Monday, November 10, 2014

Steelhead fishing on the John Day River

A fishing report from Dale - 10 November

Today was a great day for the chasing of steelhead on the John Day River (JDR). 

 Early on the John Day River - Kris and Erik - started downriver where Kris had caught steelies previously

Three Walla² Fly Fishers left the Grove Elementary School parking lot at about 6:00 a.m. this morning, heading for the JDR - River mile 20 - in the area of Segment 1. We got to the river around 8:30 a.m. which is a 125 mile run out of Milton-Freewater.
Leaving Milton-Freewater this morning the vehicles were covered with a layer of ice and frost from the overnight rains and freezing temperatures. Arriving at the JDR, the temperature was cool, but not freezing or frosty. The sky was clear and the air very fresh.
Kris, Erik, and Dale moved as fast as we could to wader-up, put our rods together, grab our fishing gear and food needs for the day, and move out. Today we would cover about 5.5 miles of water in our 7+ hours on the "job" at the JDR.
Kris and Erik - Early on the John Day River

Section 1 of the John Day River, starting at the river 20-mile mark

Eventhough we did not have the most optimum river flow at 367cfs this day, the water flow was enough to swing our flies. 

Having geared up for the day, Kris and Erik hit the trail and went downriver, Dale hit the trail and went upriver. On his way to the water Dale ran into Maria, asking him "aren't you a Walla² Fly Fishers... aren't you Dale?" This writer's reply to both questions was "Yes", and then Maria introduced herself. It was just a couple of years ago that this writer ran into Grant Richie, and they were familiarized in much the same manner on the JDR. Dale invited Grant to take a look at our club, and now he is a very supportive member. This is a great place to meet people.
Getting to the Wheel-Line Hole, Dale started his search for steelhead this day.

Knee deep water visibility 11-7-14
This writer would like to digress from this day's report... having spent the previous Friday steelhead fishing the JDR, I found the water conditions had gotten a bit worst over the weekend. The past Friday like this day, the JDR water color was quite green and rather dingy with only 2'-3' visibility most of the day. Usually the JDR in November is flowing at 425-450 cfs and is gin clear. 

It wasn't very long before Erik and Kris came upriver to join Dale to fish in the Wheel-Line Hole. The JDR is Oregon's longest non-damed river. This lower stretch of the river has lots of long pools, (50 to 100+ yards long) of easy fishing waters which 2-3-4 people can fish at the same time. It just take quite a bit of hiking and wading to get to where you want to go.

While at the Wheel-Line Hole, we ran into Dick and Maria from Walla Walla - also Walla² Fly Fishers. We talked for awhile, fished for awhile, with no one getting or seeing any sign of a fish. 

Dale moved upriver to the Morris Hole, which had almost always given him a steelhead jerk. Having fished this hole for awhile, Kris and Erik came upriver and joined Dale. Dale reported that he had seen a couple of snouts breaking the surface of the pool, but no hookup action, and so stepped out of the river and gave the hole to Erik and Kris to fish. They too having fished the hole with no luck, were stepping out when Maria and Dick showed up. Dale shared his past experience of catching steelhead in this pool, and told Dick where he had made steelie hookups in times past.
Dick at "work" while Maria looks on
From the Morris Hole, Erik and Kris moved upriver, and as Dale moved upriver he found Erik working his nymphing combo in a run at the head of the Morris Hole.
Erik nymphing
After fishing this run, Erik moved upriver and worked the Frog Water Hole and up to the run at the head of that pool. All of these spots have held steelhead in the past, but this morning the fish hookup action was nil.
The Powerline Hole tailout - we find Kris eating lunch
At this point we caught up with Kris, eating his lunch; and proceeded to work the Powerline Hole up to the head of this very long pool. Again we were touching no fish.
a view from the Powerline Hole
The three of us surrounded the head run (3 or 4 chutes) pouring into the Powerline Hole, where steelhead -B-run steelhead- has been caught in the past. With much anticipation we each hoped to have several hookups in the spot. Again nothing touched our flies.

From this point Kris quickly worked his way up to the tailout at the End of the Trail, while Erik and Dale worked through the Rock Garden. In the Rock Garden, when conditions are normal on the JDR, there seems to always be a steelhead holding behind these boulders, but not today.

Erik and Kris working below the End of the Trail

 Again Erik and Dale joined Kris at the End of the Trail, fished the tailout for awhile and then we all turned back downriver together. As the sun was setting behind the canyon west wall, Erik asked if he could "take the time to put 30 casts" into the Powerline Hole again. "Sure, catch a fish."
As the sun set, Erik stepped down to the river for 30-casts
After Erik placed his 30 casts, without a fish partaking, we hiked back downriver to the Morris Hole. While fishing the Morris Hole making our "last ditch effort" to take home a steelhead, we began talking about the day, the exercise, the times we had been hit by a fly, and decided this day was well done, even without the smell of fish on our hands. So from here we pulled out of the river and headed back for the truck.
But wait, there was still some daylight left, so Kris made a fast dash downriver and fished the same waters he and Erik had fished first thing this morning. Again with no smelly fish results. Talking with Dick later we found that he and Maria did not touch a steelhead all day. 

While fishing back downriver from the End of the Trail, we had about 10-12 fishers/ pheasant hunters float by us (coming from Cottonwood Bridge) and none of them had touched a fish in two days. This was really some tough information to hear during this, the prime steelhead fishing days of November on the JDR.

Most of the day Dale used his Marabou Flash

The flies we used this day... 
Erik anchored his nymphing with a Copper Swan, most of
the time using a second dropper fly

Dale's fly patch - wet Marabou Flash and Egg Sucking Leech
Kris' #1 fly of the day
Kris' #2 fly for taking steelies
 Today was a great day for the chasing of steelhead on the John Day River.
P.S. Kris has discovered why the JDR is not it's usual November fishery / catchery with this linked report. The John Day has been colored up by what has been reported as a mudslide well above Cottonwood - a report by Joel La Follette - Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tight lines and good fishing
Walla² Fly Fishers

Tom Craig – President
Dave Stemmer – Vice President
Doug Coe – Treasurer
Dale McKain – Secretary ~ Blogmaster 
Gerald Newell - PROJECT HEALING WATERS Coordinator

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