July 31, 2017

Saturday, July 22: Fishing The North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River

Before we start, let's just leave this here for a second...

Gorgeous, right?

The fishing part of the 2017 Tenkara Bug Out was centered around "self-guided" sections of the North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River. For a guy accustomed to fishing much smaller streams, this provided some big boulders, deep pools, and fast water opportunities, all within a picturesque canyon setting.

John Huber describes the North Fork as follows in the Flyfisher's Guide to Oregon: "The North Fork offers a fly angler 30 miles to wade and fish, as well as tributaries worth exploring... Fish are generally smaller here, with an occasional fish up to 19 inches caught... Most of the smaller rivers and tributaries can be fished with basic dries and nymph patterns and techniques..."

Bug Out host, Jim Vandagrift did a great job assigning everybody beats of the North Fork to fish and made the entry and exit points easily visible from the road that ran alongside the stream. On Saturday morning I was fishing section 15, and on Sunday morning I fished section 14. This post will be about Saturday.

As well marked as the entry point for section 15 was, once down by the water, it was a little tricky for me to navigate. I really wish I brought a wading staff. It will definitely come with me the next time. The combination of deceptively deep water and the speed of the current beat the crap out of me, especially my lower body and knees. Fortunately, I was able to scrounge an adequate "staff" out of a downed branch, and more or less waded close to the bank. Without it, I probably would have been in pretty bad shape in several spots along the river.

That said, there was nothing to complain about when it came to the fishing! Seeking out soft (or calmer) spots in the current, I got into fish almost right away using the Tenkara USA Sato, 3.5 level line, and a size 12 bead head Road Kone kebari. 

I'm not going to lie, I was initially having a little bit of problem with my hook sets, and probably lost my first half dozen fish, including a really nice one that leaped a few times then took me deep into a powerful rapid. However, once dialed in...

So many fish. Both dead drifts through deeper water and pulsing the fly through the shallows seemed to work with positive results. It was one of the best days I'd had on the water in a very long time. Skunk far in the rear-view, I even decided to put the rod down for a bit, and take a nice little rest in the shade atop a moss covered rock, to just admire the surroundings.

Once the sun got high in the sky, around 11:30 am, the fishing started to slow down. Anyone who has fished with me before knows I'm not one of those guys who needs to be on the water non-stop from dawn to dusk. 6ish hours is probably my sweet spot, so being very satisfied (and hungry for lunch), I found a spot to climb out of the canyon and walked back to the car, happy as could be. 

Plus, I knew I'd visit the North Fork again on Sunday, so no reason to push it. As for the rest of Saturday, well... I wanted to try a different body of water after lunch. 

And more on that to come...

July 28, 2017

Opening Act: A Visit To Salt Creek Falls

In preparing a loose agenda for the recent trip out to Oregon, I was looking for something to do in the short amount of time between the time the flight arrived and the evening "check in" for the Tenkara Bug Out. Outside of driving 45 minutes from Eugene to Oakridge, which would serve as my base camp for the weekend, I'd have about 3 or 4 hours to burn.

Fortunately, one of the more prominent tourist attractions was very close by, Salt Creek Falls, just a half hour down the road on Route 58. Billed as the "second tallest" falls in Oregon, Salt Creek flows through a wonderfully maintained piece of forest, with hiking trails, picnic areas, and of course, a prominent stone overlook that provides a fantastic view of the falls.

This photo does not do the falls justice...

Even when not marveling at the falls themselves, the view of the canyon was absolutely stunning...

Now having the fishing gear in the trunk of the car, it would have been downright negligent of me to not give the stretch of water above the falls a quick peek for fish. The fly fishing guide book had mentioned that there wouldn't be any "trophies" above the falls, but there should be plenty of small wild rainbows, and the occasional brook trout.

So a short walk upstream down this beautifully groomed path...

...yielded this nice little stretch of water...

...and tons of aggressive little fish. Just as advertised!

Even found a few of those "invasive" brookies!

So much fun!

After about an hour and a half of fish after fish after fish, I really needed to collapse the rod, pack up and head over to the Bug Out before it got too late. While nobody ever likes to leave an active fishing spot, it was easy to walk away both satisfied with this side trip and extremely optimistic for what the rest of the weekend had in store.

If you're ever in Central Oregon, I highly recommend a visit to Salt Creek Falls. Sightseeing, fishing, and the simple beauty of Mother Nature. It's tough to beat; a memorable trip for certain.

For more on Salt Creek Falls and the Willamette National Forest, check out the US Forest Service's website HERE.

July 24, 2017

The 2017 Tenkara Bug Out

What an awesome weekend in Oregon. It's actually not over (for me) yet, if you're reading this on Monday, I'm probably wandering somewhere around Crater Lake National Park.

Back to business, the primary reason why I'm in Oregon is that I've always wanted to fish in the Pacific Northwest, and had an awesome excuse with the first Tenkara Bug Out being held in the Oakridge/Westfir area... which is quite the paradise for the outdoor recreation crowd.

The Bug Out was spread over Friday night, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning, and unlike other tenkara events I've attended in the past, it was less "classroom," and more informal get-together, and more importantly... fishing!

