Saturday, May 23, 2015

Fishing the lower South Fork of the Walla Walla River

Spring flow on the lower South Fork

A fishing report from Dale - 23 May

With this being the opening day of anadromous waters - trout fishing in NE Oregon, Terry and Dale felt the need to work off the sharp corners of our new 2015 Oregon fishing license. We have been watching the early season flow of the South Fork and mainstem of the Walla Walla River all week, and felt that it would be wadable and fishable this opening day.
Copper John - the ticket for this day's hookups
Checking the stream flow at the Grove stream-flow guage station and the rocks around it, the in-town flow looked good enough to head upriver to wet our flies.

This day the water was quite clear for May, spring runoff. The water temperature was 50° F, air temperature was about 81° F, and the river flow was 162 cfs at the nearest downstream flow-guage station.

Having just returned to his boyhood home on So. Fork River last fall, Terry asked Dale to show him around, and give him some pointer on fishing the river. It has been the better part of 40 years since Terry fished these, his home-waters, while Dale has been fishing the same waters religiously for the past 20 years. Dale too has been living on the upper Walla Walla River for the past 13 years, and regular casting practice in these waters keeps one's edge sharp.

Because of the narrow channel, and gradient in Terry's stretch of the river, Dale told Terry about the fish habitat improvements made downriver at his McKuster Horse Ranch, on the mainstem of the river, by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and other US and OR government agencies. Those improvements really enhanced the angling there.
Spring flows on mainstem of the upper Walla Walla River

On the stretch of the So. Fork we fished today the water was easily wadable, fishable, and quite a bit lower than is typical for this time of year - May. A wading staff in hand did make some river crossings more comfortable.

This afternoon we were in the river for the better part of 3 hours. Early on Dale caught a small Redband trout - first hookup of the day. For the day we caught over a dozen trout between us, most in the 4"-6" size range, with a couple in the 7"-8" size range.

After a couple of hours Terry headed back to the house, while I wanted to go a bit further upriver to see what was around the next bend.
Spring flow on the lower South Fork
When I got to this bend pool of the river, surveying the water in front of me, I had the feeling there should be a BIG fish in there... a nice Redband, a steelhead, a Dolly Varden char. Having fished the pool from top to bottom, all I could find was one 5" Redband that show up on my Copper John retriever. 

On the way back downriver to my truck, I notice there has been some beaver activity in the area. 
Maybe the day will come that we might see the beavers damming a pool or two to help create more fish holding habitat in this stretch of the river.

Also noticed today that a black ant fly pattern might be a good trout catcher for this stretch of the river. Today the river flow was a bit too fast to try to hold a dry fly in position for a trout to survey and devour off of the surface.
Upon returning to the house Terry and I compared our notes of the day. Talked about fly fishing strategy and the joy of just being out, on the river, and sharing the afternoon. It was about that time a pair of Bullock's Oriole flew in for a visit.  
There are quite a few Orioles on this stretch of the river in the spring, before they head to the mountains to beat the heat of summer.   
We then discussed this and other bird sightings for awhile and I told Terry that downriver neighbor Robert was an amateur ornithologist  extraordinaire, and could answer a lot of birding questions upon sight or sound of a bird.

It was a beautiful afternoon well spent, putting the casting arm back into practice, and trying to maintain vertical equilibrium while climbing over river rocks. A lot like child's play, for these big boys' games. 

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ready for our June 6th - Fly Fishing Fair, and some summertime "Let's go fishin" trips

This evening President Tom called our monthly meeting to order at 7:14.

We had 17 club members –including two new members in attendance.

This evening we had two fly boxes and a book for one door prize and two raffle items.
Heidi won the door prize and she selected a fly box. Tom then asked if those in attendance would agree that we hold the other fly box and the author signed book for Silence Auction items at our upcoming 2015 Fly Fishing Fair (FFF). It was agreed to do so by all, so the book and fly box will be made available at the FFF with proceeds going to the activities of our local chapter of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc. (PHWFF).

Herb C. donated a very nice book to our club library for all to enjoy – A Fly Fishing Guide to Idaho trout waters.
Dale M. presented Jerry N. with a fly box holding 70 flies to be added to the silence auction at our FFF with proceeds going to PHWFF.

Tom then introduced our two new club members Ben E. and Michael D. to the officers of the club and the remainder of the group present.

The main business of the evening was a discussion to finalize details for our Seventh Annual Fly Fishing Fair (FFF) being held at the Waterbrook Winery on Saturday June 6th. The winery does not open for business until 11:00 am, but we discussed being there to set up for the day's activities around 10:00 am and the event will run until 3:00 pm.

Tom told us that he has been in touch with Jim Gallagher at Troutwater Fishing Guide service,

and with Grant Richie coming from Minam Raft and Fishing Guide Service, and both have indicated they would attend our FFF this year. 


