Sorry for the delayed post - it is kind of long winded:
Wednesday - 26th
Steffan and I left for Oregon after work on Wednesday the 26th - flew into Eugene airport and were at my buddy Eric's house around 10pm. Eric and I went to Keene HS in Keene, NH & then briefly he went to Northeastern University in Boston - we hadn't seen each other in probably 18 years or so. We saw each other on Facebook, saw we both loved fly fishing and planned a trip - that finally came to being after about 15 months of planning. It couldn't be worse timing for Eric, who had just bought his first house and was semi moving at the time of this trip. Matter of fact, that first night was the first time he had slept in his house. That night we had a few beers and hung out a bit, then retired early to get up even earlier.
Thursday - 27th
Woke up before 5am, packed the truck, hit the local store for beer, snacks, water and were on our way. The day started out raining hard and didn't really show any signs of stopping. Eugene is situated in a valley - basically with mountains to the west (towards the coast) and the east. There are tons of rivers in this valley and it gets a good amount of rain this time of year, and it can reek havoc on water levels in the rivers - but there is always a place to fish due to spring fed rivers or tailwaters. We were on our way over the mountains to the East side - which is much more arid and like a Colorado climate. The mountains are not as tall as Colorado's, but they do get tons of snow and today we saw a lot. The top of the mountains had snow along the roads, and the peaks we all snowed in. We were headed to a river just on the other side of the east peaks - a spring fed, legendary river called Metolius.
We were on the Metolius River around 9am and ready for some serious fishing. Before jumping in we decided to hit up the Camp Sherman Store for some info, unfortunately it was still closed.
So we headed for a spot Eric had fished - we were pretty excited and rigged quickly, got on our gear and headed down river. This river is the most amazing river I have ever seen - clear as gin, beautiful undercut banks, lots of logs in the water for structure and it has tons of public access. The river however is fast, and is very very deceiving - you can see the water, and it has a nice rocky bottom, but the water moves and you can get swept away pretty easily. Spring fed or not, this thing was flowing fast today.
Cold, clear water also has it's down sides - the fish can see you a mile away and there aren't a ton of bugs in the water - you really need a hatch to find the fish and to get them popping. Of course that never happened - no really hatch developed and we were left to try and find where the fish were holed up, and we couldn't. We started the day at a beautiful hole that had to have fish in it - it was 9:15am and time for a beer! - of course we couldn't buy a fish.
Unfortunately we didn't have any luck, unless you call this rock "luck". I literally hooked, fought and landed this thing - it felt like a fish (with no fight) and stayed on the hook the entire time.
We proceeded to a bridge hole that we could over look the river and see if there were any fish. There were a few big Bull Trout sitting in the hole, and we tried fishing to them, but we couldn't get our flies in front of them because there was a huge toilet bowl effect that had 20 different currents and would push your flies away from them before getting down to their levels. We decided to move again. There is tons of public access as most of this river is located on National Forest Lands (as most everything is in Oregon - access is never a problem).
This hole had a 24 inch plus bull trout sitting at the bottom - with several other fish swimming near by - but the water was deep, close to 15 feet and there was no way to get your flies down to them. You can not used barbed hooks or additional weight on your line, so that added to the difficulty of catching fish. After fishing for a few more hours we decided to call it quits. We stopped again at the Camp Sherman Store got lunch (amazing cheeseburgers there!) and headed for Lost Lake.
Lost Lake is a small lake situated almost at the top of the pass at around 9000 ft and was right next to the highways. It has tons of brookies and rainbows that average 8 inches but go as high as 15 inches. The weather was aweful, going from sunny to windy to cloudy to rain to sleet to snow and sleet to rain. We tried and tough it out for an hour or two, but we were soaked and the temp dropped into the 30's. Standing waist deep in blowing rain took its toll on us. I managed this lone brookie, and Eric hooked into a larger one.
On the way back to Fall Creek we decided to hit some off the beaten path waters - a place a bit out of the way, but on the way home. The river is officially known as the South Fork of the McKenzie River and it flows into Cougar Reservior. This section changes based on the height of the reservior, and it was high today. We fished this section from the bridge up to about where the river met the lake. The water was still flowing pretty quickly, but was fishable around the edges. Steffan and Eric stripped streamers while I kind of took it all in. It was still a bit drizzly, and we could see a host of families setting up their Memorial Day camping spots in one of the free camping areas near the bridge. It started getting a bit late, so we decided to leave. None of us had caught anything and we were ready for a new spot. Eric came trotting out of the woods carrying a huge pair of antlers. I 12 point buck had dropped them about a foot apart and they were pretty fresh. On the way back to the truck we got asked about them by some of the campers. They were a great matching set and would look great in Eric's new house.
