Thursday, November 26, 2015

The worlds best winter steelhead swing fishery... STARTS NOW!

When we get low flows (like we have now) the lower Umpqua offers the BEST winter steelhead spey fishing...ANYWHERE!  Not guide hyperbole.  Just stating a fact.  The fishing starts now and will last until the river raises to its normal winter flows.  We don't get this opportunity every year.  Long range forecasts are predicting great fly water flows through the 1st week of December.  These are "forecasts" and trying to forecast northwest weather is less accurate than reading tea leaves or palms, but the river is fishable today and there are winter steelhead in my back yard!
 The Umpqua winter run is predicted to approach or exceed 30,000 fish. They start pouring into the lower river (my backyard) after Thanksgiving.  When we have low flows, we have some of the best spey water to fish anywhere.  Multiple hook-ups a day are common and these fish are fresh, bright and aggressive!
We use my power boat to access the different runs I fish.  Some of the runs we fish from the boat on a special anchor system that I use that allows you to "step down" through the run.  Other runs we get out of the boat and wade fish.  I don't use indicators, its all swing fishing, mostly with tips and spey rods.
I'll be hitting it hard in the coming days and weeks (if flows permit).
I have openings, so if you're interested get a hold of me fast!  This opportunity won't last and it may not come around again for years.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Intermission on the South Coast

I just returned from two solid weeks of fall Chinook fly fishing on the south coast.  The season is off to a great start and I wanted to share some images before I head back down later in the week.  This fishery will last until the holiday season so grab your favorite fly rod, intermediate fly line and a fist full of clousers!
This pool had at least 200 Chinook waiting for some rain to raise the river.  Several of them were in the 30 lb. range and one monster was way into the 40 lb. class!
This was a fish from that pool.
(photo credit: Don Roberts)

The "fish truck" was a great new addition to my program on the south coast.

I've got a duck hunt to do and then I'll be headed for the south coast for some more fall Chinook fishing!  Stay tuned for more updates.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

South Coast Fall Chinook on the FLY!

Russ Schnitzer with a chunk of chrome!
I just had a last minute opening for the very best fall Chinook fly fishing action in the lower 48 on Oregon's south coast.  The open dates are November 1st thru the 4th and the weekend of November 7th /8th.  You'll stay in a private cabin overlooking the best salmon fly fishing water and will enjoy access to great salmon pools on a private ranch.  Last year my guests and I hooked over 75 fall Chinook up to 30 lbs. during our two week stay at the ranch.

The cost is $350/day for the guide (covers one or two anglers) and $200/night for the accommodations (full kitchen, bath, shower, sleeps four)
Get a hold of me ASAP if your interested or need additional information.

