North Oregon Coast Winter Steelhead Report

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Wow, I can’t believe it’s nearing the end of January, 2013. The first part of this steelhead season has flown by. As the early hatchery run tapers off and we gear up for big native steelhead, it’s a good time for an early season recap.

December, 2012 was characterized by lots of major rain events, high water and plenty of river pressure. Not the greatest combination for hooking big numbers of steelhead. Still, we were on the water a bunch, had a handful of days where we worked hard for a few fish, a bunch of good days with high single digit hookups, and a few great days. In short, it was classic Winter Steelheading. On days the river was in perfect shape, we did really well. If we caught the river high or on the rise, it was a heck of a lot tougher.

January has been a whole different story all together. We’ve had low amounts of rainfall this month and long, cold, clear, dry periods where rivers have dropped to very low levels. We love those kind of conditions and specialize in low, clear, technical steelheading. If you’re up for the challenge, there are plenty of fish to be had when rivers get bone dry. Often times, we have had to struggle through icing guides and reels during the first couple hours of each day, but as the day progressed and the ice subsided, the fish really began to turn on. We witnessed a few of those epic, lower river bites with dozens of fish kegged up in small pockets less than two feet deep. Fish like that can be spooky, but if you find them when the light is right, sometimes it feels like you can do no wrong. It almost feels as if you’re cheating, but only for a minute. :-)

Overall, I would term December and January as generally typical Oregon Coast Steelheading. There are certainly not as many hatchery fish as last year, but then again, last season brought record numbers of hatchery steelhead. Native numbers appear to be decent thus far. There has been a couple early season pushes of big wild fish, with far more to come throughout February and March. We’re excited for the next couple months and can’t wait to put our customers on some of that big native chrome. We’re anxious for the opportunity to put our hands on some of those 40+ inch fish.

Tight lines!!!

Early season chrome male oregon steelhead

nice native oregon coast hen steelhead

thirty five inch hatchery steelhead

A Dry Oregon Coast December, Really?

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Greeetings Anglers,

Oregon Coast Winter steelhead season kicked off in typical fashion with a huge late November rain followed by a week of great fishing on dropping river conditions. However, since that rain event we’ve gone cold and dry with no moisture to speak of in three weeks. It’s a rare to have a conversation discussing the lack of rain on the Oregon Coast in December, yet here we are, staring at unseasonably low water levels. There are still Winter steelhead to be caught, but most of those are in the lower sections of bigger coastal systems. Fish are waiting patiently for the next freshet and fishing is certain to catch fire after the next good rain.

If the early December push of steelhead is any indicator of run strength we are looking at another great season on the Oregon Coast. We are now booking hatchery and wild Winter steelhead through mid-April, 2012. Give us a call at 503.515.3533 or email us to inquire about booking a guided gear or fly fishing trip.

An early season Oregon Coast Winter steelhead
An early season Oregon Coast Winter steelhead

A nice late season chrome Fall chinook
A nice late season chrome Fall chinook

Tomato Chevre Steelhead

Friday, March 5th, 2010

If you find yourself with a piece of quality hatchery steelhead from the Oregon Coast this Winter, like many of our guided fishing guests, give this recipe a try. This easy recipe tastes like it took all day to prepare and it’s one of our all time favorites for steelhead.

1 1/2-2 pounds of fresh cherry (or other small) tomatoes
1 Filet of steelhead, deboned with skin off and cut into 4-6 pieces
1 oz Fresh Basil
4-6 oz Goat Cheese (Chevre)
Coarse Salt
Fresh cracked pepper
Olive Oil
Sprig of Thyme

1. Cut the tomatoes in half and sprinkle them across the base of a 9×13 inch glass baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste. Bake in oven at 375 for about 45-60 minutes or until tomatoes create their own sauce and begin to brown slightly.

2. With 20-25 minutes left to go on the tomatoes, put the steelhead in the oven also. Use another glass dish and top the filet with salt/pepper, peprika, olive oil and chopped fresh thyme. Bake uncovered about 20 minutes.

3. Remove items from oven. Plate steelhead, then top with 1oz chevre per serving and 1/2 cup of tomato mixture. Finish with chopped basil.

Serve with risotto, bread and garden salad.
Pairs well with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio

Good fishing and good eating,
Oregon River Guides

Steelhead fishing shows no signs of slowing down

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Saturday began with high hopes considering the fishing earlier in the week. We were not to be disappointed.

