

That meant we had the day off and it was time to fish!

We headed up the road to a spot above the boat launch we all love to fish. My Czech nymph rod was still rigged up and Joel hadn’t gotten his lesson yet. We returned to the river. As I‘m explaining the technique of leading the flies through the run, on the second cast I hooked a Trout.


Moving upriver about a step I made another couple of casts and was into another fish. Joel’s got the idea. He took his rod and worked his way downriver. After a minute or two he’s into his first fish. 


We keep fishing and hooking fish throughout the run. Joel is like a surgeon dissecting every nook and cranny of the tail-out. Every time I look down the river he’s got another fish on. I switched to a heavier fly fishing deeper and immediately hooked a much bigger fish. I can’t lift it off the bottom very well with the 10’ 3wt, but when I do it appeared to possibly be a Steelhead. It rolled on the surface and popped off. At that moment I feel doubt creep in and wonder if it really was a Steelhead.

I continue to work my way down and a minute or two later I hooked a steelhead. This one stayed on and there is no doubt it is a Steelhead. I give out excited cheers as Nick made a splashy dash to bring the net. Any doubt about the first fish being a Steelhead dissolved because I can see this fish is smaller than the previous one.

I fought the fish hard to not over exhaust it. It’s a fierce battle and all I can think about is not breaking off the light 5x tippet I’m using. Nick grabbed the net and I lead the fish toward him. The fish turned with a last big thrash and it broke off.

That’s not the first Steelhead I’ve broken off and it won’t be the last. Even just hooking one had me elated, to say the least. I re-rigged the rod and handed it to Nick. I didn’t need to fish anymore, my day was complete.

By now, Joel’s up at the trucks having a sandwich in his kitchen on wheels. I walk up to chat with him about this new technique. While we are talking we watched Nick catch a couple of fish.

We spent about an hour fishing and put on quite a clinic. I don‘t know how many fish we caught, but it was a lot.

While we are eating a little lunch and Nick was polishing off some leftover cake,  a couple of our regular customers pulled up. They tell us about their day of fishing. It was a little different than ours. Joel’s tells them about the Euro technique and offers to give them a little demo. 


We all head back down to the water. As Joel is giving them a quick rundown on what to do, he hooks a fish. We offered them our rods to give it a try. They were getting the hang of it pretty quick but weren't hooking any fish.  I'm guessing they figured we caught them all by this time. One guy handed me back the rod and asked for a further demonstration. I was a little reluctant still riding high from earlier, but I give in.

 

I make a couple of casts and hook my third Steelhead of the morning on my Trout gear. This one is closer to the tail out with a rapid right below us. There is even less hope of landing this fish with such light tackle. It is a heavier fish and I tried to put a lot of pressure on it. It made a dash for the rapid, but I stopped it and turn it back towards us.
 

The pressure to perform was real with an audience cheering me on. By now, I‘ve switched to being confident about landing this fish. A large piece of soft water right behind me would make for a great landing spot. I formulated my plan. Leading it back I realize there is a shallow sandbar between the fish and the promised land. I took a quick look around and reaffirm that this is still the best plan. As I pull it across the bar (bad idea) the leader broke and the fish came off. The fish is surprised at is sudden freedom, so Nick and I both make a move at it with visions of us tailing it. Not so much. The fish gathered his senses and swam off. Like I said earlier, that wouldn’t be the last fish I ever break off.

Oh yeah, I guess you guys were reading through this looking for a fishing report. Some of you may have heard the fishing has been tough and there’s not a lot of Steelhead around, I’ve heard differently.....and Trout fishing is awesome.


Spring Trout Rendezvous Report

Joel La Follette - Thursday, April 06, 2017


The first annual Royal Treatment Spring Trout Rendezvous is in the books and it was a rousing success. Close to 40 anglers joined us for a little river side fellowship this past Sunday on the banks of the raging Deschutes. While high water kept fishing opportunities limited, there was plenty of casting action and we even broke out the “Wader Up Challenge” adding to the entertainment factor. Representatives from Loomis, Sage, Winston and Echo rods were on hand with their latest offerings allowing all who wished to test drive a new rod the opportunity. While the Scott rep was tyed up, he did send us a few sticks to fish as well.




Then there was the food. Our “Stone Soup” potluck and Taco Bar made sure no one went home hungry. Planned or not, we had a south of the border theme with plenty of beef tacos, pork carnitas, chips, salsa and tubs of guacamole. Our buddy Brent went off menu with a pot of Cajun shrimp that tucked into a tortilla nicely and were delicious! 



When it came to dessert what happened on the Deschutes, stays on the Deschutes. I’ll just say there was plenty of tasty after Taco treats to cleanse the palate and add to the waistline. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as vegan cupcakes…


High water didn’t slow down the dedicated anglers who showed up to fish. After the Taco Bar closed, big nymphs and San Juan Worms wreaked havoc on the resident rainbows in the waters above White River. While the fish wouldn’t break any size records, they definitely helped chase away the cobwebs of winter. Kimi thought she was tied into a monster Trout when she scored this impressive bottom feeder. Our own Nick Wheeler did the netting and releasing honors. While it is the policy of this editorial staff to #keepemwet and not show fish out of water, this image needed to be shared. Please, #keepemwet. 






