Upper Rogue Valley Wingshot and Fly Fishing

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The first of September opened with dove and quail season. The end of summer maded for good numbers of dove about. I even stumbled on a covey of California quail. The early seasons are great for exercising hiking muscles and honing shotgun shooting skills. Iced lemonade is my tradition favorite drink after a warm day.

As the doves moved on because of hunting pressure and increasingly colder nights, a short season for band-tail pidgeon beckoned. This mid-September I ventured to the Siskiyou mountain where I had noted these birds during last year’s deer season. I was lucky and found a sizeable flock, feeding on the elderberrys. Hiking a very steep logging trail I accessed my “Pidgeon Hill”, often sweating profusely because the weather had returned to hot. A side benefit of the trekking was running into a handful of mountain quail and a couple of grouse.

The steelhead fly fishing turned on and then turned off. The early September high water was better for the bite. The weather returned mid-month to hot, the sun brightened and the water dropped. Fly fishing success slowed up. Early morning and periods of overcast have remained opportunities. The spring chinook have been spawning and orange in a fly pattern is good. I favor my orange beadhead Brownbagger, but still like to fish the regular Carpetbaggers and beadhead G.R. Hare’s Ear nymphs. The Rogue water temperature has gotten colder so nymphing will produce better than swinging as a general rule. That said different water types offer unique situations so it pays to experiment.

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Upper Rogue River Flyfishing Only

Teri and I did pretty good Saturday on a short float on the upper Rogue. We put in about 4:00 PM and took out just before sunset. I tied a Steelhead Caddis Emerger on to Teri’s 9 foot Sage rod. For when I got a chance to fish, I set my switch rod up with a Beadhead G.R. Hare’s Ear nymph point fly off a Midnight Rainbow Carpetbagger big nymph. I started out rowing in tank top, but pretty quick covered up exposed arms with a long sleeve shirt. The air felt pretty cool in the shade, while it was bright and warm out in the direct sun. The Steelhead Caddis Emerger fly was doing pretty good in the shallow riffles and I helpfully released the trout, salmon smolt and one nice cutthroat trout for Teri. After while she was on her “own” with the instructions, “Just invert the hook and shake them off!”

The first steelhead came to my rod. While anchored up in a deeper hole I cast a few times to the weak side of the driftboat. Teri had said that she saw a good fish come to the surface. I swung the Carpetbagger and Hare’s Ear off some shallow side riffles into the deep water. After about 10 minutes I got a grab and a steelhead went airborne immediately. A fiesty 16 inch native had glumped on to the Beadhead G.R. Hare’s Ear. He put up quite an airborne display and we finally wet released him right at the boat.

We passed a few people fishing away the late afternoon on the sunny banks of the river. Down in a nice shaded run Teri drifted her fly out in front while I rowed slowing our pace through the water. Bang a big fish came up and grabbed the Steelhead Caddis Emerger and left Teri shaking. Too good to be true, it didn’t last long and the leader came back curly-cued and minus the fly. I rowed back up and we drifted through that run a couple more times. Nothing more, I guess he’d had enough!

Down near our take-out we pulled over, went ashore, and picked blackberries. Back on the water and a last hole to fish before takeout. Nothing doing in the water where’d I caught a fish earlier this week. Taking out was a little slower with the shallow water level and abundantly exposed rocks. We got it done and were soon back on the road home.

Table Rock sunset complete with high wires and cattle chute.

Upper Rogue River summer steelhead

I caught a nice summer steelhead today along the Rogue River while on a dove hunt. In my bird vest I had packed along the Longfellow Trail-Pack flyrod. It breaks down in five sections to a mere 15″ long. I also brought along my small Orvis Madison 6/7 reel and just a handful of fly patterns. I forgot my nail clippers so I had to trim leader knots with my “not so sharp” pocket knife. As the daytime temperatures have been hot, slowly getting up to a 92°F high,  I started out swinging a McMillian Steelhead Caddis pattern. I fished the usual holding water without much happening. The Rogue River’s water flow is going down daily in CFS right now. It is in the 1,700’s CFS right now. I moved on down into what has been water much too fast too flyfish up till now. I was rewarded by a good strike at the end of a swing. However I didn’t give slip enough slack to the steelhead and missed the hookup. I rested the water, and then went at it again with the Steelhead Caddis. No going, so I changed flies for one of my heavier Midnight Rainbow Carpetbagger Nymphs. I think I found the same fish but this time up at the head of the fast water just where it comes off a ledge. With the small rod I had to apply a lot of low, gentle, bankwards pressure to keep her from getting her head and taking to the advantage of the mid-stream currents. Slow and gingerly, I slowly wrestled the hatchery hen to the bank. I happlily noted that she was very bright. Of course in the excitement I messed up the photo with my camera and she appears brighter than the sun! LOL

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Two styles of G.R. Hare’s Ear for the Rogue River

The Beadhead G.R. Hare’s Ear is a great pattern for the Rogue River bringing back memories of the old Big Bird pattern. Both patterns are very similar in appearance. I tend to favor the old classic G.R. Hare’s Ear nymph when flyfishing for steelhead on the Rogue River of Oregon.

While following the traditional recipe, the G.R. Hare’s Ear can be tied either full or slim. Which style you tie on your leader depends upon your whim of the moment. The steelies don’t seem to mind all that much. Other than the amount of hare’s ear dubbing the only other change I put into my “styles” of G.R. Hare’s Ears  is the size of the gold rib. Medium gold, Lagartun French tinsel into the full fly, or fine, gold Lagartun into the slim version. Don’t forget the gold beadhead. Tie one on soon!

 

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Beadhead G.R. Hare’s Ear Nymph for steelhead

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 all Rogue River seasons. A standard in most nympher’s  fly boxes and even more so in my mine.

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 a very sparse bite, this can make a big difference. Why not offer the fish a choice all at once…a big fly or a small fly? A colorful carpet-like fly or a drab more natural fly with a tiny bit of flash?

And so much is my confidence in this old standby pattern, that I’ll  often forego the Prince Nymphs, the Pheasant Tail Nymphs, the Copper Johns, and the small egg patterns. Taking the advice of an old American Express add…I don’t leave home without it. The Beadhead G.R. Hare’s Ear Nymph that is! Real steelhead candy!