Indianapolis – Nearly 1,600 streams and lakes in Indiana are unsafe to fish or swim in because of pollution ranging from animal waste to chemicals, a state report concludes. The report classifies 30 percent as too polluted for swimming, fishing or both because of pollutants such as bacteria, fertilizer, chemicals, mercury and sediment.
“Standing in the River”
How good it feels to finally make it to the river. What a Trip!! I can tell the River is a “Healer” because I feel better already, and the dizzies are going away.
I stopped at Boggans and had lunch, also got my Washington fishing License. I inquired about a Steelhead fishing friend (Scott O’Donnell and his wife Stephanie) who guide on the Grande Ronde in the fall and have done it for years. I’m told they are up river about 16/17 miles in Troy, Oregon.
Now for a little history. Very little since this is my first trip to the Grande Ronde. The river originates in the Blue Mountains south of LaGrande, Oregon. It runs through the northeast corner of Oregon and the Southeast corner of Washington. It dumps into the Snake River approx. twenty five miles up river from Lewiston, Idaho. The area is very dry and arid down in the canyon. Hot in the summer and cold in the winter. The hills and canyon walls are very steep. I’m told it’s about 2000 ft. to the top of the canyon. The locals say “up on top”. Up there it’s pretty much all forest. Down in the canyon there’s places with lots of trees, and other places are just rock and tall yellow grass on the hillsides.
The Ronde is known for its fall and winter run of Steelhead, which start coming into the Ronde around late September and early October. These Steelhead, some Native and some Hatchery, must travel about 500 miles on their journey from the Ocean. They come up the Columbia River to the Snake River, up the Snake to the Grande Ronde River. They also have to navigate six or seven dams on their journey. They live in the Ronde all winter and spawn in the spring. Quite a feat. Makes my journey from Phoenix seem like nothing. I hope they weren’t as dizzy on their journey.
On my drive up river to Troy, all I can think is, look at all the beautiful water I get to fish for the next month. I started fishing for Steelhead in 1963 & 64 on the Russian and Gualala Rivers in Northern California. I was in the 6th Army Band stationed in San Francisco. Being in the band we had lots of time off and in the winter when these fish are running, I fished every chance I got. After fishing for them for about forty-five years you get to know the type of water they like to hold in. On their way up river to their spawning grounds they move a ways then stop to rest or hold. “Holding Water”, as fishermen call it. Their holding spots are what we are looking for to fish for them. Steelhead don’t just hold anywhere in the river (unless the want to). Generally speaking, they like moving water (the speed of a fast walk) and about 3ft. to 6ft. deep. They like to hold in front or behind rocks and etc., where the current is broken. They are kinda like humans in one way. They know where the Couch is when they are tired of traveling.
I finally arrive in Troy. Troy is not really a town but more like a small settlement nestled where the valley widens. It’s a beautiful setting. There are a few houses and cabins for lodging, (maybe a dozen or so), RV Park, Camping spaces, school house with six students (that’s what I’m told), a main Lodge (Shilo Oasis Lodge) with a laundry room , and showers, which you can rent for five bucks a shower. Across the road is the restaurant with a bar and the rest of the Lodging upstairs. This is the local hang out. They do have T.V. in the bar, but no one watches it except for a Baseball game every now and then. It’s mostly drinking beer and talking fishing & hunting. How great, no T.V.. Cell phones do not work here, unless you have a satellite phone… There is a pay phone on the front wall outside the restaurant. You can talk for 10 minutes for one dollar. At dinner time when the fishermen, hunters and locals come to the restaurant, there is always a line of people waiting to use the phone.
On week-ends, there’s lots of Steelhead fishermen, mostly fly fishermen. There’s also people who come to fish and hunt. They seem to hunt in the morning & fish in the afternoon. There are Grouse, Partridge, Quail, Wild Turkey and Pheasant. There’s also Deer, Elk, and Bear. Also wild Sheep.
I go into Shilo Lodge restaurant and am told Scott & Steph are on a five day river float guiding 4 or 5 clients. Today was the last day of the five day drift and they should be in around 6:00 p.m. I was told which house they are staying in just down the street behind the Lodge. I left a note on their door (they had no idea I was coming) and drove around checking out the river. What a surprise when they arrived. We stayed up late that night. Party On !!!!!!!
Next day (Sat.) Scott showed me all the good holes & runs on the river. They had another five day float starting Monday. Sunday I got to stand in the River for a short while. I fished a little, but not too serious. Just getting the feel of the water you know.
Monday, Oct 10. This morning they left for their 5 day float with four Clients. Very remote area. There are no roads in or out of this part of the river. Nothing ’till the take out near the mouth where it dumps into the Snake River. This evening my fishing began.
Ole Yeller, take me fishin!!
I’m, fishing a floating line with a 10 foot tapered leader with 6 pound tippet. I build my tapered leaders with Maxima line. Just haven’t found the store bought ones to be as good.
I fished a small run about one mile down river from Troy, and took my first Grande Ronde Steelhead on a Beau Muddler. The fish was a native about 7 pounds. He ripped up the river and I got that old feeling. “We are now standing in the river”.
