Wallowa River – 09/04/2002

Time: 10:00AM – 5:30PM

Location: Highway section between Minam and Wallowa, OR

After two days on the Walla Walla River, I decided to add some diversity to my Oregon fishing adventure. I drove from Harris Park to the stretch of the Wallowa that goes along the highway between Minam and Wallowa. My plan was to try the Wallowa, and if it was not productive, move on and try the Lostine River, which is a tributary farther upstream. I saw the Lostine from the highway, where it entered the Wallowa, and it looked like a reasonable size. Several forest service campgrounds were located along the river, so I assumed that public access was available. I never got to the Lostine.

I pulled off the highway around .2 miles before the Oregon state rest area, and I began fishing with a yellow hopper trailing a beadhead hares ear nymph. Early on I landed a couple small rainbows, and then I moved up the river and came to a long deep run just below an island. I progressed up the run and added another small rainbow or two to the fish count, but the water suggested better results, so I changed my approach to a deep nymphing setup with a strike indicator. I retreated to the tail of the run and covered it a second time with the different approach, and this method yielded another rainbow.  The rainbow trout came from the very top of the run, but in between I hooked and landed four or five huge whitefish.

By now it was lunchtime, so I went back to the van, removed my neoprene waders and drove to the rest stop. I had to improvise for a fork and spoon, as I left the tupperware container with utensils back at the campground.

After lunch I drove a bit farther upstream, until I arrived at a place, where there was a bend in the river and a turnoff that circled around a mound right next to the highway. I spotted a stretch of wide pocket water, where the river came back around the bend to the highway. I assumed that whitefish were not as prevalent in pocket water, and the faster section would be a good place to prospect with a dry/dropper combination.

There was a fairly steep bank along the highway, so I hiked downstream a bit and then climbed down the bank to the river. I arrived at a deep pool with a run down the middle, and I slowly fished up the roadside of this pool and picked up a couple small rainbows, until I arrived at the pocket water. I moved out toward the middle and began fishing the pockets on both sides. The total length of the pocket stretch of the river was probably 80 to 100 yards. The deeper pockets with more current were on the north side, with many more shallower pockets on the south side of the river.

I gravitated to the south side, because I was catching more fish there, and the glare from the sun was reduced making it easier to track my fly. It was great fun! I was catching rainbows with regularity, probably 70% on the nymph and 30% on the parahopper. At some point late in the afternoon, when the shadows began to extend across the south side of the river, I tied on a lime green trude. I wish I would have done it sooner. The last five trout that I caught were on the trude, and the size of these rainbows was bigger than that of my earlier catches. I am not sure whether the greater size was attributable to the fly or the water. The pockets at the top end of the stretch had a bit more depth and generally struck me as higher quality water.

At any rate, one of the last fish that I landed rose in a heavier current next to a pocket and inhaled the trude. Immediately this fish shot downstream like a rocket. I played it toward the middle of the river and eventually worked it to the net after a couple more hot runs. It turned out to be the biggest fish landed in Oregon, somewhere between 15 and 20 inches. What a way to cap the Oregon fishing trip!

35 trout

Wenaha River – 09/01/2002

Time: 12:00PM – 5:30PM

Location: One mile from the trailhead

I drove from the Jubilee Lake campground to the Wenaha River in Troy, OR. As it turned out, this was a 120 mile trip including six miles on gravel road from the campground to Elgin, OR. But it was a beautiful drive, and I scouted additional streams, that I would like to sample in the future. The last thirteen miles also followed a dirt road that switch-backed down from OR 3 to the Grande Ronde Valley. As it turned out, this is a beautiful wide valley and the Grande Ronde is a wide fairly shallow river at this eastern point. Quite a few people were camping in a grassy area by the bridge in Troy.

It took me a while, but I finally figured out, that I needed to drive up a dirt road to get to the trailhead to the Wenaha. I found the targeted access point and pulled out my lunch and ate before hiking. I carried my waders, Loomis rod, and gear in my backpack and decided to hike for twenty minutes. I estimated that this would translate to a mile, before I commenced fishing. It was a hot day with temperatures in the low 90’s, and I was quite hot and sweating, when I finally stopped at the river to begin fishing.

The river was beautiful. It was running low, but clear and cold. It was around 25 feet wide at most places. If you waded into the middle, both banks could be reached with easy casts. I began fishing a hopper/dropper combination. It is hard to recall now, but I began catching a lot of tiny rainbows. I decided to only count trout that were over six inches in length. Over the course of the afternoon, I landed eleven rainbows that met this criteria. Most were on the low end with perhaps two or three in the 10-12 inch range. Most of the trout were taken on the dropper, which was probably a copper john or beadhead pheasant tail nymph. One or two outliers preferred the hopper.

As I hiked back out to the trailhead, I was startled by a snake slinking off the path and down the hill. I caught a glimpse and thought it was a diamondback, and that was confirmed by the rattling sound that it generated, as it slithered off. On the drive back up the switchbacks I saw what appeared to be some sort of grouse in the brown prairie grass. The fishing was fair, although I may not have been using the right flies, but the scenery was outstanding. I would certainly return to the Wenaha and find one of the more remote trailheads and give it another try.

11 trout