Thank you for all the rain dances, I think they have worked! Expect more of the stuff to come down through the next couple of days. This next front will bring in slightly cooler temperatures but should not be bringing more low elevation snow. We will see a drying trend later in the week and rivers may just come in to shape by the weekend. Another front is expected to show up around Sunday, bringing more moisture our way.
Coast– All the coastal anglers that we know have been praying and hoping for rain to come. Now that it is here, we are all waiting to see if it brought fish along with it. We have no recent reports but we will be out there when the rivers clear up a bit. Fish were caught during snowpocalypse and the North Fork Alsea Hatchery has finally seen larger numbers of fish making it to the trap.
Valley– We are back to a more normal winter weather pattern, which has raised levels far above fishable. For now it is best to sit back with your favorite beverage and tie up some bugs for the coming season.
Desert– Low snowpack and water levels means that dam operators are holding back every drop that they can. This means that Central Oregon tailwaters have remained at fishable levels and are fishing well. The BWO and midge hatches don’t seem to have been affected one bit by the weather. With the high flows and warmer temperatures on other systems this is a great time to throw a streamer and see what monster may be living in out there.
This is a fish story about a recent afternoon trip during which a fish – an impossibly bright, acrobatic little hen – was caught, but wasn’t the highlight of the afternoon.
I parked in my normal spot, geared up, lit the last of the Mazo of Rocky Patel factory seconds I had scored on a holiday sale, and made my way to the water. I was surprised how low and clear it was. I had checked gauges on larger coastal rivers that morning and they were still receding; transporting the water from recent, much needed rainfall down to the Pacific to begin the cycle again. With the low flows I knew fishy spots would be few and far between so I was glad I had worn my old, already-leaking, blackberry-ravaged waders because I would have to do a considerable amount of brush busting to find holding water. I decided to leave my single hander broken down and just walk the creek for a while, then fish my way back.
I spotted them just a few minutes from the car. She was gorgeous and long, with wide, athletic shoulders, and lying in a bed of clean gravel. He was enormous: barrel chested with a chiseled, angular jaw but showing evidence of a difficult journey. I knelt and watched them for several minutes, finning peacefully and belying the fact that their life’s mission was near climax as they prepared to “make love to the earth” (Duncan’s words). Some movement below caught my eye in the form of a much smaller, brighter buck cresting the lip of the tailout. He made it within a yard or so before Mr. Big spun around and chased him off into the pool below. While the bucks were off playing grab ass, the hen sprang into action and resumed digging her nest. Moments later, Mr. Big reappeared and sidled up next to her in the pole position. I knelt there for the better part of half an hour watching this sequence of events play over and over. The interloper would come in from different angles and different speeds, sometimes pausing for cover in a nearby root wad, displaying the crafty persistence of our food-stealing neighborhood crow. But each time he snuck in, Mr. Big would turn tail and shoot off after him. I wondered how long the haggard old buck could keep it up.
I was so enraptured by the drama unfolding below that I had let my cigar go out. I decided I had played the voyeur long enough and slowly stood up, backed away, re-lit the chocolaty maduro and continued bushwacking my way downstream, enjoying the freedom of wearing garbage-bound waders. I fished a couple likely spots downstream but couldn’t stop thinking about what was going on back in that tailout.
It was probably 45 minutes later when I returned, peered down over the bank and laughed out loud when I saw the young buck in bed with the hen. His persistence had paid off, at least for the time being. I didn’t know if he had won the war, or just one of multiple battles that might be fought for the right to cast his spawn in that redd. I’d been rooting for Mr. Big and wondered what had become of him. Was he just lying in the deep pool below regaining his strength and waiting for the right moment to reclaim the roost or had he moved on, resigned to searching for a less competitive situation?
What I knew for sure was that I had witnessed an extraordinary scene from what is for me one of the most fascinating life cycles on earth. Feeling nearly overwhelmed with wonder and filled with gratitude, I considered walking straight to the car and calling it a day but I decided instead to take advantage of the last few minutes of daylight and fish the cobbled riffle above the next pool. That is where I struck chrome and added my adrenaline to the hormonal stew being cooked in that water.
With all the talk of hooking mortality and how to properly handle fish, I thought I would share some of the best fish shots I’ve seen in awhile. With GoPros and every one having a personal camera, the amount of gratuitous fish porn on the inter web is border-line painful. Nick took these over his last couple of days out, and they blow any other fish-photo out of the water (punny). Yes, we are contributing to the onslaught of porn, but feel these showcase the safest way to remember your catch.
We have seen incredible advancements in point and shoot waterproof cameras, as well as waterproof housings for DSLRs. The Chum posts new cameras every few weeks, and it’s time anglers start to take note. In these photos, Nick is shooting with a DSLR and a very badass Outex waterproof case. They are pretty expensive, but the key to epic underwater photography with your big, fancy camera.
Side Bar: No one will every realize you are standing at the hatchery hole, or in your secret spot.
From Judge Haggerty: “It is undisputed that hatchery operations can pose a host of risks to wild fish…it is clear that the Sandy River Basin is of particular importance to the recovery of the four [Endangered Species Act] listed species and is an ecologically critical area.” He said that the National Marine Fisheries Service violated the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policies Act when it approved the State of Oregon’s management of the Sandy River Hatchery.”