From that point the discussion went around the room as to who would be available to be at our FFF and aid in fly casting ~ fly tying demostrations, instructions, and casting ~ catching practice time to be spent around the stocked ponds. Diane said she could help with supplying some fly rods. Tom reported that Teagh Gustin (our Waterbrook Winery event director and host), will soon have posters and advertising available to put out APBs of our event to the public. Teagh has indicated that the winery ponds has again been stocked with trout and bass, and they would be available -Catch and Keeping- for the fly fishing children attendees of this day. We may also need some adult help filling the children's creels, if members are also interested in catching some fish. 

It was mentioned that in -Catch and Keeping- that fish holding bags/creels would need to be made available as well as manning a fish cleaning / icing station. Tom said he would handle that. With this being our Seventh Annual FFF, and leaning on our past experiences, most of us feel confident that all should go well for the day.
Our next points of discussion were about area fishing habitat, current fishing reports, and projected club fishing outings. Everyone was glad to have seen and heard the rainfall that came through our area Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. As we approach the opening of trout / stream fishing season in WA and OR these rains are much needed by fish and anglers alike.

Rainfall-snowfall accumulations of May 12-13 reported by the US National Weather Service - Pendleton, OR

Harold and Robin S. reported they had been fishing with Scott Wilson in the Cle Elum area of the upper Yakima River last week. 

Harold's story was a little fishy

They told us that their first day there the water was much like summertime flows and the fishing was easy. The next day the irrigation flow had been turned on and the fishing was like working the early spring runoff, having to use weighted flies to get to the fish. 
Robin's rainbow catching story were better, since reports are that she caught most of the fish
Success was sweet, in the hands of Robin and Harold.
Jerry N., Dave S. and the PHWFF guys had been on the John Day River above Clarno bass fishing and reported they had a hard time keeping small-mouth bass off of their flies - Leeches / Wooly Buggers.
Jerry N. reported that he had traveled through the Wallowa River Canyon recently and found that the flow there was very much like the summertime flow of the river. Saw no anglers on the river.
Robert S. reported that he had traveled into the Jubilee Lake area this past week and the snowpack was NOT. Usually this area is holding snow until the 4th of July when the lake and park (a fee park) are then opened to the public, if the snowpack has been clear. This year ~ this week the lake and surrounding area is clear and accessible. Even though there was a snowfall across most of the Blue Mountains overnight of May 12-13, that amount of snow should not effect the access to the lake and area.
With this report the subject of stillwater trout fishing came up; as to when are most of the NE Oregon high lakes open for fishing (after snowpack cleared ~ ice off and turnover over)? 
A few trout fishing spots in NE Oregon we hope to work this summer
Tom C. said that he had purchased a pontoon boat recently; Jerry N. has a drift boat; Dale M. has a pontoon boat and two float tubes, but he has only one set of kick-fins and PFD; Diane B. has a kayak, and we are discussing the opportunity to “beat the heat” on the NE Oregon high lakes at 5,200’ to 7,100’ elevations asap. All club members* will be welcome to join our stillwaters fishing trips, and a lot of OR high lakes can be fished well from the shore. It has been pointed out in some of our past meeting programs, with Bob Wolfe and others that stillwater fly fishing is geared a bit differently than stream/river fishing, using Chironomid flies and sinking fly lines for best results.
Dale mentioned that most of OR high lakes are accessible by mid-June if not earlier, and stated that he has seen fresh snowfall covering the Elk Horn lakes area on Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day, but snow and overcast skies doesn't hurt the catching success of the day at all. Many of these stillwater locations offer 100-200 rainbow and brook trout hookups per day.

Secretary Dale said he would post via email the trout stocking schedule to the club membership*, and we can begin making plans to head for the hills – "Beat the Heat" with fly rods in hand.
All anadromous trout waters are opened for fishing in NE Oregon on Saturday 23 May this year, and opened to fishing in SE Washington on Saturday 6 June
The fishing trip that Jerry N. had made with the PHWFF group, was again discussed and what those guys had found for large Dolly Varden “Bull Trout” on the Wenaha River. With this revisited discussion of fishing the Wenaha River we learned that Jerry M. and Dale M. could direct our way to the river, coming in from the top of the canyon / wilderness area to get to some very large Dollies that hold in the headwaters of the river during warm weather. This is also prime rattlesnake country, with lot of snakes.
Also discussed was looking for opportunities to make short range fishing trips on the So. Fork of the Walla Walla River and Tucannon River, as well as making a run or two for the Wallowa River, where there is plenty of roadside fisher's pull off with some prime trout fishing opportunities. 
Wallowa River Canyon

Wallowa River Valley with  Eagle Caps backdrop



Tonight was our last regularly scheduled monthly meeting (the second Wednesday of the month) until September - next meeting to be scheduled after Frontier Days and Round Up

Please watch your email for an announcement of our next monthly meeting, same times, same place - after our summer's fly fishing trips and rodeo recess is over.
Smith's Family Restaurant
1425 Pine Street
Dinner and social at 6:00 pm with meeting following at 7:00
Come one, come all, come as you are.

This meeting was adjourned at 8:00 pm.
Respectfully submitted,

Dale McKain

Club Secretary

Tight lines and Good Fishing

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

Past Presidents
Tyson Kopfer
Bob Long
Scott Peters 
  * Members with membership dues paid will be notified via email of our 2015 summer activities