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Owyhee River Trip Report
April 25, 2011

 
We just returned from one of the most spectacular and remote river trips anywhere in the US. If you are like most people, you have never seen or even heard of the Owyhee River canyon. While the lower Owyhee is well know among a growing circle of northwest fly fishermen for it's large and plentiful Brown trout, the upper river is primarily experienced by a small number of whitewater rafters during a brief spring runoff period. While there isn't much fishing during this runoff period, the whitewater thrills are a big draw. The rugged and remote canyon's biggest attraction; however,  is the stunning scenery and geology. This canyon is often called the Grand Canyon of Oregon and rightly so. Another attraction is the mark that the indian culture has left on this place. Petroglyphs are common and pictographs and other artifacts are present throughout the canyon. The wildlife is also amazing, especially the raptors and other birds as well as the Bighorn sheep that inhabit the canyon. Add to all this a few hot springs along the way and you have a river trip that is tough to top.

   Unlike most other boaters, we opted for the comfort and maneuverability of our drift boats to float the river. Planning for five days to cover the roughly fifty miles, we pushed off from the Rome launch site at the peak of runoff so far this year, 18,100 cubic feet per second. At this level many of the rapids become less technical as many of the rocks are fully submerged. What is missing in technicality is most certainly made up for in volume, power, and speed. While some parties opted to abandon gear and boats and hike out of the canyon where possible, and other groups decided to beach boats high and dry to wait out the surge, we enjoyed perfect social conditions all trip, seeing few other human beings, and riding out the peak of spring runoff. It is hard to soak up all of the sights the canyon has to offer as you float down river. The scenery changes on most every corner, and we took ample time to stop and explore many of the more notable sites. The boating was fast paced and exhilarating, the scenery spectacular, the company wonderful, and the camp and food first rate. 

   We will be offering five day float trips in the drift boats on the Owyhee River in a partnership with the BLM in the near future. You can expect the same guides you have come to know, the same great food with a focus on dutch oven cuisine, and our deluxe camps on this spectacular Oregon river. Please enjoy the pictures from our trip and contact us for more information about this trip. 
 

 
The fish of a thousand cast's?
March 1, 2011
This has been a long standing description of hooking steelhead on the fly, especially winter steelhead. I admit to having that coming close to the truth when I started chasing steelhead on the fly. Do I believe that holds true today? Not so much. Steelhead on a fly is not a mystical quest, it's more of a simple equation. My apologies to those that like to believe different. Being able to get the fly in front of a fish is important, that's where decent casting skills come in. Controlling the presentation to get a bite is also important, especially in conditions that are less than ideal. Cold water, warm water, or poor visibility come to mind. I have come to trust that the fly pattern is not a very important variable in the big scheme of things. I've got some preferences but I don't think it's such a big deal. The genetics and upbringing of the fish does make a difference but I won't go into that at the moment. It would take a lot time to touch on that. So what is the most important part of catching steelhead on the fly? KNOWING where the fish are. Every other part of the equation means exactly nothing if you are not fishing over the fish! Figure out where the fish are. Figure out how to get the fly to them. Give them a good look at whatever pattern you are flinging. And hang on!
 
Winter Storms......
December 1, 2010
 ...bring high winds, lots of rain, falling trees, and swollen rivers. But on the tail end, as the storms pass and the weather breaks, the rivers drop and turn from molten mud to dirty torrents, to clearing green. Steelhead green is the best part of these winter storms. Fresh bright fish enter the coastal rivers on these high water events and travel with the surplus of water. As the rivers drop and as clarity improves they go on the bite. Gotta run. That time is now!
 
Headed West Again
November 13, 2010

There comes a time every fall in Oregon when we leave the Deschutes and it's great summer fish behind and head out to the Northern Oregon coast. The reason for this move is simple: Winter Chrome!  Although there are still plenty of Steelhead east of the Cascades, they just can't compete with the waves of ocean fresh and chrome bright winter steelhead now beginning to enter fresh water. 

