Fishing Reports

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John Day River - December 9th, 2011
  • Recorded:
  • Sunny
  • 25 ° F 
  • Fishing: Great

            I ran over to the John Day River to fish for steelhead with a friend the other day. Jimmy and I headed over early in the morning and arrived just after daylight. It was a COLD morning with a temperature in the twenties and it seemed like it took forever for the sun to get high enough to hit the river and warm our bodies. The water was in great shape running clear and just over 500cfs at Service Creek, and was a little on the cold side with a temperature of just 36 degrees.

            We started fishing our way upstream and Jimmy broke the ice (no pun intended) and hooked the first bright native John Day steelhead in our first run of the day. It’s a good news/ bad news story when you hook a fish on a blistering cold day. The good news is that it’s great to catch the beautiful chrome steelhead you came for, but the bad news is that you have to land it, unhook it and release it in frigid temperatures with wet hands!

            In our second run of the day, lady luck shined on me as I got a solid take in the middle of the run. Unfortunately, it came unbuttoned shortly after hooking up and we were unable to find any other willing fish in that run.

            After lunch we found a nice long run with a deeper trough running down the middle that looked like great holding water. As it turned out, it was as good as it looked. I started at the very top in the riffle and Jimmy started below where the riffle started to flatten out. It didn’t take long for Jimmy to find another willing fish to take his fly. After a little give and take, another bright wild fish came to Jimmy’s hand for a quick picture and release.

Jimmy was gracious enough to slide down lower in the run and let me take over the money water where he left off.  Fifteen minutes later, my line came tight with a hard pull from another beautiful native John Day fish. This was a really nice fish that was a little bigger than average and had the fight in him to prove it. He had taken my fly just after my cast and mend, so this fish was out there a ways and didn’t want to give up any line. Slowly I put more pressure on him and finally got him turned and worked him upstream where I eventually landed him for a hero shot and release.

Jimmy then took another turn at the money water, starting where I left off and continued working through the run. Once again, it didn’t take long for Jimmy to hook and land his third wild fish of the day.

We fished through this last run until a beautiful sunset filled the sky and called an end to our fun and very productive day on the water.

Jimmy fished his SAGE 7136-4 Z-Axis and I fished a SAGE 7126-4 TCX with type three sink-tips and rabbit leech patterns.

The John Day tributaries have been freezing and thawing in the last few days causing the river level to bouncing between 300cfs and 500cfs on a daily basis. I would wait until the flows steady a bit before I would head out to the John Day to fish.  
 

The Patient Angler           Patientangler.com

Peter Bowers


 
John Day River - October 28th, 2010
  • Recorded:
  • Sunny
  • 68 ° F 
  • Fishing: Good
  Got out for a day just before our last rain, and decided to go check the lower John Day River to see if there were any early steelhead making their way up. There was a little bump in the water just a few days before, and I was hoping it might have enticed a few fish in. The steelhead in the John Day are a wild fish that run on the small side but are normally chrome bright and are fairly aggressive to skaters and flies swung on a dry line, especially early in the season when the water is lower and warmer. Later in the season when the bulk of the fish are in and the water is higher and much, much colder, the use of sink tip lines to probe the slower deeper pools is a must. Like any other N.W. steelhead river, the John Day does get it’s share of stray fish, which is why you run into bigger wild and hatchery fish later in the season.

   I made the early morning drive and was pleased to arrive and find an empty parking lot at first light. I geared up and started hiking down river in search of the first spot of the morning. I stopped at a good looking shallow bird wing gravel bar that extended out across the river and drops off into a nice pool with structure. The water level was dropping and was crystal clear with a temperature around 60 degrees (just a guess, I forgot my thermometer). It was pretty chilly first thing in the morning and there was a super heavy fog hanging over the water like a blanket. I stepped in and started swinging a black leech on a floating line and a 10ft leader. I worked my line out slowly, taking my time, since there was no one around and I was enjoying the super fishy feeling of the run. It didn’t take long to confirm there was at least one steelhead in the river system. I had only worked about 30ft of line out, which at this low water level covers most runs or slots, and was half way through my swing with my fly in the heart of the run, when I felt a solid take. The fish did his best to shake me off and made a couple of hard runs, but in the end he came in peacefully for a quick picture and release. You can see the heavy fog background in the picture like a white-out.  