I was joined in the boat by Jon Bial of North Fork Composites and Paul Howarth of REC Components. Our mission, which we freely accepted, was to test some new rods we just had built up for bobber fishing small streams. They proved themselves quickly as Paul landed his first steelhead ever and hooked several others in the first couple hours of fishing. The day would have been successful there, but we wanted to put the rods through the ringer, so we caught a bunch more and finished the day 6 for 10.

A report from Jon and great photo gallery of the day is available on the North Fork Blog

To book a guided trip call 503.515.3533 or email Email Us

Paul Howarth with his first steelhead

It’s Winter Steelhead Time – Chrome Units are In

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

They have arrived! Chrome Winter units are now in a lot of lower river areas along the coast. Fishing has been very good off the tide in the lower river areas. We headed out for our first steelhead scouting venture of the season on December 1st and had excellent fishing. Anglers limited going 4 for 8 on steelhead, plus a bonus coho and a chinook. Not too shabby for our first day of the season. It looks to be a good one this year.

It’s time to hit the water! To book a Winter Steelhead trip with Oregon River Guides call 503.515.3533 or Email Us

North Coast early winter steelhead

North Coast early winter steelhead

Salmon season tapers off as Winter steelhead begin to arrive

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

The big November rains were right on schedule this year, blowing out the entire Oregon Coast for more than a week beginning November 17th. We had a couple end of season salmon trips scheduled but cancelled those and made alternate plans.

Electing not to fish in a flood, the Oregon River Guides staff ducked over to the East side of the cascades for a little Fall Steelhead action. We were accompanied by Jon Bial of North Fork Composite Rods. He brought along a slug of brand new steelhead, float, casting and spinning rods to try out.

We mixed up techniques and presentations throughout the weekend, field testing the entire stable. We were lucky enough to take fish on every rod and a variety techniques. The new rods, especially the ST961 are designed for delicate presentations to wary fish. They are light, subtle and smooth. These rods are designed to bend to the cork and it’s a good feeling when they do! We’re anxious for the full production run of these rods and have our eye on several new models we know our clients will enjoy.

The trip was a perfect introduction to the Winter steelhead season which is nearly upon. We’ll begin fishing the North Oregon Coast as soon as the rivers drop into shape. To inquire about a Winter steelhead trip give us a call at 503.515.3533 or Email Us

North Fork Composite ST961 Casting

North Fork Composite ST961 Spinning

Situk River – Headwater Chronicles Snapshots

Monday, May 11th, 2009

Jason is hooked up to a nice Halibut   

Jason is hooked up to a nice Hali”butt”

Russ Morris spills steelhead knowledge for the next edition of The Headwater Chronicles

Russ Morris spills steelhead knowledge for the next edition of The Headwater Chronicles”

More fun steelhead pics and film to follow!

Situk River, Alaska – Spring Steelhead Report

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

On April 25th, six intrepid anglers set off to fish the Situk River in Alaska for a week. As steelhead streams go, the Situk (located just outside of Yakutat, Alaska) has a reputation for having one of the greatest runs of steelhead in the United States, both in size and numbers. Before leaving, we did all the research, read all the articles and tied oogles of flies. All the reports we read claimed hookups per day numbering from 10-25 for experienced anglers. Numbers like that are simply hard to fathom in Oregon, where six hookups in a day on flies happens a handful of times each season at best. Needless to say, we were excited.

Upon stepping off the plane in Yakutat, I was greeted by sunny skies, a warm breeze and temperatures near 60. Not exactly typical April in SE Alaska… an omen for the week to come. Excited to hit the river, we quickly strung rods, jumped into waders and were walking upstream from tidewater by 3pm.

We were greeted by a few anglers along the trail, and then a few more and some more after that. We looked at each other… kinda like fishing at home isn’t it? We walked about a mile and a half and stopped at a pool that looked fishy and free of other anglers. I made a few casts, nothing. It was a deep pool and I wasn’t feeling the bottom. Removing the indicator from my fly rod, I started another pass. The line stopped, I lifted and was in to my first fish on the trip. A chrome bright fish of about 12 lbs. The trip was off to a good start! We crossed the river to the other side of the pool for a better drift and began working the pool. We hooked 4 more in the next 15 minutes and started to think our dreams of the steelhead trip of a lifetime was about to come true.

Ah wait, but these things don’t just happen. This is fishing and this is a fishing trip. When has everything gone perfectly? Never, and we like it that way. Those imperfections, in my humble opinion, add flavor, memories and laughs for years to come. This trip was to be no exception.

After that pool of brilliance, the next 3 days were a good/news bad news scenario. The good news was, we were all getting pretty tan, drifting the river in t-shirts in Alaskan April. The angling pressure lightened up some and we caught a few nice fish. The bad news was it wasn’t close to 10 hookups a day, in fact it was more like an average day in Oregon. Couple hookups here, a couple there. Nothing to write home about. We saw a couple boats doing really well and every other boat getting fish few and far between.

