Mid Summer Trout


Normally, I don’t have the opportunity to be on the river at first light, but some time has opened up for me recently and I hatched a plan to head out of town in the eve, camp, and be riverside first thing in the am. So, I had a nice dinner, packed my gear, and rolled out on a solo mission to what has become one my favorite places to be; the Upper section of the N Santiam River.
I arrived past dark, and drove the camp-mobile 1/8 mile down a primitive road and parked in a spot a buddy of mine and I had scouted last time I was there. A couple of beers later, and it was time for lights-out. I’ve never done an over-nighter here, usually I will leave PDX around 6, and am fishing by 8:30 / 9 at the earliest, so I was excited to get up and see what kind of action happens at first light…if anything. I was on the same section of river a few weeks before and we had a great day of fishing, catching numerous rainbow trout on anything from ants along the bank, to golden stones and stimulators in mid-river seams. The river was in good shape that day, but given how dry and hot it has been in Oregon lately, and the horror stories I’d heard, I was worried it would be low, warm and that any fish would be lethargic or would have found cooler water in one of the creeks that run into the main river.

Lights on. Coffee on. Boots and waders on, grabbed the gear and out the door.

The overnight low was forecast to be around 55, and it was definitely chilly morning air. I was on the bank at 6:45, and despite being close to the hwy, the rushing water was the only sound. As the sun started to brighten the sky a bit more, I looked around at the large firs towering overhead, the river and all the boulders dotting the surface and I couldn’t help but think about what and Idyllic setting this was. I was relieved to see the water was in decent shape; the level looked like it might have been down a bit from last time, but the flow was still a nice pace and the temp seemed about what I remembered. I didn’t have a river thermometer, but let’s just say I was glad to have socks and boots on. It was crystal clear and there was great visibility into the water….time to find some fish!
There was not a whole lot of activity that I could see, and aside from an ant or two along the bank, there were only some incredibly small mayflies floating around in some sunny patches that were not getting any rises. So, as I had expected, it was going to be a subsurface game early on. I picked out a few rocks from the water and found a couple of small nymphs, so I started my day with a sz16 pheasant tail and a 16 zebra midge trailing it.
I was psyched to be fishing a new rod / reel I had picked up from NWFFO a few weeks ago; a Sage Response 863-4 and a redington dragless reel. It’s light and smooth-casting but still has some power if you need to cast into a breeze (which I did). It should be a great set-up for this river considering it is not that wide, has a fair bit of pocket water, and the fish I’ve caught here avg. about 10 in.
Fishing was really slow to start. I worked my way downstream as quietly as I could and went through numerous rig changes. I tried zebra midges, various nymphs, and a copper john dropped off a 16 mayfly emerger…all getting no attention. The only thing going on hatch-wise on the surface were these tiny mayflies coming off, but they did not seem to be on the water very long, mostly in the air. I couldn’t get one in my hand to see a color, and of course there were no takes on the surface. I tied on an 18 parachute Adams to see if I could get anything to rise, and trailed an 18 tan elk hair caddis for good measure. I ended up getting a take on the caddis, but it was a miss. It was good to know there were fish around, and after a few more misses (or refusals) I decided to stick to this spot for a bit. I hadn’t been this far downriver before, and I was psyched to find a couple of nice seams, including a deep seam along the bank with a nice tail-out.
It was now 10am and I had very little to show for the time spent already. There is so much fishable water on the upper river, I probably should have moved a while ago, but sometimes I find it fun to focus on a spot if you know there is something there. Considering the success we had last time, I switched to a size 14 stimulator and cast it upstream. within a few casts It got hammered! It was a nice aggressive take, and on the 3wt (along with 6x tippet), it was good fun to bring in a pretty 10 inch rainbow.
I fished that fly, and that section, for the next hour and picked up a handful more fish, some with really distinct red banding on their sides, one of which was close to 13 inches. I decided to move on and worked my way back upriver. That particular fly was beaten up and waterlogged so I switched to a yellow sz 12 stimulator (didn’t have another orange 14), despite not seeing any stoneflies in the air. I decided to work a seam I have fished on a couple of occasions and today it was stacked with fish. It was now 11:30, and sun was on the water but I got plenty of attention with this big bug almost immediately. The water was clear enough that I could see numerous fish rise and give it a look, but then casually say ‘No, thanks’ and turn back down. A few came up from pretty deep and they seemed to be larger than anything I had stuck so far. I had a couple of nips and finally it got hit…unfortunately it was not one of the beasts I had hoped would take it. It pretty much inhaled the fly and even though I pinch my barbs, it still took a few min to get the fly out, and get this fish successfully revived and on it’s way.
Unfortunately this would be my last fish for the day. I tried a few more spots on the way back up and continued to have exactly the same experience despite tying on a few different patterns. Overall, it seemed that the simpler, more natural patterns were working better than anything with flash tied in, etc.
As my window of time was closing due to the 2pm fishing restriction, and considering this area is just a nice place to hang out, I decided to call it a day and head back to van to relax for a bit before making the 2hr drive back to Portland.

-David Roulo

Posted by Jack on 08/11 at 01:05 PM in (0) Comments






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