Tuesday, Oct., 11. About 10:00 a.m. I started fishing a small pocket just down river from where I took the fish the evening before, and missed a fish. Then went down river a few miles and hiked into the bend in the river behind the 4/0 Ranch. It was a pretty good hike but worth it. It was a nice run about 100 yards long from head to tail out. Head, Throat and Tailout are the main parts of a run where the fish hold. I hooked and landed two fish in the Head, hooked and lost two fish in the top of the Throat, missed two fish in the Tailout. Wow!!! All on Beau Muddlers. Beau you are HOT…
That was enough for the day, but I fished back down to the Van and nothing. Not bad for the second day on the river, but it turned out to be the best one of the trip.
Wednesday, Oct., 12. This evening I fished down river behind the Grande Ronde Lodge and landed two fish. Bang, Bang. 5 or 6 pounders. O.K. fight.
Thursday, Oct., 13. This morning I got word Scott had been bitten by a Rattlesnake and was in the Hospital in Lewiston, Idaho. I fished the evening but never felt fishy, worrying about Scott. Hit nothing.
Friday, Oct., 14. Fished this morning and landed a fish in the same hole (from now on we’ll call it “Rock Pile Hole”) that I took fish in on Monday.
The Gang got home about 6:00 p.m. Scott still in the Hospital. I found that he was bitten on the second day out (Tuesday). So they were a good ways from civilization. One raft took off with Scott to the mouth and one guy started hiking out of the canyon and luckily ran into a couple fish & game guys who had a Satellite cell phone, so they call the Hospital in Lewiston, Id. To have an ambulance at the mouth to meet the raft that had Scott. They immediately gave him an Anti Venom shot. Probably saved his butt.
Saturday, Oct., 15. I hit a fish but can’t remember where because I didn’t write in my log book for a couple days.
Sunday, Oct., 16. Today I was resting, waiting for a friend, Dan LaMaich to come in on Monday. Dan lives on Camano Island north of Seattle, near where I lived for years in Skagit Valley. Dan and I fished together for years over there. He works a fly shop in Seattle. Dan is also a musician. (Drummer).
Monday, Oct., 17. Dan arrived late this afternoon. About a seven or eight hour drive for him. We didn’t fish. Just cruzed for the evening.
Tuesday, Oct., 18. Dan & I started our fishing this morning. I had not been back to the run behind 4/0 Ranch, where I hit 6 fish a week ago. Since I thought it was a hot run where fish always would hold, it was the first place I took Dan. I thought it would be automatic, but we hit no fish. Well that’s Steelheading. They sure can make a fool of humans. Matter of fact I never hit another fish there.
Wednesday, Oct., 19. We found no fish. Where the hell have all the “fishes” gone? Well at least there are lots more people.
Thursday, Oct., 20. We fished down river in Washington and nothing until the afternoon. We fished Shady Run. Dan missed a fish. Then I hooked a fish and while playing the fish, an old friend, Ed Ward, from over in Skagit Valley, came walking up the bar. Good to see guys from home. Ed said he was good luck and I believe it. Landed the fish and that was it for the day.
Friday, Oct., 21. Dan had to go back home to Camano Island. Good to fish with buds. Couldn’t believe fishing was so slow for the week.
Saturday, Oct., 22. I didn’t fish. I kinda took the day off. Did laundry and took a shower.
Sunday, Oct., 23. I landed two fish and missed one. Landed one and missed one behind Grande Ronde Lodge. Can’t remember where I took the other fish.
Monday, Oct., 24. Scott is back and feeling some better. Arm, Hand and finger still swollen, but healing. Since they weren’t guiding today we drifted (the whole gang) from Boggans to Shumaker. Stephanie landed a fish; Mike landed one and missed one. I broke off two fish on the take.
Tuesday, Oct., 25. Today I broke another fish off on the take. Bad tippet material??? Was fishing School bus Run.
Wednesday, Oct., 26. Today I took a fish in the head of Shady Run. Wildest, hottest fish to date. He made two good long runs and two great jumps. Native fish. My guess, eight pounds.
Thursday, Oct., 27. Nothing….
Friday, Oct., 28. I took a fish on a Boulder Gold fly (one of my own creations) in tail out behind Grand Ronde Lodge. Fly had swung around and he just came up and sipped it in. Always fun to watch, but hard not to jerk too soon. Fish about 5 pounds and not much of a fighter.
Saturday, Oct., 29. No fish today. River was crowded. I think the floating line fishing is basically over with. The weather has turned cold and so has the river. Water probably in the low to mid 40’s. Good night…
Sunday, Oct., 30. Changed to winter fishing today, using my sinking heads I built for winter/spring fishing, when rivers are running colder and higher. Oh! Also, Happy Birthday out there to “Pearl” and “Jon Parry”. Hit no fish today. Took a while to get use to throwing the heads.
Monday, Oct., 31. Started at top of Shady Run. Hit first fish just below first rocks. Great fight. Hit second fish about half way down run. Released fish and started casting again. In a short while I just got this funny feeling that made me look behind me towards shore. About 100ft. away up on shore in the grass was 18 wild Sheep. With one big old Ram with better than a full curl just watching me while the rest ate grass. What an awesum sight. I watched for a while then went back to fishin’. Had two more pulls but missed the fish. I looked around and the Sheep were gone.