I think the turnout was in the mid-30s, the perfect size to walk around and meet almost everyone. It was nice to see a good mix of attendees, from tenkara novices all the way up through the seasoned. Our host Jim Vandagrift really went above and beyond and did a fantastic job setting up the event program and actually organizing (and clearly marking) nearby sections of the North Fork of the Willamette River for all of us to fish. That was HUGE for an out-of-towner such as myself.

As I mentioned, while the event format was very informal, there were several touch points where we all got together as a group.

Friday night was very brief, reserved for registration, ground rules, door prize raffles, fishing assignments, and beer. Lots of introductions, hand shaking, and meeting my tenkara brethren from the other side of the country.

Jim addresses the group

Lucky raffle winner

Saturday was the most eventful of the 3 days. Most people started the day by fishing the sections of the river they were assigned the night before. However, those that wanted a little bit of "intro & how to" were able to stay behind and watch a tenkara seminar from Daniel Galhardo of Tenkara USA.

I was out fishing, so this photo of the "Tenkaravan" will need to stand in for Daniel's seminar

Later in the day, we all regrouped for lunch, drinks, and the exchanging stories of how the morning fishing went (awesome!), as we awaited our evening fishing assignments.

Finally, Saturday wrapped up with a pizza dinner, more beer, more raffles, even more fish stories, and the ever important Sunday fishing assignments. For all intents and purposes it was really the end of the organized portion of the event as the only scheduled activities on Sunday morning was fishing.

So much fun, so much camaraderie, just an awesome time. HUGE kudos to Jim (and Adrienne) for putting on and hosting a top notch event. Can't imagine anybody leaving disappointed. Honestly, I think the only thing that surpassed the Bug Out itself this past weekend was the fishing... but that's going to be a whole post unto itself...

July 12, 2017

Photos From The Field

Last Sunday I found myself back in Philadelphia-area for the day... which certainly makes for a good excuse to toss a few photos into a quick post to document the goings on. Plus, my rental car was a sweet little red Kia Soul. I kinda liked it...

July 3, 2017

Fishing Report and Visiting A New River

Ahhh... it's been nice to be back in Pennsylvania for a few days. Even got to do a little fishing, and I do mean a little, but it was all good. A nice recharge of the batteries, as nothing beats the summer heat like a wet wade through some nice, cold water while chasing trout beneath the shade of a wooded canopy. Well, almost nothing...

Saturday: Valley Creek

On Saturday I snuck out to Valley Creek, my old stomping grounds. I'm not going to lie, I didn't have a very good day on the fishing front. I caught two fish, but they were so small I didn't bother to take photos. I'm talking fingerling size, both caught almost one after the other on a size 16 Copper John about 20 yards upstream from the wooden foot bridge. (If you've been to Valley, you know where I'm talking about). The rod of the day was the (updated and new to me) Tenkara Times TRY 360.

Every time I visit Valley, it's much different than the last. It's crazy how much Mother Nature can change the look of what used to be familiar water in a little less than a year. The water was pretty low too, making some of the usual riffles and deeper runs not quite the same. Guess that can be expected for July.

Uh oh, somebody lost their bobber. With Valley being catch and release, wild brown trout only water you don't often see bait fishing gear or associated remains scattered along the banks, so this was kind of a curious find. I suppose either a kid was playing around in the creek, or perhaps it washed downstream from somewhere else.

Sunday: Not So Secret Water

On Sunday, I drove just a little further West and visited one of my old "not so secret spots." Even when some of the other streams in the area slow down during the Summer, this one usually produced for me. I was sure this time would be no exception until...

And then...

Ummm.... those signs are new, and kind of strange considering they run along State Game lands. They were never there before in all the years I fished this section of the creek, so I kind of wonder if nearby landowners didn't just put them up to deter visitors... It's not like they had any specific information filled in on them. Oh, whatever...

Not wanting to really deal with the hassle (or potential gunfire pointed in my direction) should they have been legit, I had to resort to fishing a much shorter section nearby that hadn't really been quite as productive in the past, but I knew still held fish.

Fortunately, it did again. I only caught one wild brown, but it was a pretty specimen... even if the photo below doesn't really show it well, particularly the vibrant red spots. See, I was trying to do the good guy "keep 'em wet" thing and keep it at least partially submerged in my net while snapping a quick smartphone photo, but I didn't realize the amount of glare the water was producing. Almost looks like the fish is in a puddle of mercury or something.

Either way, the brownie put on a pretty good show, making a few deep runs before finally coming to hand/net after a surprisingly good fight. Oh, and as far as gear goes, I was fishing the Three Rivers Tenkara Confluence zoom rod (a feature which came in very handy with all of the summer growth vegetation choking out sections of water), 3.5 Tenkara USA level line, and a size 12 Road Kone Kebari.

That was about it on the trout front. I don't think I'll get out fishing on Monday before heading back to Florida on Tuesday. Can't say I'm disappointed. This trip wasn't really even about going fishing (these two outings were just a few stolen bonus hours), rather, it was about visiting family and getting to meet my new nephew River.

The kid's got a pretty cool name, right?