With still some darkness left we headed home. Along the way we saw a few elk grazing in a meadow next to the road, but did not have much luck getting pictures of them. We had one final spot - a very local river that Eric had some great luck at - this river will remain nameless.....for my sake. It was pretty much dark when we pulled in - we checked out the water by the boat ramp and there were a few that were hitting the surface - so we all dashed our with rods in hand. Within seconds I had a fish slam my streamer/possie bugger rig. I could tell it wasn't huge, but it fought like a 20 inch trout - when I landed it, I was in for a surprise....of course if there is a retarded fish out there you know I will catch it...a squaw fish aka a pike minnow.
I actually caught two of these that night - both about the same length (14 inches or so) but the first one was about twice the size of the last. We basically called it a night around 9:30pm when we lost all light. We hit Wendy's on the way home - got back to Eric's house and crashed.
Friday - 28th
We got up late - like 8am late, and tried to decide what to do. Diamond Lake was hot lately and Eric had never fished it, but had heard great reports. This lake was 100% killed 4 years ago due to being over run by bait fish, but it had been heavily stocked in the last 4 years and the beneficiaries were getting large.
Since we were starving our first stop was at the Trailhead Coffeehouse in Oakridge, OR, which is a hippie run cafe that had some of the best breakfast I have ever tasted. We were waited on by a biker dude, into his 40's named "Lumpy" - he was emblazed with a claw mark tattoo down the right side of his face. You knew Lumpy had played hard and was enjoying his time in this mountain biking mecca. We had a great breakfast and headed on our way.
A little further up the road Eric had us stop at Salt Creek Falls - which is located right off the highway. These falls were amazing and the river was roaring. Of course it was rainy and cold and we didn't stick around long. These falls are 286 feet high and are beautiful.
We made the 2.5 hour trip through rain, some snow and some amazing scenery and landed at Diamond Lake Resort around noon. The lake is beautiful, with two large volcanic snow covered peaks on each side - Mt Thielsen to the east and Mt Bailey to the west - Bailey never made it out of the clouds all day and seemed to have it's owe weather system.
The weather was pretty nice, but it can change pretty quickly. We rented a pontoon "party boat" and headed out. We hit the South side of the lake and tried chironimid fishing. The depth was about 12-15 feet for most of the lake. We got into some stockers right off - I caught two 14 inch stockers on a crystal flash chiro, size 16. Then it just shut off. We tried various parts of the south side of the lake to no avail. The wind was starting to gte bad and would blow us off our anchor and we would drift quite a bit. We saw a ton of other fly fisherman in belly boats, pontoons and other craft.
Around 3pm we headed to the north side of the lake - it was slightly deeper and more importantly out of the wind. We didn't do much better - although we did have several takes we couldn't seem to set the hook on. As we fished our way back to the boat rental place we passed over some deep drop offs that I thought for sure we would get into fish. But nothing happened - except the wind kept blowing. We decided to call it a day and we returned the boat around 5pm.
On our way back to Fall Creek we decided to hit some meadow fishing and we stopped at a super secret fishing spot - again to remain nameless (mostly because I forget the name of it - let's call it "Big Marsh Creek"). This spot was off the road a bit, and we parked near the railroad tracks in a nice little campground - that no one was at, surprisingly on Memorial Day Weekend. This campground is the kind you dream about in Colorado (there are a few like this) - close by the water, large space - of course it had it's down falls to - mosquitos. Luckily we were there in May and the mosquitos were still down south for the winter.
After a short hike we found this amazing creek - about 8 feet wide and flowing fast. It didn't take long for Steffan to start nailing them on small dark caddis patterns. He had a half dozen on instantly - including this brookie and a nice redband rainbow.
Above is the amazing view of the meadow as we stood on the railroad tracks over looking the river. We stayed here the rest of the evening - literally until 10pm and we couldn't see anymore. Eric slayed them here - catching a ton of fish. I had a couple on, but they all wiggled off before reaching my hand. I nymphed this river with no luck - you can't fish every river like you do in Colorado. I dry flied and dry/droppered it to with no luck. It was pitch black and we again headed home. This was one of our latest nights out, and we weren't in much of a mood to get up early the next day.
Saturday - 29th
Saturday morning we had decided to stay local. Eric had another secret spot that he didn't want to give away, but since we were pretty much skunked out, he decided to take us. It was actually very close to the place we finished up on Thursday night - but on the other side of the river. Problem is that the other side of the river means going 25 miles around the Reservior! After climbing up a dirt road for over 15 miles we finally hit the Yellow Gate Hole - which means nothing to anyone since there is no yellow gate around there.
