Thursday, October 29, 2009

October 21st, Klamath River

Since becoming a father myself this past spring, fishing with fathers and sons means something different than just a few months ago. Wednesday morning Don and Kevin wadered up on the banks of the upper Klamath ready to start a three-day fishing trip. Both admitted to busy schedules and a lack of any recent fishing but any rust failed to show. Again, the river fished well from put-in to take-out with a mix of half-pounders and adults keeping the net wet all day. Don kept his hooking to landing ratio near perfect by putting the wood to every fish. His largest, landed on a rod splintered by a heavy, stubborn buck. Kevin’s last cast yielded his third steelhead in as many drifts. The wild hen, a fitting symbol of the day: Perfect.

Oct 20th,Klamath River

With “indicator” dry flies now filling a bin or two at most fly shops, it’s no secret that trout will take a bobber off the surface so, why not steelhead or salmon? It happened within minutes of threading one onto Mont’s leader Tuesday morning leaving us slack-jawed and leaderless. Once retied, the morning’s fishing settled into a more consistent rhythm with a mix of half-pounders and adults taking stonefly and egg patterns. As more Chinook pair up over redds, the crowds targeting them even a week ago are gone and cooler water temperatures have spread steelhead out beyond choppy riffles and tailouts. Mont fished well throughout the day and the near constant pull of Klamath River half-pounders hardly rested his tennis elbow.

October 14th, Rogue River

The idea of Mayrene traveling back to Memphis without netting a fish did not set well. After her first steelhead of the morning parted too soon with a souvenir in its jaw, the boat fell silent. Everyone wanted that fish. We retied and fished on without moving anything through several runs. Nancy broke the spell on another heavy steelhead at the head of a riffle that quickly spit the hook and left us wondering. Another fish cleared the water seconds later and brought everyone right back. It leaped three more times, ultimately landing in the bottom of the net still connected to Mayrene’s leader. She had finally landed her first wild steelhead and as the boat drifted towards the take-out, Nancy landed one of her own.

October 13th, Rogue River

The sound of heavy rain pounding the roof and strong wind through the trees rung through my ears before dawn and the TV forecast didn’t look any better. Wind warnings and the promise of constant, heavy rain, dominated the news. Nonetheless, Nancy and Mayrene arrived in the hotel lobby with waders on and a determined look in their eyes. We decided on a short float in case things went from bad to worse and hit the road. Forty minutes later at the put-in, the storm simply vanished. Everyone knew not to talk about our fortunate situation and just fished, hard. This day belonged to Nancy as she started by landing a beautiful coastal cutthroat and ended it by releasing her second steelhead of the afternoon.

October 12th, Rogue River

Mayrene called a few weeks before her 3-day trip on the upper Rogue to make sure she showed up with the right equipment and expressed some concern regarding her inexperience pursuing steelhead. She assured me that her fishing partner, Nancy, was a seasoned angler and hoped that between the two of them, someone would find a fish. In return, I assured her that steelhead will eat a well-presented fly regardless of who puts it there and left it at that. Sure enough, a steelhead found Mayrene’s fly first and promptly straightened the hook while Nancy followed with another that shook the fly on its first run. With the light fading and the take-out around the corner, two more steelhead came unbuttoned and, as the forecast predicted, heavy clouds rolled in and threatened tomorrow’s shot at redemption.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October 9th, Lower Sacramento River

Gabe Duran and I met four fishing friends at the Posse Grounds on Friday the 9th for another float down the Lower Sac. They had already placed their bets for first and last fish by the time the boats hit the water and anxiously awaited their first casts. Despite more salmon in the system than the previous week, the rainbows ignored egg patterns early and fed indiscriminately on anything from a #22 brassie to a #6 rubberlegs. By ten o’clock though, the egg-bite turned on and stayed on. Regardless of the presence or absence of salmon redds, riffles accounted for the majority of the day’s rainbows. As daylight fell, smile filled faces told the day’s story. No one mentioned the bets and everyone bought a round.

