Grande Ronde River

I have fished the Grande Ronde a few times. I have always fished it on the road program, I have not floated it. I have fish this river both upstream by Boggans Oasis and Down by it's confluence with the Snake River. It is a river of different charactors, it changes as it flows away to miles from where the Wallowa joins it near Troy to it's meeting with the mighty Snake.

I definitely have a prefence for fishing the Ronde from Troy to Boggan's Oasis. Part of the reason for this is that it is road accessible, and the river from Boggan's down it primarily accessed by floating it. There are other reasons for my preference, the shear number of runs on the river, so many I can't imagine that they could all be named, and they can all hold fish. There don't really seem to secret spots on the Grande Ronde, you pioneer your own water and you may find fish, sometimes alot of them.

The Vistas and the wildlife that the Grande Ronde canyon present can be amazing. There are also numerous deer and Bighorn Sheep around the Ronde, as well as a great variety of birds. On my last trip I was fishing on of my favorite runs as night was setting in and from up the canyon wall, not far away, an owl began to hoot, it had a deep, low quality to the sound and sent shivers down my spine.

On my first trip to the Boggan's area I fished a 13'3" 7wt which was fine for the size of the river, but I would have preferred a lighter rod for the diminutive size of the fish, 4-6lbs on average. In my recent trips to the Ronde I have fished either an 8110-4 Sage switch rods which fishes much smaller than an 8wt and is alot of fun on smaller rivers, or a 6126-3 Sage, really this rod can do anything.

My best luck on the Grande Ronde has been on muddlers, Specifically a brown/pumpkin colored muddler, but my experience is very limited. On the first run I fished, on my first morning fishing the area around Boggan's Oasis. I landed three steelhead all on a brown muddler, so since then I have had a disproportionate level of confidence in this fly, and I have hooked fish on it.

There are several guides that work the Grande Ronde, such as Scott O'Donnoll, Ed Ward, and Mike McCune run Spey Water Guide Service, I know that John Farrar is also guiding the Ronde and has done so for a long time. I guess guides could be really good especially when fishing is tough and when a person wants to float the river, and I guess it is a great way to improve a persons spey/skagit casting techniques in a fun and fishy environment. I don't know that I would want to be guided on this river though, because to me the Ronde is a great river to pit your own skills against, as there are many classic runs on the river, all of which can hold fish, and there is an opportunity to find a good run on your own, on your own ability of reading the water and then going in and hooking a fish (if it all works out) it's kind of like matching the hatch without a guide for you trout guys.
Not all my fishing partners are as in love with the Grande Ronde as I am. They like the river, but they have other rivers that trrump it in their minds and hearts. For me the Ronde is just what a Summer/Fall river should be. The fish are smaller, but they are grabby and a very long way from the Ocean. They capture my imagination with there long travels and my heart with their lively and aggressive natures.

The Oconto River - Wisconsin

The Oconto river is, I guess, my home river. I live in Green Bay and the Oconto is only a 20-30 minute drive depending on which water I want to fish. There is about 15 miles of river that anadromous fish can travel on the Oconto. The river enters Green Bay at the town of Oconto and the fish can travel up to the dam at Stiles.
The Oconto used to be a fairly good steelhead river, never great in my time, but in recent years steelhead fishing on the Oconto has gone down the crapper. Lake run Brown Trout fishing has, however, steadily improved each season for a while now. It has become nearly common place to go out and get a couple of trout in a days fishing and now we even have guides working out of Tightlines Fly Shop in De Pere, WI.

There is a good amount of water to fish up and down the river's length. The gradient of the river is pretty tame, and there are no rapids, but there is the occasional riffle and pool. The river is a good size for two handed rods and swinging flies will catch you fish.

Clearwater River

The Clearwater River has its head waters in the Bitterroot and Clearwater mountain ranges. The river produces a run of summer steelhead that are the largest in the United States. Unfortunately these large steelhead that were once wild and prolific, now struggle as primarily hatchery reared fish. In addition to the loss of the wild giants, there is a popular catch and kill fishery on the river for the giant hatchery fish. Though despite these issues, the Clearwater is one of my favorite rivers ( my most favorite is only an hour from it) and for good reason.

I have fished the Clearwater several times. I first fished the Clearwater in 2001 in mid-September. I travelled out there with three friends from Milwaukee and we met another friend out there. On that trip we fished a few runs between Lewiston and Cherry lane. Over the following years I have been able to expand the range of water that I fish on the river. In fact on my last trip My friend BR and I fished nearly 30 different runs.