We dressed, and headed on a short hike to the river. This river was big, slightly off colored, but looked very fishy. We were about 1/4 mile from the entrance to the Reservior. We immediately jumped in, but couldn't even see fish. The river was about 6 feet deep with large riffles and spin outs where the water could pool up - but it was blowing probably in the 4200 cfs range. The closest river I can describe this as is the Colorado at Gore Canyon - but blowing twice as much water at the Gore's highest point. The caddis and mayflies were coming of - large size 10 green caddis and slightly smaller maroon mayflies. The fish never did take from the top.
Steffan took this beauty on a golden stone - a 16 inch rainbow that was very healthy. This would end up being the fish of the trip. I could see several fish in this one hole, but could not entice them to eat - and I tried about 2,000 casts in there. I was indicator fishing and Eric seemed to think that was my problem. The fish in OR like the movement and swing of large flies. Steffan actually caught this one without and indicator on the swing.
About 12pm we headed back to Eric's house for some lunch and I actually ended up mowing part of Eric's huge lawn on an old tractor. We had a nice cookout, drank a ton of beer and then decided we needed to fish some more. We scouted some more local areas as Eric tried to get us into some steelhead or salmon. We swung by a buddy of his house who has some private property right on the river. Unfortunately there were no signs of steelhead or salmon hanging out in that pool so we moved on. So we headed out again.
This time we hit Little Fall Creek, a little ways out of town - it was a good sized creek, about 215 yards across and it was known to have salmon or steelhead in it. Eric took us to a big falls pool where the steelhead would ahve to stop because they couldn't go up the falls. We fished this section for a while, but again, nothing. I had had about 10 beers by now and I was feeling pretty loopy - in fact, Steffan still swears I almost took a header and went down river. But, I don't remember it and we were back in the truck again trying out some lower sections of the same river. Again, it was getting late and we basically called it a night. (I'm going to be honest with you here - I don't remember what we did next - I just remember more beers and going to bed!)
Sunday - 30th
Our last day of the trip started out late again - around 9am. Eric knew a great spot that was sort of on the way to the airport and we could get in and out pretty easy and still amke it to the airport by noon.
We headed out around 10am and were on the water in no time. This river was the Coast Fork Williamette and was right near Highway 5. The river had a weird bottom to it - it had like a shail bottom with slotted sections where the fish could hide in some holes. There was also an island and that broke up the water - so we fished around the island. The water again was blowing strong and fast and tea-colored, so fishing was going to be tough. Eric headed straight for the island and was immediately into rainbows and cutts. I joined him and hooked up with a nice little cutt of about 12 inches.
I continued to fish and caught a few more fish - including my first ever double - a 14 inch rainbow on a black zebra midge and a 10 inch rainbow on a size 14 possie bugger. I hooked a few more and then it was time to go. Steffan hadn't caught a fish at all in that section. On our way back to the van, Eric started telling us abotu the shale and it's history. This area had actually been a bay and the shale contained imprints of wood, shells and plants from thousands/millions of years ago. We started turning over rocks and finding imprints of all kinds of old fossils - sticks, shells, various imprints. It was very cool. We headed out right at noon time. Stripped out of our stuff, packed our gear, said our good byes and were on the way to the airport.
That was essentially our trip. Not a whole lot of catching, but a great time none-the-less. Oregon is beautiful and we learned a lot about it's history and it's landscape. It is so much different than Colorado, but equally as beautiful. Steffan and I would liek to thank Eric and his wife for putting up with our asses for 4+ days and we appreciate his hospitality. I can not wait to go back.
A couple of thoughts on Oregon:
- The rivers there are huge - you can't compare them to anything in Colorado. The water flows so fast it is hard to judge, and it makes them difficult to fish at times. Although I would like to blame myself for not catching fish, I think the new surroundings and completely different water had something to do with it.
- There are a lot of rednecks/hippies/crazy people in Oregon. From crazy mushroom pickers to tattoo faced hippies, the place has a wide variety of loons.
- I saw about 100 logging trucks go by us that first morning at about 100 mph in the rain - pretty crazy.
- Logging is a way of life here - it makes and breaks towns. Loogers/mills/trucking is everything in some towns. I was against clear cutting, but these people in Oregon take it seriously and treat the land with respect. They replant everything they cut and it takes only about 40 years for a forest to regrow to cuttable trees.
- It is very natural there - wildfires are natural, the water is natural, keeping hatchery fish is natural...it is just a peaceful place there.
- There are so many different local beers in Oregon - and although none were my favorite - it was awesome trying them all. To say we had a lot of choices is an under statement.