I first visited the North Umpqua in 2004. I instantly realized that it was likely the most beautiful Steelhead River in the world, But I did not like fishing it. often the fishing would consist of standing on a rock and methodically lengthening my cast as the cast and step technique was not an option. Wading on the Umpqua is tougher than on any other river I have seen. As John Shewey says in his Umpqua river Journal, you may as well just jump in the river first thing in the morning and get it over with, or something to that effect. I love casting and step fishing like on the Deschutes and figured that the umpqua and I were just not a good match.
Despite this I did catch a very big fish on the Umpqua in '04. It was right at Mott's Bridge and I local had taken me there with the promise that we were about to light up the steelhead, and we truly were. He then tied a wholly-bugger on to my leader and had me cast up stream and stack mend, and led the fly fish deep. I did this and on the second drift through my line came tight and after a long battle, I had landed a Buck the was fat as hell and over 36", and I felt dirty as hell. This was not how I had imagined hooking my first Umpqua Steelhead and In short order I realized this was not the type of guy that I wanted to fish with or near when I saw him spay crayfish scent on his fly. Well he hooked a fish and I got out of there.I got one grab on the swung fly in 04 that was it , and I wrecked my rental as I was leaving the Umpqua. So I didn't have the best flavor for the Umpqua, But over time the river grew in my mind and I knew I must go back.It was only this last week end that I did finally return to the Umpqua. My friend Charlie and I had just fished the Deschutes for 4.5 days and had landed about .5 steelhead, tough to explain quickly, but we were jonesing and sick of the desert. The Umpqua was as I remembered but also better. The River was the same, but I had changed a bit and this time I discovered more about the river and I liked it.
I found that standing on a rock and working your way out to you biggest cast can be really fun, and some runs can be rolled with the standard cast and step as well. Big flies are effective and I like that. and there are lots of wild steelhead in the river, even though catching one is a miracle.
For Charlie and I a Steelhead was not in the cards. I got a really solid grab and I caught a 17" sea run cutthroat on a skater. Charlie got our Deschutes Steelhead so I didn't feel too bad for him. If you are going to get skunked, this is the river to do it on.