   The swings are slow on the John Day with the lack of water speed, so it takes longer that normal to fish through runs. As I continued from where I left off, I caught the sound of voices of a guide boat coming down river. I was only half way through this nice piece of water, and with the low flows, there’s only one place for a boat to go, and that’s down the slot and through the middle. Not a big deal, but in low water, it’s just a nice to think that any fish that might be in that run, hasn’t seen anything for days but your fly! To my complete surprise, this guide pulled his boat in behind me, got out and dragged his boat with the two clients in it across the gravel bar and into the slow slot along the edge of the run I was fishing so he wouldn’t disturb my water. I’ve been fishing for a while and that was one of the most gratuitous acts of sportsmanship I’ve ever witnessed. I thanked him as he rowed away, and he replied something about us having the river to ourselves on a beautiful day and we should all be able to enjoy the river. I wondered if the guys in the boat realized how good they had it, floating the river with a guide with that kind of work ethic.  I fished through the rest of the run, and the guide’s generosity seems to have paid off as I did catch another very feisty, but small wild fish in the center of the run.

  The sun was soon overhead and it didn’t take long for the day to warm up. I fished throughout the day fishing riffles and slow runs and did manage to pick up another small wild fish in a very shallow spot below a riffle. I covered a lot of water and fished hard for the fish I caught, and believe that it was lack of pressure that let me get the few aggressive fish that were in there, but they are on there way. The future weather forecast and the water it will provide is just what the doctor ordered to bring in more fish.

The Patient Angler         patientangler.com


Peter Bowers
 
John Day River - December 2nd, 2009
  • Recorded:
  • Mostly cloudy
  • 42 ° F 
  • Fishing: Fair
Hey Everyone! 

  Well, a buddy of mine and I went up the John Day to see if we couldn’t hook us a steelhead.  We tried fishing way up river around Service Creek area.  The water level bump just a little bit in the last few days, and we thought it might get some fish moving up in the river.  We were wrong.  We fished hard most of the day without a tug.  The water temp was around 35 degrees, and the air temp wasn’t much warmer. I was wishing I had brought those new battery powered heated socks we just started carrying.  It was the perfect condition to try them out, and I don’t see the weather warming up anytime soon.  I might have to ask Santa for a pair.  If you are thinking of fishing the John Day, you may want to fish some of the lower parts for now. 

See you in the shop,              patientangler.com

Jay
 
John Day River - December 5th, 2008
  • Recorded:
  • Mostly sunny
  • 65 ° F 
  • Fishing: Good
  I haven’t fished the John Day River for steelhead this year and we have been getting some good reports of fish in the river up to the Service Creek area, so I jumped in the truck with my buddy Jim and headed to the Clarno stretch of the John Day. We got there early and wadered up and hit the water.

  The water was clear and running around 500cfs, with a water temp in the low 40’s. The water gave us the impression of winter, but the day kept trying to tell us it was still summer with sunny skies and warm temperatures. In the afternoon, the clouds started to move in and the wind picked up a little making it feel a little more like fall, but it still didn’t feel like December.

  If you haven’t fish the John Day for steelhead before, be prepared for something different. You won’t find a lot of the normal structure filled holding water with speeds of 4 to 6 mph that you would look for in most of the NW steelhead rivers. Instead you will find long non-descript runs of flat water that seem like they are barely moving. The John Day has a cobblestone type bottom without a lot of big structure, so steelhead seem to hold in the slower water where they don’t have to swim hard to hold position. Jimmy and I fished through two runs, which took us all day to fish. Granted the first run was a very long run, but when you get to the slower water, each swing can take 3 or 4 minutes to complete. You have to be a Patient Angler to fish the John Day River for steelhead. My patience finally paid off, and I hooked a wild steelhead that took the fly hard and put up a pretty good fight before I brought her to hand for a quick picture. I managed to hook one more fish about an hour later, but lost it when it came unbuttoned during the fight.

  I was fishing a type 6 sink-tip with my marabou stinger fly on my Winston 13’3” BIIX 7 wt. spey rod.

  All in all, it was a good day with a couple fish, little angling pressure and a beautiful day that made us forget it was December 2nd.

