Late December conditions on the upper Rogue

The latter part of December 2008 has been that of wintery conditions on the upper Rogue River. The steelhead catching for the year is done. That is particularly so with the high water flow we are experiencing now with recent warmer temperatures and rain.

Waking up to a mess of snow

Waking up to a mess of snow

  I hope that water flow doesn’t seriously plague the month of January.  The flow is up now, and with the way the weather trend is headed, it’s going to stay up on the high levels of the graph.

 

Rogue River at high flow.

Rogue River at high flow.

The fish count of steelhead and coho into the upper Rogue  has remained slow for the bulk of December. I never saw the big push I was expecting. The steelhead count is going to end up being less than 6,000 fish. The coho count will remain shockingly below 3,000 fish. Cold water throughout the month has kept the fish from moving. I expect with the current high, warmer flooding some numbers will be added to those fish counts before the end of the year.

So with these ending of the season conditions I don’t expect to see much further catching during 2008. Not that fish can’t be caught under extreme conditions, but the chances are pretty slim in the big winter water of the Rogue.

Here’s a couple of interesting photos of extreme winter steelhead fishing from about 1991. The location was on a New York State Great Lakes tribuatary. Look at the ice that build up on the leader from repeated cast into the freezing water. Interesting enough, this steelhead magically appeared and rose up in the freezing water column to intercept a baited spin glo.

Neil Selbicky with winter caught Great Lakes steelhead.

Neil Selbicky with winter caught Great Lakes steelhead.

Love that stocking face mask I was wearing that day. Take note of it. You’ll see it again.

Here is some typical small stream New York steelhead water. Many times after the bad weather fronts passed the creeks became accessable.  That is if you were inclined to deal with snow and ice. There’s that cold weather stocking cap again.

Steelhead fishing above RTE 394 in western New York State.

Steelhead fishing above RTE 394 in western New York State.

I’ve come across one blog that features the water that I use to steelhead fish back in western New York.  The author seems to love the little Erie tributaries as much as I did. He has some neat looking photos posted up there. I like to check in ever so often and reminisce. He seemed to have ended his season a little early this past Fall. I don’t know if this was on account of the weather or numbers of fish. Probably the weather. Anyway here’s the GL’s blog site.

http://chautauquacreek.typepad.com/chautauqua_creek_journal/

Well, looks like I’ll have to be content with my last steelhead of 2008. He fought well and exhibited good size for a Rogue River  summer steelhead. Started out the season with a good fish and ended it with a good fish for  Fall 2008.  Looking at the photo I have to chuckle. I’m still wearing that old, cold-weather stocking cap from 1991!

Rogue Guiden with December hog!

Rogue Guiden with December hog!

Big Red on the Rogue River

Today was supposed to be a snow day here in the Rogue Valley. One of those days where you wake up slowly and have time to enjoy a big breakfast.

Sourdough pancakes from our homemade starter

Sourdough pancakes from our homemade starter

By the time Teri and I finished up all the Saturday morning chores it was apparent that the weather front had passed us by.  However, the cold of a December morning lingered.  Outside temperature holding around 35 degrees.  We decided to head over to the the Rogue River.  Teri opted to stay warm in the car with her pile of Christmas cards.  I decided to fish a big stretch of water that I hadn’t visited in a week or so.  The surrounding mountains sported a new coat of snow.

Cold winter Rogue Valley landscape

Cold winter Rogue Valley landscape

Though the river was low, this section does not reveal much.  you have to know this section to fish it well, especially when the water is cold and the fish are holding deep.  Consequently it does not get alot of fishing pressure. 

Wide deep holding water on the Rogue River

Wide deep holding water on the Rogue River

I fished the run, poking into each and every spot that has held fish for me before.  I made alot of casts.  Reaching the bottom of the run, I started fishing upstream again.  Casting into water that I had covered about 10 minutess before I noted a pause to the drift of the fly.  This is what I had been waiting for!  I tightened up to the feel of a fish.  He moved and pulled and ran downstream.  And then he turned and ran upstream.  I gave him a little pressure and he ran stronger upstream.  A good fish!  Steelhead or coho, I didn’t know.  Time to call Teri with my cell.  I’d probably want a photo of this fish. 

Big Red Rogue River buck steelhead

Big Red Rogue River buck steelhead

Neil with large B run Rogue River steelhead

Neil with large B run Rogue River steelhead

Big steelhead and small Hare's Ear nymph

Big steelhead and small Hare's Ear nymph

This nice Rogue River steelhead paused long enough in his cold water sulking to intercept my bead head G.R. Hare’s Ear nymph. I used a weighted “Magic” Fly to get the nymph down deep.  Nice ending to a day we thought would be spent indoors.

Early December Rogue River Conditions

Fair yet chilly weather conditions continue this early December on the upper Rogue River. With the lack of rain the water flow remains very low and clear. Mornings along the river  begin with a thick fog. A recent morning’s temperature got low enough for that valley fog to freeze.

A touch of light cold along the Rogue River

A touch of light cold along the Rogue River

 

This is a good time to bring along the extra fleece wear. Hiking along at a quick clip is also a great way to stay warm. On this morning I surprized a stout looking blacktail buck on a trail near the Rogue River.

Freezing fog leaves a mark.

Freezing fog leaves a mark.

 

The cold and low conditions have slowed any good movement of the steelhead or coho through the upper Rogue River. And it’s tough to find the fish that are already there. The steelhead fish count for the summer and fall remains low something under 6,000 fish into the upper Rogue River. The coho count remains under 3,000 fish. During the course of the month it will take a rising river to bring those numbers up. There are fish to be caught  including  the Rogue River’s native cutthroat trout. Although the bite is not very good because of the cold conditions, an active or twitched fly in the right spots will bring results.

A cutthroat trout takes an Orange Bead Hare's Ear nymph.

A cutthroat trout takes an Orange Bead Hare's Ear nymph.

 

A good sized trout pulled from the frigid water.

A good sized trout pulled from the frigid water.

 

A Carpetbagger stonefly nymph and small nymph tadem is a good setup for the cold Rogue River conditions. The small nymph has been getting most of the action as of late.

Early December Rogue River Steelhead

It’s Steelhead Weather on the Upper Rogue River, Oregon.  This means cold, foggy mornings with sometimes–if you’re lucky–clearing up in the afternoons.  Today was exceptionally clear and bright.  The chill, however, remained in the air and in the water.  A visit to the middle Rogue River brought one fish to hand. 

Rogue River Steelhead brought to hand

Rogue River Steelhead brought to hand

Earlier this week trips to Takelma on the upper Rogue River, the hatchery section and Rogue Elk Park were fun but the large steelies and coho eluded us.

Neil lands a shaker!

Neil lands a shaker!

A guest works a fly from the front of the drifter

A guest works a "Magic" fly from the front of the driftboat

All in all a slow cold start to December.  Let’s hope for some rain and the fish counts to rise.