CHASING CHROME IN OREGON – 2012
In my opinion, we have a world-class steelhead fishery essentially in our back yard. The
“back yard” is Southern Oregon, an easy eight to nine hour drive from San Jose.
In the March 2011 Flyline, I shared our experience fly fishing for winter steelhead around Roseburg, Oregon. I reported that Judy and I have been averaging four to five steelheads per day, ranging from 6 to 14 pounds since 2008. We are happy to report; fishing for steelhead in Southern Oregon is still excellent.
Our 2012 report: The weather and river conditions were excellent for the first three days of February. It was foggy in the mornings with temperatures in the low 30’s and the highs in the mid 50’s.
OREGON COASTAL RIVERS: After a heavy and extended rain storm, the Oregon coastal rivers come alive. Once the river flows drop and clarity improves, there is usually a 3 to 4 day window where these rivers are fishable and can be very productive for steelhead. Judy and I lucked out with our timing and were able to fish the “sweet spot” of the fishing window on the Coquille River. On February 1st and 2nd we fished the Coquille and landed 14 steelheads, 13 in the 6 to 8 pound range and a 17-18 pound buck I was fortunate to hook and land (see photo). Most of steelheads in this river were hatchery fish.
UMPQUA RIVER: Since the Coquille’s flow was dropping rapidly and the water clarity was getting too clear, we opted to move and fish the Umpqua River on our third day. The Umpqua is a fast current, wide river with various depths and structures. It requires knowing the slots, their characteristics and best fished from a jet boat. The guide has to set you up for the proper drift, and your casts have to be accurate and timely in order to get to the right depth within the fishable window. We landed 9 steelheads, most in the 8 to 10 pound range with the largest estimated at 14 pounds (see Judy’s photo). Most of the fish were wild and on average, about 2 pounds larger than the Coquille steelhead.
KEY TO SUCCESS: In my opinion, success is 90% dependant on a good experienced guide, especially for winter steelhead fishing and large rivers. The other 10% is luck and skill. So I strongly suggest hiring a fly fishing guide who fishes hundreds of days in a particular region and for many years. A good guide will usually know where the steelheads are holding and how to reach them. Also, they will study the water flows, clarity and hopefully have a network with other full time local guides to exchange information. A guide’s expertise and experience will greatly improve your odds of having a successful steelhead fishing trip. Fishing the Umpqua is not like drifting the Lower Sac, it’s a much more intense and technical with long leaders fished in narrow slots.