 Dean (541) 214-0642

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Just add water

This is how my duck hunting pond looks now.
This is how it looks flooded on a cold, clear winter day.
Just add water!
The VERY best duck hunting in the Willamette Valley occurs at this very spot every fall/winter.  This year the long, hot summer has produced one of the heaviest yields of millet I've ever seen.
The yield is so heavy and the vegetation so thick, I kind of feel a little sorry for my retriever "Molly".  When this is flooded in the coming days, its going to create a formidable mat of vegetation that will be a little hard to swim through when going after downed birds.  But I know she won't complain!
I launched a handful of bumpers for her in the heavy cover and she accurately marked and successfully found all but one, but a simple hand signal brought her nose close enough and she made that tough retrieve too!  She's ready for her third duck season. 
Molly helped me get this first time duck hunter a near limit her second year.
Molly made this retrieve while her mom "Gema" looked on.
Gema told Molly to sit up straight and stop slouching!
We also have an improvement to our pit blinds.  A roof has been added and with all the native vegetation surrounding it, we'll be completely invisible to incoming mallards, teal, pintail and widgeon. 
A great "duck shoot" really begins at the end of the last season.  Leaving enough Sudan grass, wild rice, millet, buck wheat, smart weed and other high quality duck feed in your flooded ponds for returning (north bound) birds is crucial.  The birds need this nutrition to feed on as they head back to their summer range.  It will also help reinforce in the birds that your area is a place to return on their way south the following season. 
There are already a lot of birds making use of our "refuge" pond.  The last two storm fronts that blew through recently moved birds down from Alaska and Canada and they're joining our local birds in the valley.  I've seen large flocks of Cacklers all ready and I've heard the specks at night, working their way south. 
The pumps will work over-time to "just add water" to get our well planted ponds flooded in time for this weekends opener and I think its going to be a duck and goose season to remember.    
I have some dates open for those wanting to book one of the best duck/goose hunts in the valley or down on the coast, but you'll have to get a hold of me fast, because I'll soon be booked solid again this year. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Fall Chinook and Coho are in the bay and estuary on the lower Umpqua now.  I'm offering trips with fly and conventional tackle now thru Thanksgiving.  All of these trips are out of my power boat and I can comfortably accommodate two anglers at a time.  Swinging flies for Chinook is done on anchor.  When targeting the Coho, we drift along with the tide near shore and on shallow flats.  If chasing salmon on flies isn't for you, then trolling with bait on conventional tackle gets the job done for Chinook.  When targeting Coho we use spinning tackle with plugs or spinners and cast and retrieve as the boat drifts on the tide in the shallow flats near Gardiner or up by Dean's Creek Elk Refuge.
Give me a call if you're interested or have questions.
Summer steelhead season on the North Umpqua will last until the first big fall storm raises the river and the tribs, allowing the steelhead to enter their spawning/over-wintering areas.
In October I have several seminars scheduled.  These seminars will be held at a variety  of locations.  One will be at Cabela's in Tualatin where I'll discuss techniques and tactics for beginning duck hunters.  I'll cover decoys, calling and other topics that will be helpful for hunters heading to the marshes, rivers and bays this winter.
I'll also be at Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn to discuss fall fly fishing tactics and techniques for late summer steelhead. 
And then I'll be doing a program on fly fishing for fall salmon at the McKenzie Fly Fishers club meeting.
Stay tuned for details as we get closer to those programs.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Smallmouth time on the Umpqua

I'm still waiting for fishable numbers of summer steelhead to enter the North Umpqua fly water and the upper Willamette.  Based on the very poor numbers of fish so far over the falls at Oregon City, I'm doubtful that this is going to be a good season on the "Town-run".  I've already heard of fish though on the North Umpqua.  I usually don't start guiding in the fly water until after July 1st.

The really low flows and super warm water on the lower Umpqua though is producing the usual "100 fish days" which are keeping us pretty busy. 

Next week I'll be doing a seminar on Umpqua River smallmouth bass fly fishing techniques at the Cascade Family Fly Fishers June meeting.  If you're a member come by and check it out.  Hopefully everyone will come away with some new techniques and learn how my guides and I rack up huge numbers everyday we're on the lower river. 

Umpqua smallmouth fishing is a true world class fishery that will last well into August.  Don't miss out this summer on one of the best fisheries Oregon has to offer! 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Elk River Salmon Emphasis Area

Southwest Oregon's Elk River hosts a run a fly eating fall Chinook each November and December.  Its an economic "life blood" for dozens of guides, hotels, restaurants and many other businesses in Port Orford and cash-strapped Curry County.
The north side of the river is well protected with two wilderness areas, the Grassy Knob Wilderness and the Copper Salmon Wilderness area.   It's the south side of the river that needs additional protection for these amazing salmon.  Some 28,000 acres are currently managed by the USFS under the administrative rules of the Northwest Forest Plan.
We're simply seeking the permanence of those protections in the form of legislation brought by congress.  Oregon's delegation recognizes the importance of Elk River to Oregonians and the amazing citizens of SW Oregon will see this through.
This short video tells the story.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Backyard water

