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

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