    Our motivation is simple. There are certain places at certain times of the year and we can't imagine being anywhere else. Whether it's the Middle Fork of the Salmon from mid-June through late August, the Deschutes in October, or the North Coast during the winter months, these are places we can be found, year after year. The steelhead runs here on the North Coast usually start around Thanksgiving and fresh fish continue to arrive well into April. With multiple rivers in several different basins we can almost always find good water levels and clarity to fish successfully all winter long. We'll keep you posted as the fishing gets rolling down here at sea level………

 
Fall is here.
October 14, 2010

After several weeks on the Deschutes and it's high desert environs where Fall was creeping in but not yet fully evident, I headed west for the North Oregon Coast. Here, Fall has most definitely arrived. I awoke at two in the morning to the erie sound of Elk talking in their ancient language. By four AM they had moved off, or so I thought, and I fell back to sleep until 5:30. As I gathered up gear and reached for boots and waders heavy with dew the herd spooked up the hill with clattering hooves into the type of fog you don't see anywhere else, trailing off into the moss draped rain forest. The first heavy rains of this Fall season had come down until the rivers swelled to levels unseen since last spring and in them floated and drifted leaves of gold and crimson from trees bent on emptying every branch of their summer greenery. Bright Fall Coho and Chinook, plus barred Chums await these Fall rains and surge upstream on the freshet bound for clear, clean gravel well above the head of tide, and that's is why I find myself standing, at dawn, knee deep in a river seeming full of cracking and splashing fish bright from the ocean. Steelhead require a sense of faith in their existence and presence but these fish let you know they are HERE! Just because they are present does not mean you will catch them however. Timing and a good location increase the odds to sane levels and this week I ended up in the right place at the right time at least a few times. Tying into one of these fish, so full of the power of the salt, big and bright, full of panic in the close confines of a small river after feeling the bite of the hook never loses it's draw.  To touch these fish, so bent on re-creation, so full of both parts of their existence, fresh and salt water, is a lesson lost on most of our modern world, but something I can't imagine being without. For those less lucky than I, there are a few new pictures in our photo gallery. Fall is, without a doubt, my favorite time of year………  

 

 
Back in the Desert
September 7, 2010
 I spent the better part of the last five days in the Lower Deschutes Canyon and while fishing for steelhead wasn't my first priority, it was a strong motivating factor. I was actually hunting deer during archery season this week. While the typical peak of upstream migrating fish over the falls is centered around the third week of September, there always seems to be a  few fish above Maupin by now. Then there's the fact that there are usually no other steelhead fishermen around, the water temps are just about ideal, and there are no power boats are buzzing around up here. While I didn't find a lot of fish, I found some and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the upper canyon immensely. I'll take fewer fish and fewer anglers any time, no doubt about it.
 
Bears, Foxes, and Half-Pounders
August 25, 2010
 Changes in scenery can describe the last week. From The Middle Fork, full of busy, bony rapids to the pool-drop leisure of the Rogue. From alpine fir, lodgepole, ponderosa pines and sagebrush to the oak dominated costal range lowlands below 1000 feet. Bears are prevalent in both areas as well as the red fox, but the Rogue had something the Middle Fork did not: steelhead! While fishing was a little slow early in the trip, plenty of fish were to be found later on down the river despite dirty water from the ongoing breaching/loss of a cofferdam at the Gold Ray Dam site upriver. Staying out of a rut is the best way I know to keep things fun and changing scenery is a great way to stay out of a rut. Off to the lower Deschutes for a few days of steelhead fly fishing then it'll be back down to the Rogue for another three day adventure. Here's to keeping your feet wet.
 
Goodbye Idaho, Hello Steelhead!
August 19, 2010
 Well it's with some sadness that we say goodbye to the Middle Fork this year, but there is one thing that can ease our departure; STEELHEAD!!! Just back into Oregon and there isn't much of anything else to do but go chase summer run steelhead on the Deschutes. As almost anyone who chases these fish knows, the counts over the Columbia river dams have been well above the norm so far this year. Despite some really warm temps on the lower Deschutes, the fish are coming into the river. It looks to be at least above average this year and our guess is that it will be much better than that. The good news is that temps are starting to fall. After a Rogue trip or two, we will get down on the Deschutes and report back. 
 
Stream Flows
  • DESCHUTES RIVER - Madras
  • Flow (cfs): 4930
    Temperature (°F): 46.58
  • DESCHUTES RIVER - Moody
  • Flow (cfs): 5840
    Temperature (°F): 43.34
  • JOHN DAY RIVER AT SERVICE CREEK, OR
  • Flow (cfs): 345
  • OWYHEE RIVER NR ROME OR
  • Flow (cfs): 183
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