Fish On! FCO Members Find Steel on a Legendary Coastal River
Four members of the Flyfisher’s Club of Oregon embarked on a three-day steelhead adventure on the North Fork of the Nehalem River last week. The Oregon coast had experienced a recent atmospheric river with water levels high and turbid, but fortunately for us, the rains had slowed, and rivers were slowly dropping. Our intrepid angling team consisting of Mark Seligman, Mike Radakovich, Rick Pay, and myself fished with Rob Crandall and Todd Rettman of Water Time Outfitters.
WTO rents a house on the banks of the river about a mile downstream from the hatchery that serves as a cozy winter steelhead lodge, so it’s pretty convenient to wader up and walk down to the river after a hot breakfast to begin the day. Delicious meals were provided at the house by Marty Smith, who manages the domestic side of the trip, and it’s safe to say no one went hungry. Typically, WTO guides float in rafts about five miles down to a takeout, then drive back upstream to put in at the hatchery boat ramp and float the last mile back home just in time for cocktail hour. Some of the fishing is typical wading and swinging down a run, but some areas have inaccessible slots that only can be fished from the raft. It’s a bit of an adjustment to Spey cast from a raft but we soon got the hang of it.
In our case, the water was still relatively high on the first day of fishing, so we took a divide and conquer approach with Mark and Mike floating the river and Rick and I doing some walk and wade fishing further upstream near the Cook Creek tributary before floating down from the hatchery to finish the first day. Higher water had us upgrading to heavier F.I.S.T. and Game Changer lines and T-14 tips, so it took good efficient casting strokes to avoid shoulder strain after a full day.
Despite some showers, the river dropped into shape nicely during our stay, with plenty of beautiful steelhead-green water to swing flies. Our group managed to land seven steelhead along with a number of good sized native cutthroat trout as bycatch. Five of the steelhead were wild fish, which may bode well for native returns as normally, the majority of fish caught at this time of year are hatchery fish, including some recycled fish that get dumped back into the river closer to the takeout.
Although my compatriots all managed to find fish before I got on the board (Mike Radakovich was high rod with three steelhead on the trip), I was happy to land a nice wild hen on the last day in a beautiful part of the lower section called Martin’s Run. I had experienced a few nibbles and tentative grabs earlier in the trip, but this fish left no doubt in my mind with an aggressive take that pulled line immediately as it commenced a series of acrobatic jumps. As always, I felt a sense of wonder and gratitude for the chance to hold and release a beautiful wild steelhead.
Historic Meeting to set the Future of Your Flyfisher’s Club
Please set aside Tuesday evening, February 13th to help set a successful course for the FCO! This meeting may be the most important one you have ever attended. Come hear what FCO leaders have been working on to rejuvenate your Club and learn how all of us can make a difference. Come with your ideas, energy, and dedication to our historic Club. Your contributions will steer the Club to a vibrant future!