 

The Patient Angler              patientangler.com

Peter Bowers
 
John Day River - July 14th, 2008
  • Recorded:
  • Sunny
  • 87 ° F 
  • Fishing: Great
  Had the day off on Sunday so Thu and I decided to run to the John Day River in search of Smallmouth Bass. We put a couple gold bricks in the gas tank (a phrase I stole from a friend we met that owns property on the river.) and drove to the Service Creek Area of the John Day. It didn’t take much searching to find plenty of Smallmouth eager to take Poppers off the top. I haven’t fished for Smallmouth in a while and I had forgotten how much fun it was. The water was warm and running about 600cfs, which is a great flow for this time of year and a very productive flow to fish for Smallies. Most of the fish and the best Popper fishing happens close to the banks of the river, so floating the river gives you the best opportunity to catch fish by being able to fish both banks from the center of the river. When I say close to the banks, I mean CLOSE TO THE BANKS! If casting from a boat, try to land your Popper right on the edge of the river and you will be surprised how many takes you get as soon as the Popper hits the water. If your fishing from the banks, like we were on Sunday, change your tactics and cast up and down the shoreline to cover the water close to the banks. Most of the time you’re fishing in water that’s not moving very fast, so up or down stream doesn’t really matter. But you do get better popping action from your Popper when it’s retrieved against the current which sometimes produces more takes. Thu and I fished for about 7 hours and landed 40 to 50 Smallmouth Bass on Poppers. Granted, a lot of those were just little guys that you wouldn’t think were big enough to get a Popper in their mouths. But even the little guys all think they are a Big Fish by the way they attack you fly. There are big Carp and Catfish in the John Day, and you will see them while you’re wading around the edges of the slow water. Every once in a while, I would hook a little Smallmouth and as it was running around a Catfish would appear and chase the little guy around nipping at his tail. The Catfish were just not fast enough to catch them and for some reason, the little guys being chased were quite willing to swim right to me and be landed.

   We had a lot of fun fishing the John Day and might try to get a float in before the river gets too low.

   The John Day is a great place to take kids to fish and the water is very warm this time of year and there are plenty of swimming holes to cool off in during our warm summer days. I’ve got a great BLM River Map & Guide for the John Day River at the shop that shows the river, rapids, campgrounds, boat launches, GPS coordinates and lots of other great information.

  Be on the lookout for Rattlesnakes this time of year, you run into one every once and a while along the river banks.  

The Patient Angler              patientangler.com

Peter Bowers
 
John Day River - January 4th, 2007
  • Recorded:
  • Mostly cloudy
  • 36 ° F 
  • Fishing: Good
Happy New Year!

  Reed and I took the opportunity (the shop was closed New Years day) to fish together, and headed off to the John Day River to see what the first day of 2007 would bring us. We left Bend at 6:00a.m. on a very cold Jan. 1st, with the Clarno area as our destination.. When we got there, the water was a chilly 33 degrees with icebergs floating down the river. The flow had been dropping for a few days, and running around 1700cfs with about 2 feet of visibility.  The John Day always fishes better for me when it’s a little off color. We bundled up, rigged our spey rods, and fished our way down river. We had to deal with frozen guides for a couple of hours, but it soon warmed up enough to start enjoying the day. The best part was that we had the river to ourselves. I hooked my first steelhead of 2007 about 2 hours into the day, a beautiful bright native fish that was a 31+ inches. It was a very soft take, and in the cold water didn’t put up much of a fight. Until I grabbed her tail, then the fight was on. She trashed out of my grip, and proceeded to play Hard to Get, with a few more runs to the middle of the river. After a few more attempts, I finally brought her to hand, snapped a few photos, wished her a Happy New Year and returned her to the river. After a couple of celebratory nips of an adult medicinal warming beverage, I thought…What a great way to start out the year, getting rid of the Steelhead Skunk for 2007 in the first 2 hours! I got another take just before dark, but failed to hook up. I worked him for a while, but ran out of light before I could get to commit again. I was fishing a type 8 sink tip with a short 10lb leader and my Black/Purple/Blue Stinger fly with a Red butt. This style of fly has produced more steelhead for us than any other fly we've fished in a long time.   

   Check out the pictures in our photo gallery  patientangler.com


 

The Patient Angler

Peter Bowers
 


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