A great thing about the Clearwater is that it has both obvious runs, and runs that are hidden and must be discovered. There is currently no book or map of the river that gives a fly angler a yellow brick road to the steelhead, nor could there be. Experience is the key to success and difference between success (catching fish) and failure (not) is razor thin. Clearwater steelhead are hard to come by even for the true experts of the river system, but it is the difficulty of catching a fish that makes it so valuable. A fish in a week is all right.

Of course any trip to the Clearwater must include several stops at The Red Shed fly shop in Peck, ID less than a mile off the river between Lenore and Orofino. Poppy owns and runs the shop, which is a shop uniquely dedicated to Two handed/Spey fishing. Poppy not only carries the standards such as Sage, GLoomis, Rio, Airflo, etc., but also alot of the less common equipment such as Guideline, Hardy, Molin, Sarcione, and many, many more.

Flies for the Clearwater are often considered small. I have spoken to several river experts and I have heard the same thing over and over again "This is a small fly river". Now I remember that used to be what everyone said about the Deschutes, and everyone was wrong. Well, I have hooked and landed fish on the Clearwater on flies as small a #7 but I also landed my last Clearwater steelhead on a #1/0 General Practitioner tied in black. With this said It is probably best to focus your fishing on smaller flies and use big flies as something different.

Clearwater steelhead can grow very large, as big as 20-30lbs, these big fish are known as "B" run, there is also a smaller group of fish known as "A" run steelhead these fish run 4-10lbs. this mix of fish makes tackle an interesting choice. The river is large and there are many runs that will fish with a 100' plus of line out of the guides, and you can hook fish out that far, you can also get them in closer as well, but a big cast is fun to make so why not.

I like to fish with either my 13'3" rod with a Scandinavian shooting head, or I like to fish a longer rod with a 65' - 95' head line such as the Nextcast 75' or the Scientic Anglers XLT, as for rod size I have fished up to a 9wt but I think the new 7wt rods can make the A runs fun and the B runs manageable. So the three rods I will call out as awesome: the first is a Burkheimer 7133-3 (my favorite rod, for all steelhead angling), Next is the Thomas & Thomas DH1409-5 (easy for travel and very versatile), and last is the G Loomis 15' 7/8wt Greaseline (this rod is awesome, it fits the bill)

The Cleawater river is big and the scenery changes as the it descends toward it's meeting with the Snake, 463 miles from the ocean. The river goes from a high gradient mountain forest to an arid expanse of rolling hills.

St. Jean River - Quebec

In late September of 2008, My friend Rusty and I, after attending a convention in Ottawa, On. made a fourteen hour drive east along the great water of the St. Lawrence River to the tip of the Gaspe Peninsula. We were here to close out the season in the low waters of the York and St. Jean rivers fishing for the Atlantic Salmon that had taken up residence through out the summer.

We spent days 1 and 3 fishing on the York river, which we liked and Days 2 and 4 on the St. Jean which we loved. While it was easy to spot fish in the the waters of the York, The St. Jean had a water that was so clear that it almost seamed like a thicker version of air.

We only ended up fishing one pool on the St. Jean, The Bluff pool, as there were not fish scattered through out the river system, but rather all grouped together in a few certain pools, and bluff was one of them.

Bluff, as the name suggests, has a large bluff that comes down into the river. From the bluff you can look down at the fish that have packed into the run, in this case 80-100 salmon. there was a hen sitting far back in the pool. our guide told us that she weighed around 50lbs and had been sitting in that exact spot since the beginning of July.
Rusty and I fished two days on the St. Jean and it was by far the most enjoyable water for us. On our first day Rusty hooked and lost a decent salmon on a Laxa Blue #6, and I may have had a grab but nothing was for sure. We could see fish both lying in the run and jumping. the weather was warm, which was great since we froze the day before on the York.
Our guide coached us to really slow down and be methodical with these fall salmon. He had us take two casts from each position and then to only take one small step. He also was adement that we not use a cast such as the Snap-t with our spey rods and really wanted us to stick with single speys. His advise proved to work on the St. Jean and I should probably slow down on other waters as well.

