After some late spring rains, summer is settling in. The North is also starting to settle in, with the flows continuing to drop and becoming more fishy with each day passing. I've spent some time up there during the last few weeks and it has been, well, June. There are some fish around, but it's a game of luck really now. If you can locate a fish it'll probably grab whatever you throw at it. The trouble is finding them. I was able to raise a few to the dry, but they were very shy. Both not taking, while I see this later on in the summer when the fishing pressure is up. It was strange behavior for these June fish, they normally climb all over it. Even got one to come back to a change, but it was the same shy rise.
This morning was more like the June fish that I know. Fishing down through the bottom end of a run, just before the river started to V into a quick tailout something awesome happened. He missed the fly with his initial out of the water "gimmie that thing, RIGHT NOW!" chased it back down and missed again. I think a smile emerged. And my heart was racing and hands quivering uncontrollably(this happens every time). I brought the fly back and changed up. Threw the new dry out there to hopefully get engulfed, it did, chaos ensued. After about a minute the fish wrapped me around some ledge rock and came undone. When the fish went airborne, it looked to be a bit smaller than I thought from the initial rise, and it seemed to take the fly a bit further up on the swing than the first. I put the original fly back on and started a few cast above where everything went down. When the fly came to where it once was, the water erupted again, he missed again, he chased it down again and didn't miss. He immediately jumped broadside to me, he was a slab. He left the pool and again I was wrapped around ledge rock to the point that my leader got roughed up and broke. The aerial displays of both these fish were incredible, the runs knuckle busting. Steelhead are epic. It was good to feel the pull again of strong, fresh wild steelhead. There is nothing like it.
In about ten minutes, I saw about 15 attempts to make these falls. I'm guessing they are around 8 feet. No fish made it, though the falls are passable. It was amazing to see the kind of beating these wild fish took while trying to jump. And how long they could hold their position in the waterfall when they fell short. When these fish do make it over the falls, in a few days they will reach Steamboat Falls.
The problem is that the fish ladder at Steamboat Falls is blocked, and the fish cannot pass these falls without the ladder. The construction of this fish ladder is the reason the falls are now impassable. The dynamiting involved in the construction removed the necessary plunge pools the steelhead used to pass the falls. ODFW now knows the ladder is blocked, and has for a week now. The conditions are good to enter the ladder which is completely enclosed. So, hopefully the ODFW will find the time soon to get up there and clear the ladder to allow these wild fish to head upstream to their summer refuge. The water temp. at the falls is still at good levels for the fish. But, it is becoming warm enough for swimmers and other people out to have a good time. I know most people don't mean harm to these fish that inevitably stack up in the pools below the falls. But, for fish being stuck and nowhere to go with people jumping in and swimming with them, it has got to be pretty stressful to these fish. And eventually this will happen...
Through their dedication to wild fish in the North Umpqua, The Steamboaters are working hard to fix this problem. Check out what they are doing at www.steamboaters.org
And once the fish make it to their summer refuge, The North Umpqua Foundation helps ensure their safety providing funding and a nice trailer to have a warm body watching over the major holding pool on Steamboat Creek. Check them out at www.northumpqua.org
The building of cofferdams in the removal of Gold Ray dam on the Rogue. That'll be two dams out on the Rogue in two years. Granted this one is being removed because of money rather than fish passage, but it is still awesome. This will open up around five miles of river for chinook and winter steelhead spawning, not to mention all the new spawning gravels that will know be able to move down river with the removal of Gold Ray. The positives for the river are endless. Gold Ray dam fish ladder is ranked one of the worst in Oregon.
So, the Winchester Dam quote of the day, is going to be a new addition to the blog. A bit of history, invariably I and friends hear some pretty comical one-liners to monologues while checking out the fish viewing room at Winchester Dam, the quote of the day will be the best of the best.