Monday, October 19, 2009

October 6th, Klamath River

On the hope of finding a few early summer steelhead on the upper Klamath, I met Peter and Brook at the Klamathon Bridge for an afternoon of “research.” Trucks and trailers packed the take-outs and put-ins and quickly changed the tone of the day from perhaps what could be to what others already knew. Thankfully, the masses stacked in the river’s deep runs targeting fall Chinook, leaving the riffles and runs untouched. The first fish came out of heavy current and instantly went airborne. Brook, a 95-pound, curly coat retriever, took notice and desperately tried to follow his instinct. Peter held on, and fought both battles from the chair. We slipped the beautiful, wild fish in the net under Brook’s watchful eye and set it free. The rest of the day, Peter didn’t stand much.


Hank came into our lives three years ago after Rachel picked him out of a lineup online. After meeting the breeders and playing with Hank under the lights of a Wal-Mart parking lot, he was the obvious choice. Yet, Rachel’s upcoming trip to Argentina made her apprehensive to bring him home, as she feared the two boys would bond without her.

The deal done, Jim picked Hank up two weeks later before a stop at the airport to welcome Rachel home. On his first fishing trip, Hank quickly showed his strong dislike of water and, on later trips, fair-weather tendencies emerged. However, be it four in the morning or afternoon, rain or shine, when he gets the nod, he’s the first one in the boat and the last one out.

Dan Elster Photography

One look at Dan Elster’s photography and it becomes clear that, for him, “getting the shot” runs through his blood just as guiding trout and steelhead rivers runs through mine. Turns out, he and I moved to Ashland within a few months of each other, each shared the same birth city of Chicago and grew up devoted “Sox” fans. Conversations over a couple of beers exposed a mutual belief over the importance of preserving wild places and wild creatures. He has since become a good friend and generously decided to loan a few of his images for our Conservation and Ashland pages. I urge everyone to view his full gallery at

October 1st, Lower Sacramento River

Anticipation filled the air Thursday morning as the drift boat rolled off the trailer into the lower Sacramento River. With the arrival of another October comes the unmistakable buzz that surrounds the onset of spawning Chinook salmon and egg-eating rainbows. Cheryl and Rebecca fished well throughout the morning but only managed to bring a few fish to net. However, the stars aligned in the afternoon and the bite turned on. Despite relatively few salmon in the system, most fish keyed on egg patterns and took the indicator under hard on the take, often coming right at the boat once hooked only to turn and run like only Sacramento River rainbows can.

September 30th, Rogue River

What an end to September! On Wednesday, Tina and Jim floated the upper Rogue for the first time and experienced a day to remember. Tina hooked a steelhead briefly out of the gate and Jim followed up minutes later landing one of his own. So it went throughout the day as the couple alternated encounters with steelhead, rainbows, and coastal cutthroat trout. Tina put on a clinic to end the day, landing two beautiful steelhead, including one taken on the final cast. With perfect autumn weather, optimal flows and the river to ourselves, it doesn’t get much better!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Rogue River Summer Review/Fall Preview

It all started Mid-July on the river with a couple of guys who wanted to spend a few hours improving their technique.  Prior to the trip, I mentioned that over 2,000 summer steelhead had swum passed Gold Ray dam and that we might just find one.  Although they certainly took that number as good news, each of them assured me that finishing the day better anglers took precedence over hooking steelhead.  Back at the hotel lobby, we shook hands and both guests expressed how much they enjoyed the day and how their confidence on the water improved.  As I turned towards the truck, I heard the two talking and the words,  “you know, three steelhead certainly makes a morning.”  Agreed.

Fortunately, the strong push of summer steelhead continued to make their way into the upper Rogue through August, almost doubling the count at the end of July from 2082 to 3948.  Not only did these numbers account for some outstanding days, but they also suggest that October and November’s counts could go off the charts.  By comparison, last year, 2943 summer fish filtered into the upper beats by September’s end with that number jumping to 5525 steelhead by November 30.  As of September 15, this year’s count already stands at 4212!  The next two months look to showcase the Rogue at its best with mild days, autumn color and the peak of the summer run.  Make this the year to experience the upper Rogue!