When I sit on the river bank behind my cabin on the lower Umpqua, I often wonder about the fish passing by on their way upriver.
The distance in a straight line from where I'm standing to the other side of the river is about 190 yards.  The depth of the water under my boat is about three feet deep.  The deepest part of the river here is on the far bank where it gets about thirteen feet deep.
My son's and I have SCUBA dived all of the water out in front of the cabin.  We know what the bottom structure looks like.  Its mostly large cobble with a basalt ledge on the far side with a few very large boulders where white sturgeon take up residence out of the current and where the smallmouth bass congregate in the warm summer flows.
The upper tidal reaches of the Umpqua end just down and around the corner from our cabin.  20 miles down river, the town of Reedsport plays host to a great fall salmon fishery. Fall Chinook and Coho (Silver Salmon) by the thousands are targeted by sport fishermen trolling bait and hardware in the estuary.  The fish that make their way past the hundreds of boats plying these waters eventually arrive in the waters behind our place.   
The winter steelhead that go past our place are so bright that their chrome scales reflect the low light of the leaden gray skies of December and January as if  direct - July sunlight flashes from their sides. 
The point to all of this is the daily wonder I feel when I think of all the fish that silently slide by, invisible to me on their upstream migration.  These magnificent world traveler's head upriver, Fall Chinook, Spring Chinook, Coho, Winter Steelhead and Summer Steelhead.  Many of the steelhead will eventually find the confluence of the North Umpqua and choose to follow its flows many more miles upstream.  Some will eat a properly presented fly being fished by friends and colleagues in pools like the "Boat", "Williams Creek", "Susan Creek" or  "Circle H Smooth's".
Some of these fish will travel even further up-river to pools like "Charcoal Point" or "Upper Boulder".  By now the steelhead have made their way more than 120 miles above the water gliding past my cabin.  Yet every fish we see spawning on these upper river gravel tailout's, or bring to hand after eating our swung flies has swam past my cabin. 
The idea that EVERY steelhead that my friends like Frank Moore, David Wong, Kurt Brickner, Todd Hirano, Craig Coover, Keith Tymchuck, Tony Torrence, or brothers Clay and Ty Holloway have caught in the upper basin - has swam within two hundred yards of me while I'm on the lower river. 
Sometimes its just a little hard to get my brain around.  That's all.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wild Steelheaders Unite!

If you haven't checked out the website for Trout Unlimited's Wild Steelhead Initiative or signed the credo, check it out at the below link. 


Monday, January 26, 2015

Three Elk Meadow, a Wyoming blog worth following

Walt Gasson on his home turf


A colleague with Trout Unlimited has a new blog that strikes such a strong chord with my family and I,  that we wanted to share it with you.  Walt and his family's roots run deep in Wyoming.  They could just as easily be our roots here in Oregon.   The folks who hold our values as close to their hearts as we do, will enjoy the posts at this excellent blog. 


Sunday, January 18, 2015

River booty

Over the past week or two, things had settled down nicely.  The river dropped into fishable levels and the steelhead responded to our swung flies.  Three one day, one fish the next.  Nothing red hot, but at least fish were there and willing.  

Then the rains returned.  The river turned the color of coffee with too much creamer and went high...again!

Since last months high water I've become a bit of a pirate.  I've found more river booty than I ever remember.  Length of stairs to make traversing the steep bank to my dock a little more friendly. Check. Four gas cans (all with at least a little gas), 50' length of rope, bungee cords, blue plastic tarps, fishing tackle, tip of a fishing rod (X's 2). Check. Big knots of mono from many years of side drifting rigs probing fishy looking seams getting hung in the same spot.  The high water from last month uprooted these wads of gear and left them in streamside willows. 

20 minutes with a good pair of scissors in the shop as the rain came down, revealed a bunch of tackle that I'll likely never make use of, but at least the wad of bird tangling mono is forever off the river.

So with the river running impossibly high and muddy, Hunter and I decided to go see what we could find.  Not a shotgun or fly rod in sight.  Just a couple of pirates on the high seas looking for treasure and adventure.

Not 15 minutes away from the boat launch we found more chunks of "boat dock styrofoam" hung in log jams and shore side weeds than we could fit in our ships hold.  We came upon a larger vessel than ours, hung on anchor along the side of Steamboat Island.  A little further down the bank we came upon a small row boat.  I spied a third vessel in a painfully awkward list further down the island?  This nearly sunk boat came complete with the first human we'd seen since leaving Reedsport.  This fellow looked damned cold, damned wet, damned thirsty and very damned hungry.  He waved us towards him and his ill fated vessel.    

