Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Wading for Cutbow (Godot...)

Sauvie's Island next to cows
The Strange - Sauvie's Island

Seriously headed for Eastern Oregon
We made a short drive out to kayak within Sauvie's Island - which is a large island in the Columbia River - near it's confluence w the Willamette. So large in fact it has roads, a nude beach, several stores, many large farms and huge shallow bay in the middle of it - Sturgeon Lake. This massive complex shallow bay is or was reported to have warmwater fish "panfish". I'm not sure this is true at all anymore.  We went in Little McNary Lake.  This was the murkiest water I have ever experienced. (murkier than the Everglades and The Mississippi !) Visibility was a few inches maybe - almost totally opaque chocolate milk and uniformly so the whole 4 hours we were on the water - miles of this !  Everywhere around this section of the Island was like this - until you were out on the east side in the Columbia proper and then it was clearish and bluish and much windier than the bay. What makes this brown water color extra odd is the lack of rainfall here this time of year has all other bodies of water very low and clear.   

Mitchell, Oregon
I may have only disturbed one carp. And as for the lack of panfish - I fished tiny crappie sized lures under a popper and did not have a single hit. Odd

Grande Ronde River is Grande
At one time I believe they had a stocking program for bluegill etc. in the Willamette. But online info on catching panfish in either the Willamette or Columbia is spotty or outdated info.  So there seem to be no bluegill and very very few crappie in the rivers here. (I did catch 2 this year on 3" lures).  So Sauvie was a total bust this time as far as fishing... without really any carp sightings or "spookings" even which I found surprising and depressing. Water was not outrageously warm either.  It looks like a decent bluegill area and a perfect carp area.  Maybe go back earlier in the year around May or June next year when its still flooding and look for carp on fly ?  Fishless days like this can almost make me lose my stomach in the search for alternative fisheries. Meanwhile Naomi helped me fix a flat tire we got at the dock, spotted lots of curious cows, birds, a cow skull and had amazing sunny, quietude. 

Walking in on the Lostine River Trail
Eagle Cap Wilderness - Eastern Oregon  

Joining the Dark Side - a gradual slipping and entry into flyfishing. 
Campsite Brookie

It was a bit scary to take the kayaks off the truck and head for Dry Eastern Oregon, but our friend Adam had been to ECW 9 times and inspired us to go.  We headed out for a 6 night trip with 4 nights in Eagle Cap Wilderness in the far northeast corner of the state. We had never seen much of eastern Oregon at all.  We stayed 4 nights at Two Pan and did 2 long day hikes into the Lakes Basin Area.  There are 52 named alpine lakes in the Eagle Cap area - and then also Lostine and Wallowa rivers. So I took the opportunity to introduce my self to flyfishing.
Actually Relaxing
Putting myself through a self-guided mini-workshop with the clear shallow swift water. The fishing here was good - both in the River and the Lakes - for Brook trout. I did catch one bigger 12" Rainbow - at dusk in the river.  But the high-altitude low-nutrient load cold water means smaller fish. So you scale down your gear and still have a blast.  

Hoping that Bears don't go higher than this
Lakes Basin from Eagle Cap summit
My dad had sent me a 2 pc. 5 wt. years ago and I had  yet to really be in as fly conducive situation until this.  But here in the Wallowas seemed like the right place to flyfish in somebody else's cowboy movie. And back in the day I hung out with 2 serious fly guys in Florida  - Luis and Raul - and also my dad flyfishes - so I had some small idea what I was doing through osmosis....but not really - and no real mentor here for spinning or fly. I bought some convenience store flies at a Bi-Mart last-minute on the way out of town.... (never again).  

World's  longest drift. 
I put on a small nymph and managed to catch a some Brookies the first morning in the river at about 5000 ft. and then more Brook trout out 2 of the lakes we hiked up to at about 7700 ft. The fish coming out of
Minam Lake Brook Trout
the more remote lake flashed so all-over yellow and spotted that I thought it was a Cutthroat. (they don't have cutthroat in this area).

Mirror and Moccasin from Eagle Cap
Leaving Eagle Cap, we stopped in Joseph and at the wonderful flyshop there, which had really nice looking flies,  I learned that the area of our campsite at Two Pan is considered hard to fish as it is so completely clear over white granite boulders with almost NO algae even.  And that the Lostine River is not even stocked with Brookies - the little suckers just go up there!  He also showed me some photos of some fairly yellow rainbows caught in the Imnaha.  He had a client hook a rainbow that the guide actually thought was a Sucker because it looked so yellow - on the way in - which he said made him look kind of silly.   The shop owner was really nice.

Big News: We got to go out to Tillamook Bay area at the beginning of September....
I panic without my Clippers
And so ENDS my quest for the elusive Sea-run Cutthroat. (who knew you would have to go where the river meets the sea... or 13 miles in actually)  I ended up catching several in a coastal river over labor day weekend including one rainbow trout, cutbow or steelhead smolt. Releasing fish quickly results in not taking them out of the water and not getting a photo.  My wife is proud of this minimal harassment.

Mirror Lake after Eagle Cap summit, 13 miles into 20mi hike

I am very curious about the rainbow / cutthroat cross that results in the Cutbow.   

Smaller rivers are low enough this time of year to fish more like a small stream.  Neat fish, the Cutthroat, but more eager to hit my spinners than the nymphs - though I did get one on a San Juan Worm. 

NW Oregon Coastal Cutthroat !
As I write this in late September, the fall rains have begun early and in force and the weather is cooling.  

Hoping to get back out in October and do some exploring for salmon in the Sandy and the Clackamas.

My hair is getting long and my beard is pretty much out of control.   Apparently Naomi already caught a steelhead.  Her hair is shorter than mine.

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