30th August - 11th September 2011

Middle Fork John Day River

After driving for several hot hours across the arid eastern part of Oregon on route 26, we were glad to take a detour along the Middle Fork of the John Day River, to find a spot to cool off and perhaps enjoy a spot of trout fishing.

Our Forest Service Camp ground was glorious and right on the banks of the river. After a recon trip, Phil returned excited, having seen a large Steelhead in the river by our site. These were large Rainbow Trout, which having spent their adult life out in the ocean, had returned to the river where they were born, to spawn. These fish had travelled an awfully long way up what, by the time it reached this spot in Eastern Oregon, was a very small and shallow river. It was quite amazing that these huge fish could even swim in such shallow water, never mind keep on heading upstream, past the many obstacles in their way! Of course by this stage, the fish weren't particularly interested in food and Phil's fishing excursion resulted only in landing a few tiny trout, which were put right back to grow some more.

We made a morning stop at Magone Lake, a spot we'd fished three years earlier. Despite many improvements made to the lake area, including a new boat launching area and picnic area, we didn't have much luck on this visit, with the sun being already high and hot.

After Harvey had huffed and puffed his way up to the summit of the Ochoco Divide, we spent the night in a campground there before pushing on westwards next morning to the Metollius River. Here we'd arranged to meet David, our kind-of-distant relative from Salem, for a day of trout fishing in pristine waters. He arrived bright and early on Friday morning after his three hour drive to reach us and Phil's Metollius Masterclass began. With David's knowledge and pointers, Phil landed two good sized trout during the day, which was no mean feat in water so clear with fish so picky!

The first, downstream from our campsite, came peacefully, posed for his photo, was christened "Bill" and released quickly back to his home under a sunken log. After lunch we returned to a spot upstream of our campground which Phil had fished patiently but unsuccessfully the previous afternoon. Here despite the fact that large trout were clearly to be seen swimming in a large pool, they were almost impossible to catch. We found another fisherman patiently fishing, as Phil had the previous day. He was pretty miffed when Phil arrived and quickly hooked his second large fish of the day!

This second fish proved a little more reluctant to be landed, entertaining us with its antics and attempted escapes. It managed to leap out of the landing net several times whilst still attached to the fly, tie David's feet in a knot as it evaded retrieval. It hurled itself out of the landing net again when we finally got it back. This fish was certainly camera-shy. Finally we stopped laughing long enough to snap a photo and get the fish to stop wriggling long enough to unhook him and let him go.

Show me that knot again - is it me or are your hands just a blur!

Phil meets fish number one, "Bill" to his friends.

If you stop escaping, we'll let you go!

We stayed another day on the Metollius, giving Phil more time to try and harass Bill and his friends before heading back to Hosmer Lake for a couple of days. High in the mountains west of Bend, Hosmer Lake was such a beautiful spot that we couldn't pass nearby without stopping again for our third visit. We'd worried about getting a camp site on Labor Day weekend but had a fall back plan that camping is permitted pretty much anywhere in the National Forest, once you were off the road. As it happened we arrived to find a great site, right next to the boat ramp. By the Labor Day evening, we had the entire camp ground to ourselves! We enjoyed two wonderful days paddling around the lake and landing some of its Atlantic Salmon and large Brook Trout residents.

Beware Low Flying Salmon!

Sunset at Hosmer Lake.

Several people, including David, had told us about the "trophy" fishing at larger Diamond Lake, not far from Crater Lake to our south, so this became our next destination. Arriving after the holiday weekend, we snagged a beautiful, large lake-front campsite. From here we could launch our canoe directly from the camp site, someone had even constructed a mini breakwater to make this easier for us!

Evidently a forest fire was raging nearby, as many were in the Oregon area at that time. Luckily the fire was on the opposite side of the large lake and behind Mount Bailey. We had the ideal spot to watch the Smokejumpers, parachuting down from their plane into the fire zone, to fight the fire. We wondered if these were the very same smokejumpers we'd visited with in Missoula in Montana. It was amazing to get the chance to watch them in action, having learned about their techniques during our tour.

As promised, the fishing was good and fruitful and anglers were encouraged to keep their catch, as the population of trout in the lake was becoming too large. During our three days there, we kept three nice trout which were delicious.

A 12 mile cycle track had been constructed around the lake and we enjoyed some wonderful traffic-free cycling through the woodland.

Diamond Lake

Working off the trout dinner!

David insisted that we couldn't leave Oregon without fishing for Steelhead on the Umpqua River and enjoying dinner at the historic Steamboat Inn on the river. We headed west along the North Umpqua from Diamond Lake and camped for the night at Horseshoe Bend. That evening Phil hooked a few small trout but no sign of any Steelhead. Next morning, unfortunately not early enough as we overslept, we headed downstream on the river to fish around Steamboat. We had been told that 80 percent of the Steelhead would turn up Steamboat creek that joined the Umpqua there rather than heading further up the Umpqua. We didn't know how accurate the information was but figured it wouldn't hurt to be downstream of the confluence! By oversleeping and then booking to attend dinner at the Inn, we would be missing both of the best Steelhead fishing times of day, when the sun was lower in the sky. As expected we didn't hook any of the large fish but enjoyed a day exploring the river and hooking a few small trout.

On the Umpqau early but not early enough!

Intrepid fisherman in pursuit of a large jumping fish!

Dinner at the Inn was served "Family Style". This meant everyone was seated together and passed around the bowls of food to share. As it turned out, most of the people seated near us weren't fishermen, so the conversation was varied. We had a great evening, making new friends and enjoying wonderful food, definitely an experience to be recommended. The Inn was also serving dinner for the second night in a row to around 100 Forest Fire Fighters, seated in the next room, these guys had obviously worked up quite an appetite and seemed eager to eat up and head back to camp to get some rest before the next day's hard work.

Leaving the Inn around 10 pm, our bellies full, we were reluctant to drive the 10 steep, winding miles back to the campsite at Horseshoe Bend. Besides, the best early morning fishing was supposed to be near Steamboat. Instead we parked for the night right in the parking lot at Mott Bridge. Here there was no danger of oversleeping as we were wakened around 6 am by eager fishermen and congregating fire-fighters!

Phil and his hangover went fishing for Steelhead around 6.30 am but again came back empty handed, however he did pick up some handy hints, watching the previous night's dinner companions Steelhead fishing lessons across the river! It seemed his chance of hooking a large Steelhead may be over, as we were headed for the California border. Of course we made a stop first to stock up of Sales-Tax free supplies and gas before leaving Oregon!

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