West side fishing: Rotting salmon, tangled forest

For day two of my brother’s trip we went on another steelhead odyssey, this time to the hallowed wilderness rainforest of Western Oregon. We braced ourselves with a flask of Jameson at 7am, preparing to tackle the hellacious hike to access this unnamed fishery.

Unfortunately, due to flooding, inclement weather and road closures, we didn’t even get to the trailhead until 10am. Trees had fallen across the road to the trail and luckily most of them had been cut and dragged off. Note to self — buy a pocket chainsaw ASAP. If more trees would have fallen across the road while we were up there we’d have been trapped.

Once we made the trailhead, things really got exciting. Giant old growth trees spilled over the trail like wooden matches. Sometimes the trunks were stacked 10 feet high — which was actually the easier climb. Other times the crowns of the trees landed across the trail and we basically had to crowd surf or swim over the limbs, hoping not to fall through and impale ourselves Dracula-style or worse, snap our fly rods.

This is a video of us on the way out, trying to escape before dark:

When we finally got to the river, the water was perfect. Unfortunately the salmon were not. It was too late. In the intervening weeks since I’d last been down there all of the salmon had come in and started spawning. No matter — it was awesome to watch them and it was most of the reason we came down in the first place. We expected just to watch — and catch something if we were lucky.

Which we did — lots of smallish cutthroat trout — which was a hoot. Also, I caught one 20-inch bright chrome fish with no markings. I also saw a couple of these caught the last time I fished this spot. I’m starting to think that these are half-pounder steelhead (juvenile steelhead that come in from the ocean early) like you hear about on the Rogue River. Can any readers confirm or deny that other Oregon coastal streams may have a half-pounder population?

I saw a Pileated Woodpecker and some ouzels which were great. Lots of mammal tracks on the shore, but I was too busy trying to fish to take photos. My brother spotted what he estimated a 40-inch steelhead chewing on a salmon carcass like corn on the cob.

Oregon Coastal Fishing

Oregon Coastal Fishing

Oregon Coastal Fishing

We stayed on the river till around 3:30 and then packed it out — 2,000 feet climb over 2 miles of rough trail. We didn’t give ourselves a lot of a buffer since we had to be at PDX by 9pm and wanted to eat dinner, but obviously we made it.

Total mileage on the weekend was 750 — I don’t even want to think about the carbon footprint on that. But I have some new ideas on carbon offsets for an upcoming post. Stay tuned.

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About mstansberry

Matt Stansberry currently lives in Eugene, Oregon with his wife and son.
This entry was posted in Oregon Fishing, salmon and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to West side fishing: Rotting salmon, tangled forest

  1. Karl says:

    Well Matt,

    I haven’t caught one on a coastal river but I did catch a 19″ steelhead (the sea lice confirmed it wasn’t a large rainbow) on Fall creek (Willamette). I think these most of these systems support large and small steelhead in different age classes and you never know what you’ll get . . . maybe a 20#er maybe a 2#er but more likely in the 7-9# range.

  2. Karl says:

    The fish I caught down was was a searun cut.

    The fish in the video is a sea run cut-imo.

  3. Bpaul says:

    Video faaaansaaayyyy

  4. Matt says:

    Fancy? Did you watch it?!! I’m not quitting the day job for a director’s gig any time soon.

    I did make one cool video (my company bought me a little camera for work) — it’s 5 parts and it has over 10,000 views so far http://youtube.com/watch?v=cH71qP-yDDI

    That success went to my head and I thought I’d try the hiking video thing… we’ll see if I can get any better at it.

  5. O.D says:

    “…2,000 feet climb over 2 miles of rough trail”
    -sounds like extreme climbing…
    what next ?-bandannas and machetes as ‘a must’ fishing accessories 🙂

    nice reading
    -thanks

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