A special thanks goes out to factory reps Tom Larimer, Erik Johnson and Eric Neufeld for joining in on this inaugural event and sharing their expertise. I also need to send out a very big thank-you to my lovely wife, Kellie, and the best mother-in-law in the business, Sally Walker, for their hard work in pre-cooking, baking and organizing this picnic. Thanks to all who contributed and attended! We’re doing it again next year on April 1st. Mark your calendar!


Still Rock'n the Big Bugs

Joel La Follette - Thursday, May 12, 2016
Totally Trout this week as the Salmonfly hatch on the Deschutes continues to be the focus. Last Thursday a mega thunderstorm rolled though the area rinsing the big bugs from their grassy villas. While a feeding frenzy resulted in it’s aftermath, the storm rebooted the hatch and it took a few days to see any numbers of insects back in the bushes. Some anglers found fishing slow on Friday and Saturday, only to see it rebound the first part of this week.

The numbers of both GoldenStones and Salmonflies have increased above Maupin all the way upriver to Warm Springs. This weekend looks to be approaching the peak of this annual migration. If conditions remain favorable, fishing should be epic. All of the popular patterns seem to be producing, so just make sure to have your favorites. I started off my day on Monday with a hopper/dropper combo of a Purple Chubby and Silvey’s Pupa. Action at the 9:00 hour was the result. When things warmed up I went full on Salmonfly with Morrish’s Fluttering Stone and didn’t look back. Pick your favorite and toss in the brush where those big fish are waiting.

Observation of other insects should be noted as well and could provide anglers with options in areas where the big bugs are thinning. Green Drakes, PMDs, a few March Browns and plenty of Caddis were all observed taking to wing over the last few days. While it’s early for the Green Drake hatch, be prepared when these big mayflies take flight. Lucky Steve tells us the 16-17th are the dates for that hatch.

The Metolius and Crooked rivers are also good options if you wish to avoid the flotilla on the Deschutes. Spring hatches could include most of your favorites, but it may be a tad bit longer before we see the Green Drakes pop on the Metolius. This popular spring creek tends to come alive on warm cloudy days, or later in the evening. Make plans according.

Steelhead action can still be had on the Clackamas where Springers have also been grabbing swung files. Swing a little slower if you want to tangle with the King. Airflo’s new FIST head is the prefect weapon for that task. Stop in for fly suggestions, Josh has added a few colors just for Springers.

Up and Down of Winter Fishing

Joel La Follette - Thursday, February 18, 2016
Brian O'Keefe Photo

Dropping rivers may give way again to rising waters if the forecasts hold true. Not to worry as what goes up, must come down, sometime. Like I've said before, you can't fish from the couch. Get out there and enjoy the day.

The Sandy River took a big leap up this week, but is dropping nicely as I write this report. Rain and melting snowpack may bump it up a tad this weekend, but look for a drop again as we roll into next week. Fish have been grabby on the falling river. Fish the soft water edges for the best chance at success. Reports from Brian Silvey and Marty Sheppard confirm that black and blue flies don't work, but what do they know?

Pretty much the same story on the Clackamas except the drops take a little longer. The river level has been dropping the last four days, but this rain will push the up button again. Fish are in the willows so don't risk your neck wading too deep. Swing your flies all the way into the bank. Lighter sink-tips will get it done in high, warmer water.

Trout chasers will find higher flows on the Deschutes due to warmer temps and melting snow, but Trout still need to eat. Keep your boots dry and fish the edges, or hit the Metolius where the famous misc. Mayfly hatch, BWOs and other tasty treats are tempting resident Rainbows. That sounds like a good idea to me...Brian, see ya later today and bring a your camera.

Plan B

Joel La Follette - Thursday, February 11, 2016
Looking at river level projections for the next few days leads me to believe that the prognosticators are expecting a little warm rain to send some of our precious snow bubbling down the mountain. Spikes are forecast for the Clackamas and Sandy rivers, while the coastal streams show only moderate bumps. Here's the thing, don't worry about it. Make your plan, but have a plan B. We've talked about this before, Campers. You can't NOT go just because some computer model says you should be building an ark. Keep an eye on what is really happening and get out there!

Fresh Steelhead have been reported throughout the Sandy from Dodge to the mouth. The dropping river made a big difference in the attitude of the fish last Friday for sure. Over on the Clackamas fish have been cooperative when the jet boat population is lower. Barton Park to the mouth has seen the freshest fish.

The Film Tour guys have been poking around the coast this week and rumor has it they even found some fish. I'm sure we'll see pictures at the After Party on Saturday.

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