Alex got out to the N. Fork Nehalem this past week when the river was falling and found a two great Steelhead. One was wild and the other one (in the photo) came home for dinner. Me, I was sitting at my desk being a god worker bee. Come on economy, get better so I can go freelance again!
The rain was moving in but the river was still dropping so off we headed to the N. Fork of the Nehalem to battle it out with all the other bait chuckers below the hatchery. To my surprise there were not all that many people. Only four cars in the upper lot. We worked the section just below the handicap dock to the bend and saw several Steelhead that were moving around but none that were interested in my fly. In fact they weren’t interested in the large pink jig I put on either. The guy next to me caught a nice fish on a similar pink jig right in front of my feet.
We drove to the other side of the river and hiked down about a half mile but saw no fish (or really good water). The river was rising quick with the rain and so we called it a day. I consoled myself on the way home by eating a bag of Goldfish. So I actually caught dozens of fish that day!
Alex and I went out to the North Fork of the Nehalem on Sunday for a quick three hour check-up on the river. The water had been dropping and when we saw the amount of trucks parked at the hatchery we figured we had made a good guess on the right day to be there. We went into the beautiful part of the river above the hatchery. The water was the right shade and dropping and you could spot several steelhead. I went to check one of the shallow spots where I had seen fish before and saw beauty of a steelie. One cast and the fish slipped into the quick current right next to where I saw him. Alex came over and spotted him under all the whitewater and we both fished to him for awhile with no luck. We moved farther up the river and tried a few other good sections. There were some guys below the bridge throwing hardware at two steelhead with no luck either. When we headed back down the river I thought I would check my shallow spot one more time just for the hell of it. As I slowly made my way up the rapids towards the shallow pool that the steelhead was in I paid no attention to the other smaller pools all around me. And just as I was one pool away from the one the fish is usually in I looked down as I was making a step and almost put my foot down on a beautiful large steelhead. I saw it and it saw me and we were both startled by each other and then he was gone. I just sat down on a rock for a few minuets. After all my time fly fishing you think I would realize that you can’t expect a fish to be where you think it should be. While, that and you should just be open to anything. That is what makes our hobby/passion so fun.
Well it finally happened, I got skunked. I always try to trout fish so late into the season and it was bound to happen sooner or later. I did have a great time driving to all the spots I had been meaning to explore around the McKenzie and I am really excited to try them out come next spring.
Now I am going to have to start heading west from Portland and trying to find some of those elusive north coast Steelhead. I have a few holes around the Nehalem, Trask, and Wilson that are calling me.
Edit 05/18/10 – I called Tilamook County DOT and they said the bridge project has been placed on hold.
ODOT is building a new bridge over the Salmonberry River! That is great news as some of my favorite cutthroat spots on the Nehalem is down below the confluence of the Salmonberry. Currently it takes forever to drive the huge loop all the way around to the coast then back up to the spot. I just hope that the construction is done in a way that minimizes damage to steelhead in the river.
The bridge washed out in December 2007 when the river was crested over 24 feet. This is what it did to the bridge (I took this photo Oct. 2008):
A map of the bridge is here.
So if you read an earlier post on Lost Lake in Clatsop State Forest (in the Nehalem watershed) and you were wondering where it was I thought this might help: Google Map.
My recommendation would be to turn off highway 26 onto Lower Nehalem Rd and then go about 5 miles and make the left turn on Lost Lake Road just before the Spruce Run Campground. The Lake will be a few miles up the steep road on the right. You can always try going the way the ODFW tells you to go (on Quartz Creek Road) but there are no signs anywhere and you have to make four turns on logging roads that are in active use right now (and have been for the last year).
The lake is about 15-acres and the maximum depth runs about 20 feet. It is full of downed trees to snag on so keep the flies light. The lake is stocked several times a year and there is carry over. It is best in the early and mid spring then again in late summer. I sit in my pontoon and cast towards objects near the banks for best results. There is not a lot of room on the banks to cast inwards unless you like standing on floating logs in the water like I do. In spring I have done well with a Green Caddis Pupa (like this) and have even caught a few on Elk Hair Caddis under overhangs. Most fish run smaller but can hit 14 to 18 by the end of the season.
This is a typical spring fish:
And a photo of me on the lake (using my chair to kneel on):
You can camp at Spruce Run Campground for $10 or so but you can also do dispersed camping anywhere in the Clatsop State Forest. There are a few sites down river from the campground that are right on the river and have rings and picnic tables but are considered dispersed so they are free.
There is also a trail from Spruce Run campground that heads about two miles east to Spruce Run Lake which has some small cutthroat in it. It’s not an easy hike.
While it’s September and the rain has started here in the NW. At the end of last week we got an inch or two of rain and so my wife, daughter, and I went out to see what was happening around us. First we stopped at my favorite Chantrelle patch on the way to the coast and I ran in the woods 200 feet or so and found a few small Chantelles here and there (looks like it should be a good season). Then we headed down to Alex’s Lobster mushroom patch on the coast and found six large mushrooms. After a lunch at Mo’s in Cannon Beach (yeah, I know it’s a tourist trap) we headed down to Ghirabaldi to check out a spot near the Miami for Chantrelles. Even though it was closer to the coast where there is a lot more moisture there were no Chantelles around. So we headed back up to the lower Nehalem where I got in a little fishing and got to scope out lots of the river. And I caught this Cutthroat beauty.
So I don’t know if I have just not been on the right rivers at the right time or if I have have just never payed that much attention but I have not seen a Sculpin before. I have seen photos of them but when you see them at your feet its a different story. Man they have big heads. I was just watching Streamer Fishing for Trophy Trout (see post below) the other day and I was thinking that his Sculpin fly, the Zoo Cougar (image below), was huge. Nope, Sculpins are bigger. The one in the photo was five or six inches long and I could see others around that looked bigger. I think the water in the Nehalem was just to warm and they were being super dormant because I have been there several times and never seen them. All I know is I am going to have to tie up some of his Zoo Cougar’s and give it a try when the water cools off. Maybe when it cools the Cuttthroats will come up!