Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fall Trip: Grande Ronde

Hatchery fish removal via the purple and blue

For many years my Dad and I took a trip in the fall somewhere fly fishing.  It started on the Methow trout fishing the last weekend it was open.  Then we started going to the St. Joe.  Once we got the drift boat it was Montana.  Life began to move a little faster once I moved out to Montana, and although we still fish together a couple of times a year, our fall trip to a new spot had fallen away.
Great backdrop to stare at while your fly swings.
After a long summer that included more guide trips than I have ever ran, we decided this would be a good fall to reincarnate our trip.  Because of the travels I have made over the past decade as a fly fishing guide, a completely new destination was too far to travel too, so we decided on the Grande Ronde.  A new destination for my Dad and one that I have only fished a handful of times it offered everything we were looking for.  This location allowed us the opportunity to do a float that neither of us had done, from Boggan's to Schumacher.  The primary goal for this trip was to get Dad into spey casting, and hopefully land his first steelhead on the swing.
Chone unloading
We both arrived in Lewiston Sunday night, met up with good friend Chone, and woke up early monday to launch at Boggans.  The weather for our trip had been lining up to be great, and the forecasters where accurate.  High's in the mid 50's and lows in the low 40's made for very comfortable fishing conditions.  Thanks for advice from our good buddy Mills, our plan for the trip was to float the canyon twice, and then fish the lower end of the Ronde as well as the Snake.  The first day we swung through many great runs, with nothing to show for it.  About half way through the float Chone got the itch to throw the bobber rod, and about 5 casts in landed the first fish of the trip.  This increased our faith in the swing, and we pounded the water the rest of the afternoon with only one good grab to show for it.  A late dinner at Boggan's Oasis and we were out for the night and ready for the next day.
Madi relaxing from a long day of swimming.
The second day we agreed that Dad should probably catch at least a few fish this trip, and so Shawn threw him in the bow of the boat with the bobber rod, and I sat in the back and provided "constructive criticism".  Dad cracked one off in the first drift after the fish took off on it's second run, and morale was high for what would be our most successful day of the trip.  The second run we swung I came tight to a typical 6lbs ronde fish that ate on a tip, skipped around, and came unbuttoned at my feet, a perfect release.  Dad followed this up with a healthy hatchery fish that ate on the bobber as we cruised out of the run, and we continued on.   After putting Dad on a couple of fish, it was Shawn's turn for the front and I jumped on the oars.  A run or too later and Chone was on the board with a hatchery fish that was scraped up and lucky to make it as far from Astoria as it did.  After this fish we called it good on the bobber rod for the rest of the trip and set about to swing some more fish.
Dad forgetting to smile for the camera
After our successful float through the canyon we headed for the lower end.  As we drove up the big river we ran into old buddy and next level steelhead bum Andy Simon.  If you don't know Andy, just picture a friendlier less introverted version of Gus Orviston.  Andy, one of the fishiest people I have ever met, joined us for a run or two, and pointed me in the right direction of the best fish I caught of the trip.  A bright hatchery fish that grabbed the fly aggressively, sprinted out into the big riffle, and was tailed well downstream, it was one of the cooler fish that I have caught lately.  We made our way up to the lower end, and Chone struck steel right away.  I was upstream watching him fish, and it was exactly how you picture the swung fly getting eaten; The line came tight, Chone set the hook, and a bright fish skyrocketed out of the water, skipping all across the tailout of the pool.
Just how it's supposed to happen
Our final day the weather changed, as did our luck.  We swung, and swung to no avail, fished some more with Andy, sat around in the rain and cruised back to Lewiston in Chone's truck that now was filled with the musky smell of a 4 day fishing trip and rain soaked waders.  Our goal of a swung fish for Dad was not accomplished, but the improvement he had in his cast from day 1 to day 4 was impressive.  It will not be long before he properly breaks in his new VXP.  The trip was a success on many different levels though, and it was great to restart the tradition that we created years ago on the banks of the Methow.
Aww yeah!  Thanks Andy!


  1. Awesome report and photos. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks Guys, it was a great trip and a hell of a lot of fun

  3. Awesome Report and photos, heading south in the morning!

  4. Thanks D, bummed I won't be down there with you guys but you will have a great time. Hope you guys smash them.

  5. So cool. My son loved the photos

  6. Thanks Wes, glad your son liked the pics!


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