First mate "Bug" and I cautiously approached and learned that this poor fellow had spent a long, cold, wet night upon this "salvaged" vessel.  Apparently, the previous months high water had torn this old boat from its moorings, leaving it heaved, high and dry on Steamboat Island.  This fellow pirate had learned of the vessels fate and had come to retrieve her, only to find himself in last nights storm, without a vessel that he could get underway.  A long, cold, wet, hungry night and part of a day until we came along.  

We ferried the man back to the boat launch where his vehicle awaited him and headed seaward once again in search of booty and adventure.

A short while later we came upon a neighbors dock that had also been torn from its moorings during  the storm and high flows.  We made fast a line to the dock and towed it back to its place along the shore.

We left the dock secured with a length of rope.  No note.  No mentioned of our efforts to any neighbor.  We just took off like the pirates we are in search of more adventure.

I really would prefer to be swinging flies with Bug, searching our favorite winter steelhead runs.  But if Ma Nature chooses big muddy water instead of good, decent "steelhead green" flows for our home river, spending the day on the high sea's searching for treasure and being on the water with my son is okay too!  I just want to be on the water.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Class is in session

This male went air-born eight times!

David with one so bright it hurt your eyes!

I enjoy learning.  I especially enjoy learning about important issues that have a direct impact on my quality of life and for me, quality of life is directly related to rivers.  So when my boss told me to get ahold of David Moryc from American Rivers and take him fishing so I could learn about mining issues in Oregon, I listened.  My 8th grade english teacher Ms. Covey, probably wished I listened to her as well as I listen to my Montana cowboy boss! 

For David Moryc, the classroom for today was...a river of course! 

I learned all about mining issues in Oregon and we each got to swing flies for some winter chrome.

Like I said, I enjoy learning!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


My friend and TU colleague, John McMillan (see "role models" from Dec. 18th, 2014) sent along these images from a day he spent chasing winter fish on the Olympic Peninsula recently. 

This is what John said about the brute "Here is a large male I got with Rob [Masonis] a week ago, about 38" and 22" in girth.  Nice fish, but water was 38F so it did not fight at all." 

Based on the size of this fish, if it were me, I'd count that as a blessing John!

Monday, January 12, 2015

A River Between Us goes public.

I met Jason two fall chinook seasons ago when he and Joel LaFollette came down to the south coast to fish with me.  Over the course of a few days of fishing together, I learned of this amazing conservation effort for the Klamath River.  Its an epic story of bringing folks together from very divergent interests and just getting them to talk to one another.  Over the course of four years, the people of this community came together for the good of all.   

Jason with one of the chinook he caught.

Jason sent along an e-mail to me yesterday, letting me know that this project - that he's devoted the last four years of his life to, is going public so that everyone can know what the people of the Klamath basin are doing for each other, the river and the salmon. 

Well done Jason!   

Sunday, January 4, 2015


This was "bug", my youngest son with his first steelhead on the fly, a summer fish on the upper Willamette when he was 10.

By the next summer he was a "veteran" steelheader with a spey rod.

Now at 17, he's grown into a helluva steelheader.

He chose to harvest this 34 1/2" X 17" hatchery fish after an epic battle that took him down through three runs!  Now if I can just teach him how row the boat!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2015 models

I spent a great day yesterday with first time clients, Evan C. and his son Jim and Jim's college friend, Dillion.  We fished one of my favorite coastal rivers and ended the day with five gorgeous winter chromers! Most of the fish came to either purple or blue rabbit strip leech patterns.  When flows get clear and cold like they've been the past few days, its tough to beat those colors.

One of my son's joined me today to chase winter fish on the Umpqua.  Flows are still a bit high, but they are very fishable.  Even though we hooked two fish, I felt that given the time of year, the water flow and overall conditions, we should have had a few more fish...?  I'm really starting to wonder where our Umpqua winter steelhead run is.  I've seen late runs, but NEVER this late.  I'm starting to wonder if the past several years of low flows in December and the incredible numbers of fish caught side-drifting in the lower river is catching up with us?  Hopefully the fish are just late!