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Warren's Steelhead Epic

By admin - Posted on 15 December 2010

I rolled out of Telluride on September 30 to start another October in the beautiful steelhead state of Oregon.  This year, Pancho Winter accompanied me for the first two weeks.  We left town around 3 in the afternoon after stopping by the fly shop to say a quick goodbye.  25 hours later, we were launching on the upper Deschutes.  About 25.5 hours after that, Pancho landed his first steelhead: beautiful 28" wild buck on the swing.  All true.  Shortly afterwards, I landed my first fish.  It was going to be a good trip.  

It takes a certain breed to be a steelheader.  It is hard work.  It can be really cold.  You can go long periods of time without catching anything and you start questioning your methods. But on this trip, Pancho brought the luck.  We floated Trout Creek to Harpham Flats, about a 32 mile float on the upper Deschutes above Sherars Falls.  The original plan was to do a 5 night, 6 day trip.  But on day 2, I realized how much water Pancho drinks.  Normally, my 7 gallon water jug - and various other beverages - are sufficient for that length of trip for 2 people.  In fact, I've never run out of water before.  But it became apparent that our supply would not last.  So instead, we did a 3 night, 4 day trip and took off at Harpman.  We did another food buy in the town of Maupin, booked a shuttle, launched from Max Canyon and floated to the mouth of the Columbia at Heritage Landing, about 23.5 miles.  At the put-in, there were tornado force winds.  Everything was flying around, and even with the anchor on shore, the wind pushed the boat into the river, and I had to chase it out and grab the anchor rope.  Before we took off, I was soaked to the bone.  The second launch didn't go as smoothly.  We pushed down river a few miles.  I like to camp at a spot called Lower Dyke, but the camp was taken.  So we went another half mile, and camped on the river right side at a spot I call Acorn.  The wind died down enough to get the spey rods out.  But steely wasn't in a grabby mood.  The next morning, I was up as usual before the sun to take advantage of Prime Time.  As well as being a well hydrated individual, Pancho has a regular eating habit and seems to wake up hungry.  I usually don't eat until later in the morning, so I hopped in the upper part of the run, started getting my line out gradually - had about 25 feet of line out on my spey rod - when I got my first grab.  The fish dropped it before I could hook him.  I started yelling at Pancho to get into the water.  He was eating when he should've been fishing.  I continued to work my line out, and about 10 feet later, I got my second grab.  But again, couldn't get purchase on the fish.  More yelling at Pancho finally got him into the run.  Five minutes later, I hooked a beautiful wild hen.  It was a great fight and I landed the fish.  It was going to be another great float. 

Last year, the Deschutes had its biggest run of fish on record.  But last year, they were mostly hatchery fish and one salters.  This year we were blessed with mostly wild, strong two salt fish.  A little more elusive, but a much better fish.  I'll take quality over quantity any day.  I am not exactly sure of the numbers - not that that's what steelheading is about - but I think we touched fish every day.  In all, we drove straight through from Colorado to Oregon, did a quick food buy in Bend, launched the boat, took off in Harpman Flats, another quick food buy, launched again and took off at Heritage, and fished ten straight days before calling it quits for our trip. 

The next day, I took Pancho to the Redmond Airport so he could fly back to Telluride.  It was a great start for another great steelhead season in Oregon.  Over the next month, I fished with 5 friends on the Deschutes, the north Umpqua, the Tillamook, the Trask and the Kilchis, mostly for steelhead, but also for king salmon and chum salmon.  Besides steelheading, I visited multiple breweries, because Oregon has some of the best beer I know.  I think I landed about 14 steelhead, almost all on the Deschutes, with two on the north Umpqua - including my biggest one - and a 35 pound, dime bright king salmon at the coast.  I returned to Telluride on October 2.  Wish I could have stayed longer, but the money was running out.  It was time to head for home.  I am hoping to sneak in some winter steelheading this year for the first time.  I hear it's pretty brutal, but I guess I am a glutton for punishment.  It is rewarding to fish for such elusive, hard to hook, strong fighting fish with a classy with double handed spey rod casting technique.  I highly recommend it.  It's a whole other world.


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