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Pacific NW - The Gathering

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Ronan's report


Wednesday 16th July, 2008

December 20th, 2007. Joesnuffy, aka Justin, suggests a Pacific Northwest (PNW) Sexyloops gathering.

97 posts on the board and over half a year later, the dream became a reality.

Last weekend Eric (recently retired from FP duties), Rob (Robot), Mimi, Justin, and I met in central Oregon for the first ever Sexyloops PNW Gathering. Unfortunately, Chase and Nick weren’t able to join us this time, but there are already rumors of an Imaginary Winter Steelhead Gathering on the wind, so those guys might get another chance.

By the time we all arrived in camp on Friday night, the campfire was down to coals. We could hear the murmur of the spring creek slipping by behind camp and see every star in the crystal clear sky. Introductions and PBRs followed, with the traditional fishing camp BS finally trailing off to bed around 3am.

We were up fairly early on Saturday, at least by Sexyloops standards. Mimi’s coffee addiction kicked in and soon we had steaming bean water along with Rob’s eggs and sausage delight. By then Justin was just vibrating with excitement to fish. Since it was his idea to have this gathering, we decided we could break with tradition and actually fish at a Sexyloops gathering.

Central Oregon is blessed with a natural abundance of streams, rivers, and lakes as well as some truly unique natural beauty. Limited to just a weekend, the hardest part of our trip was deciding where we wanted to fish. We settled on two spots in the end, based on location, diversity, and fish species potential – the spring creek right behind camp and a complex of two shallow alpine lakes connected by a meandering, weed lined channel. Both offered crystal clear water, challenging fishing, opportunities to sigh fish to some really nice trout, and spectacular scenery. We also wanted to have some adventure, so we chose waters that we had not fished before. That was easy. I had briefly fished the spring creek before on trips through the area, but that was all we were going on. The spring creek was a mix of hatchery and wild/native redband rainbows and the lake complex had an interesting combination of wild/non-native brook trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon.

After two years in Oregon, my impression is that the flyfishing here is very challenging. If you are up to the challenge, and pay your dues, you can have some fine experiences. The fishing last weekend fit that description, and was made perhaps even more challenging by extremely hot weather. No excuses, though. We still fished hard, got some fish, and had a helluva time. The rainbows treated us right, and we took them using dries, nymphs, and streamers. We saw big brookies, but never got to hold one. I whipped myself in to a frenzy trying to crack the brookie code, but was left only with a tired casting arm and a tippet that was whittled down to a nub from making so many fly changes. It was quite a scene with me standing on the seat of my driftboat craning for a better view of the fish, Mimi and I both casting into the pod, and Rob right behind muttering things like “Suck It Brookie”. Justin managed to solve half the puzzle and land a couple of Atlantics on dries. Bright silver, with fantastic spots. I’d love to see one of those guys in anadromous size extra large someday. We rewarded him and Eric with a high speed electric trolling motor tube ride back to the boat ramp after dark.

After that, we filled my driftboat with firewood on the way back to camp and rejoiced in the warmth of a terrific campfire as the temperature plummeted after sunset. Steaks, spaghetti with meat sauce, bread, PBR, Moosedrool, Vodka an Cranberry, and ice water was the menu. Somehow, a cold drink and a hot fire is a perfect combination and can act as a catalyst for telling fishing stories late into the night.

Sunday dawned bright and extremely hot, turning our tents and vehicles into ovens and chasing us from our sleeping bags, fleece jackets, and beanie hats by 7:30 am. We packed up camp and then broke into an impromptu casting session on a wide section of the spring creek behind camp that featured 9’ 6wt, 8wt, and 9wt single handers as well as Eric’s 12’ 6wt ZA two hander. We introduced Justin to the DH rod and he picked it up quickly. Still, I love watching competent fly casters try a DH rod for the first time. The expression/body language after the first casting attempt is priceless. It's like they are suddenly holding a 12 or 14 foot long, lit stick of dynamite that also happens to be covered in dog crap. The initial shock turns quickly to a sense of betrayal - like somehow the rod let you down. It gets better from there.

By the end of the session the air temps were in the mid 90s and the sky was a bright blue like you only see in the high desert. We headed downstream in search of more spring creek trout. They were scarce and not feeding heavily, hiding out under banks and log jams. The exact opposite can be said for the mosquitoes. My knuckles are still itching.

It was there, on the spring creek that our first official PNW gathering would come to an end. Eric headed south for Nevada, Justin off east, Rob and I back to Portland, and Mimi, who punctuated the gathering with a nice redband on a small dry fly, stayed in central Oregon a while longer for more fishing, running, and arting.

I had a great time meeting more ‘Loopers and hanging out with old and new friends, trading stories, and sharing time in camp and on the water. Hopefully I’ll see everyone again very soon.

If you’re interested, check out today’s POD and this thread for some photos from the weekend.

Cheers,
Matt

PS - If you believe that wild & native steelhead are worth protecting, and that without solid science conservative fisheries management is the only answer, please, take a moment to sign the petition in support of the existing regulations that prohibit killing wild steelhead on Oregon's Umpqua River. Over 930 have already signed online and who knows how many more have signed the paper copies.


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