Then I went up to McNeal Island and missed a fish just below first big rocks in the head. About 75 ft. below that I hit a fish that was powerful as hell. His first run took me way into my backing. I worked my way down river to where he had stopped his run. Then he made two more good runs across and up stream. He would just stop and hold and I couldn’t move him. After about five minutes he just jerked and broke me off. Was a large fish I think. At least large for the Grande Ronde. That’s all. Good Day on the river.
Stephanie cooked a great dinner tonight at the Fogerty Lodge (where Jon Fogerty lived for a while) and I was invited. I ate it all. Thanks Steph. Also Scott was feeling some better today. He’s healing. Not too cold tonight. Just wet. “Happy Halloween”…..
Tuesday, Nov., 1. Today was a strange day but good. I didn’t get started ’till 9:00 a.m. Started down river and someone was in my Rock Pile Hole. Haven’t been able to fish it for days. On down river … No one was in the Grande Ronde Lodge hole so I stopped. Nothing. The next stop was at the hole where Mike said he had never caught a fish in. No one was there so I stopped. About half way down the run I saw a fish roll just below me. Then another out towards the middle. I didn’t think I could fish for the one close in, water too shallow for my sinking head. So I start fishing for the one out in the middle. I’m stepping down and fishing into them. Made a cast, let it swing around and realized I was letting it swing around too far. Gonna get hung I thought. So I started stripping in real fast. On the third or fourth strip, Wham!!! Dam, what the hell. The fish in the shallows nailed it but I missed him. Shock!!!
Wednesday, Nov., 2 The river has risen & pushing more. From 600 cfs to 800 cfs. The fish are on the move. So you fish a little different. A lot are in close. Makes for easier travel. Fished Shady Run. Nothing. Started back to Troy, as I passed my Rock Pile Hole, I noticed no one was there. What the hell, lets fish it. I get in the edge of water and pulled out 20 to 25 ft. of line. Flipped it out and started to pull of more line from my reel to make a longer cast. I felt this rattle, rattle on my rod, which I was paying no attention to. Holly hell it’s a fish. He grabbed it and took off down river like a freight train. Way into my backing then did a beautiful jump. He was a strong tough & fast fish. I finally landed him. Best fish yet. He had been hooked before. A place in his mouth. A beautiful Native about 8 pounds. Came home and did my laundry. Hope to fish early tomorrow.
Thursday, Nov., 3. Didn’t fish early. Maybe 9:00 a.m. No one was in at Rock Pile Hole. So went in and took a small hatchery fish 4 or 5 pounds on orange marabou. Not much fight. Went below to Lucky Hun. Nothing. Came back to house to have some soup. Went to restaurant and Red said snow at 3500 ft. for next four days. So won’t be headed home Friday when I was planning on leaving. Hope the food holds out. If I catch another hatchery mutt I’ll keep it for food. Ran into Jim Murphy (someone I had met the other day on the river) and he wanted to show me a couple spots where he’s been hitting fish. Then went down to Grande Ronde Lodge hole and nothing. Am going on float with Ed and Shasta (friend of Stephs) tomorrow. Good night.
Friday, Nov. 4. We launched at State Line Hole about 9:00 a.m. We fished Horseshoe bend first. Ed put me on the first run and he and Shasta walked down to the next run. I found nothing but Ed hit two fish in their run. Fished some nice water. Shasta caught her first fish on a Spey rod. She’s a nice lady. Nothing else after that. The weather started to turn funky. About 2:30 p.m. it really got funky. Hard wind and rain. We called it a day. Snowed up on top and real heavy in the Mountains.
Saturday, Nov., 5. I got up and started arranging things for travel. Something told me it was time to go. I greased the van and swept it out. Went fishing sometime around noon or one. Went above to the run below Buffalo run. Nothing. Went down river and fished Grande Ronde Lodge run and tail out of Shady run. Nothing. I didn’t really feel fishy. I think I’m already gone. Took my guitar over to the Fogerty Lodge and picked some for the girls. I’m gone….
Sunday, Nov., 6. I had to go up Rattlesnake grade to Lewiston, Id. Then to Pendleton. Oregon to get to the freeway. Enterprise to Elgin to La Grande was too risky with the snow. After I left Pendleton and got up on top it started to snow. It snowed most of the way to the Idaho border. Was not sticking on the road, but would be in a couple hours. I was just on the front of the storm coming in. Got to Twin Falls, Id. About 8:00 p.m. got a Motel and had a picnic in the room and watched T.V. First time I had watched T.V. or any outside news of any kind for a month. Must say, I wasn’t impressed at all. Now that’s “Standing in the River”.
Monday, Nov., 7. Just drove today. Made it to Panquich, Utah. Same Motel, same room as on the way up. Good Night……….
Tuesday, Nov., 8. Cruzed on home. Got home about 2:00 p.m. Good to be here and see Beau. He wasn’t sure who I was at first but remembered me soon. What a trip.
“Standing in the River”