Slightly dejected, we chartered a boat for the bay, to reset moods and get in on the wiggle. We only caught one halibut, but boy was it a nice one and finished up the day with a bunch of black rock fish. Just like the fish I remember catching off the jetty in Newport when I was young, only these guys were substantially bigger. The bbq that night was spectacular and it prompted a plan and change of fishing styles for the next day of steelheading.

The general agreement was these fish were acting more like Summer steelhead than Winter Steelhead and why not fish them that way, when the sun was on the water. So when the orange fireball hit the water the following morning, we went small and dark… really small and dark. The first place we stopped we went 5 for 9 and the good fishing continued the until the end of the trip. We hooked and landed plenty of steelhead and finished the adventure on a high note.

The jury is still out on if I would go back. The only thing that would keep me from visiting the Situk and Yakutat again, would be angling pressure. Other than that the people are very friendly, as are the other anglers. The shuttle and river access is easy, there are nice places to stay, good food to eat and cold beer to drink. Aw, but I just answered my own question. If it’s that good, it’s been found…

Next trip I hope to need my map and compass!

-Jesse Sampson
Small Stream Outfitters

ps. During our trip we also shot some excellent film footage to be used in the next edition of The Headwater Chronicles. Stay tuned for pictures and a film preview in the upcoming months.

Documentary Steelhead Video Trailer Now Available!

Friday, August 3rd, 2007

The trailer for our first fly fishing video project is ready for an advance preview! Take a sneak peak at the documentary film “Spring Steelhead – Oregon Coast Range”

Watch the Documentary Film Trailer!

The film footage was shot in March of 2007 on a remote stream in the Oregon Coast Range. The stream’s pristine remoteness and beauty are captured in this five minute trailer.

To fish some of Oregon’s last wild places; contact Small Stream Outfitters today!

Happy Anglers return from a week of Northern Range Steelheading

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

Last week 5 anglers set out on exploratory mission to fish hard, see new water, experience new places and catch a few fish. We weren’t disappointed. Upon our arrival the rivers were relatively high and water conditions were marginal but we still managed to stick a few steelhead and unknown quantities of Dolly Varden, encouraging us for the week to come.

We found a rustic cabin on the banks of a tiny creek complete with spawning Coho and a few Dolly Varden. We heard rumors that the creek held a few steelhead but at a whopping 5 feet wide on average it looked like a lot of work and we had bigger fish to fry. We held strong to the big water, big fish motto and were willing to work for them. The cabin was well equipped and while a little cramped for five anglers, a couple dozens rods and loads of gear, it was warm and cozy. A pot belly stove kept us warm while we fried up a few dollies for supper and talked about strategy for the rest of the week.

Here to explore, no one really had a desire to fish the same section of river twice, so we broke up into two groups and each set out to fish a different section of water. We fished an average of two to three miles of river per day which made for lots of walking, but we covered these short streams quickly and effectively. I started the week with an indicator but by day two tossed it in place of a nymphing and swing combo rig allowing me to better cover the various type of water from deep pools and pockets to long open runs more condusive to swinging. We fished a variety of fly patterns but found by day two it was either glo-bugs or purple swing patterns. Poplular patterns for this trip included glo-bugs in peach, purple/fuscia and yellow as well as egg-sucking leeches, purple perils and articulated leeches.

As the week went on we became more in touch with the area and its many streams. The group had its’ first 20 fish hooked day on Tuesday and never looked back, hooking an impressive 36 steelhead on the last day of fishing. The fish weren’t massive averaging 8 lbs, but we did land several fish in the 10-12 pound class and a couple of monsters pushing 15 lbs. For those in the group that hadn’t really fly fished for steelhead before they got a chance to see some epic steelheading, beautiful rivers and amazing Fall colors. For the rest of us who consider steelheading a lifestyle it was unlike anything we had ever seen. Fast, cold, clean, short rivers with solid runs of bright, extremly bitey fish. Unpressured by other anglers, these fish showed unusual aggression. Twice we caught the same fish in the same run 15 mintues apart. I know that probably happens, but it hadn’t happened to this angler before. We just shook our heads and put another mark in the “epic day” column. Until we can travel North again, we hope the fish will wait and continue to enjoy the good life of a treasured wild steelhead.

To view many wonderful pictures from last week check out (just click on the thumbnails to enlarge the images):
Gallery One
Gallery Two

Tight Lines,
Small Stream Outfitters