January freeze is almost gone

Been able to get out a few times in January. I guess that’s got to account for something. I remember Januarys in the Rogue Valley where not one day was fishable.

Teri and I enjoyed one recent warm day on the upper Rogue River. She rode her new bike around the parking lot, while I trekked to a couple of fishing holes so as to monitor the state of the winter run steelhead.

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Snow on Mt. McLoughlin

Snow on Mt. McLoughlin

It is good to have someone to hang around and keep an eye on the vehicle. There’s been a rash of auto break-ins up and down the valley. This isn’t anything new for the Rogue Valley, but it hasn’t gotten any better with the state of the economy. I didn’t find any early winter steelhead this day. I did find some small smolts. This one, hooked on a flowing hackle pattern, was of surprizing good size.

Trout and steelhead love flowing hackle

Trout and steelhead love flowing hackle

 

Later in the month I met up with some fellows from out of state seeking to hook into a Rogue winter steelhead. As the upper Rogue is slow as of yet, I decided that we should fish somewhere down on the middle Rogue. We met up on a friendly gravel bar. If you know the river, you know the place.

Suiting up for some casting action

Suiting up for some casting action

 

We did a lot of casting and searching. I favored the switch fly rod. These guys were good with bait. The fish wanted something else as we did not have any quality hook ups.

I laid down some nice spey cast with the switch

I laid down some nice spey cast with the switch

 

Bouncing that roe along the bottom

Bouncing that roe along the bottom

 

These guys found the weather a bit on the cold side whiich was not surpriziing considering where they came from. I was enjoying the mid month warmup and sun.

Balmy January weather?

Balmy January weather?

 

Jon hooking up a fish

Jon hooking up a fish

 

One fish was hooked at this spot. Probably about 4 or 5 pounds. Didn’t stay hooked very long.

Casting one last riffle for the day

Casting one last riffle for the day

 

We fished one last stretch for the day, a riffle named and made famous by Zane Grey. Again, if you know the river, you know the riffle.

Casting the run down from the stone chair

Casting the run down from the stone chair

All too quickly the day was over, and with the setting of the sun the January cold settled back into the canyon. We drove back up to Medford and enjoyed a  meal of venison and wild Russian boar chili. All washed down with some good drink of course. So as January draws to a close, I’m looking forward to that early February warmup…that false Spring of the Rogue Valley. All accompanied with a big influx of the winter fish!

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Rogue River-First look 2009

Flooded section of the upper Rogue River

Flooded section of the upper Rogue River

The weather has settled in the Rogue Valley so I took a guy out by foot to investgate some promising water. The water flow on the upper river has dropped to about 3700 CFS with good color. Not optimum conditions for the fly rod, but if you know a high water spot or two, it’s always worth the try.  Even if the water is cold. I’ve caught enough  winter steelhead this early on the upper river to feel good about it, and there’s always the chance for a late summer or fall fish. Though there hasn’t been a bit of rain for days , the small creeks, ponds, and bogs were all full of water. We fished a good, short, stretch of river. One that remains manageable in fairly high flow.

We were blessed with a bit of winter sunlight. I moved upriver and cast the above pictured section of slow water. I was quickly rewarded with the bite of a good fish. All too short and quick, it was over with a couple head shakes. I groaned and sighed, realizing that I probably tightened up too fast on this one. Better to react slow and let the fish hook itself. I could always cast again, but not right to the very same spot. I cast again, but hooked some bankside roots and busted off my point fly. Minutes pasted, while I tied on a new Beadhead G.R. Hare’s Ear. That’s enough time to rest the area. Another cast and this time I securely hook a fish. A Rogue River steelhead smolt and a wild one. He was quickly released to return to the river. After this no other fish were hooked or seen this day. Not a bad start to the year. I could wish for more, and if the weather holds fair, and the river drops somemore, I’m just going to have to get back out again this week! There’s sure to be winter steelhead arriving soon!

Fly of the Month

Beadhead Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear Nymph

Beadhead Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear Nymph

 

The Beadhead Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear…don’t leave home without one.  Of all the small nymphs in my fly box, none matched the success of this old standby during the late 2008 Rogue River season. A standard in most nympher’s  fly boxes and even more so in my mine. Call me a traditionalist.

But a small Hare’s Ear for steelhead? Sure! Bugs are what unfailingly work here on the Rogue River.  Look at the Ugly Bug or Rubber-Leg Stonefly Nymph . I call mine Carpetbaggers (aka…Selbicky’s “Magic” fly) because someone once suggested that the material they are made of looks like a piece of carpet complete with black and white rubber strands.  And they bag fish!  The general shape, size and legs suggest a large stonefly nymph of which there are many naturals inhabiting the fast, rocky, clean water of the Rogue River. Carpetbaggers work great in the early season when the water is warm and the fish are active. I’ll fish a beadhead  Carpetbagger alone, confident that an active, fresh steelhead will move to intercept the big fly just about anywhere in the water column. When the late season water becomes cold, that’s when I add the smaller Beadhead G.R. Hare’s Ear as a dropper. During a fall with low fish numbers and a very sparse bite, this can make a big difference. Why not offer the fish a choice…a big fly or a small fly? A colorful carpet-like fly or a drab more natural fly with a tiny bit of flash?

I found the strategy worked this past year. Not surprisingly, in the cold water of late fall, the steelhead often took the smaller, drab Hare’s Ear. And so much is my confidence in this old standby pattern, that I forego the Prince Nymphs, the Pheasant Tail Nymphs, the Copper Johns, and the small egg patterns. Like the old American Express ad admonished…I didn’t leave home without it.