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...