On our next day, we went without our guide and got to the water right at daybreak. I went through the run first as I was still without a fish and Rusty had landed a big Cock on the keg pool of the York's 9th Sector. I was just stepping into the spot where rusty had hooked up two days before, when I felt my #8 Blue Charm get grabbed and some line was jerked of the reel, then it was gone. I was bummed but excited that we got an early grab.

I went through again after Rusty and then as Rusty was starting on his second pass I decided to wander down river to see what other runs were nearby. It had been a mistake, because just as I was out of ear shot, rusty hooked the fish of the trip. A fairly bight salmon of about 13-15lbs. His fish from the day before was bigger but this was better.

This was our last day on the Gaspe. the weather was great, our guide came down to hang with us for several hours and we really enjoyed it. Then we blew off the river a little early to get over to the ZEC for a few souvenirs.

Matapedia River - Quebec

This year at the end of May, my friend BR and I headed to southeastern Quebec to fish the Matapedia and Restigouche rivers for some of the biggest salmon that swim often mere hours out of salt water. We split our time between the two rivers, fishing with a guide, Rick, who we hire through the Motel Restigouche, where we stayed while fishing. Though the fish were in the rivers, people saw them from the bridge in the town of Matapedia each day, no one hooked any large salmon while we were fishing, including us.
The Matapedia is an amazing river. It flows to the south from Lac Matapedia in the Chic-choc Mountains at the base of the Gaspe Peninsula. The Matapedia is the largest tributary of the Restigouche River which forms the border of New Brunswick and Quebec. The Matapedia will run a hair cooler than the Restigouche in mid summer due to its course through wooden valley and canyons, as well as the cool natural lakes which provide a source to the river.

The Matapedia is a river with a rich history. There is a very famous (and expensive to fish) section of the Matapedia, known as Glen Emma in Sector 2. This canyon area of the river seems to attract good numbers of fish in June and early July. It was on this section of the Matapedia that the most famous of all atlantic salmon guides, Richard Adams, made his living during the summer. Adams guided exclusively on Glen Emma with a few other select guides. During the early season Richard Adams guided for Kelts and the early bight Salmon through The Motel Restigouche.
BR and I fished only the Restigouche on our first day of fishing (notes on which can be found on the Journal of the Restigouche). We had come to the rivers with the impression that we would mostly be fishing the Matapedia and that we would even be able to get up into the Glen Emma water but neither was the case. We fished a couple runs at the mouth of the Matapedia on our second morning before meeting Rick, Our Guide. The two runs were great to fish and I felt confidence with every cast, but staying consistent with our trip no fish was hooked. He fished the mouth of the river again over lunch after spending 4 hours fishing the same water that failed to produce the day before on the Restigouche. After lunch it was back to the Restigouche to check out the lower river.

The next morning, Our last day to fish, we finally got to spend some real time on the Matapedia. We started at St-Alexi about 5 mile up from the rivers mouth. The runs up there were great and we got some really good grabs, but no salmon. I landed a Trout that weighed a couple pounds and it took a Green Highlander, not full dress, but with married wings and JC eyes, but I skipped on alot of the veilings like the Wood Duck and Teal and the Indian crow, etc. It is still cool to have gotten a fish, be it a trout, on a fly like that.
The day wore on us a bit as we again were coming to the end of a trip with out having hooked a salmon. Both BR and I have been skunked on trips before. Heck, last year I had 4 atlantic salmon rivers skunk me, as well as 4 steelhead rivers, and I was with BR last year as he got a skunk spray upon him in the Nez perce region. Getting skunked gets less upsetting with experience, but it still has a slight burn, especially when you imagine how great hooking a big fish feels.

I am planning to return to the Matapedia to fish. Possibly later this summer as I need to return to Quebec in August. The rivers were so beautiful, It would be sad to never see them again. Both the Matapedia and the Restigouche are huge rivers and they celebrate long casts. I fished a 15' Loomis with a Nextcast WinterAuthortity, a big cast combo I was fishing with 100' out of the guides cosistantly, the rivers are really that big. It is made for spey. Anyway, I like to always go back and beat the skunk that sprayed me.

The Restigouche River - Quebec & New Brunswick

I fished the Retsigouche and it's main tributary the Matapedia in the last days of May this year. I had headed out with BR and we were looking for the first bright Atlantics to enter the river. These fish are usually the biggest fish of the run, often clearing 30lbs and rarely smaller that 20lbs. Of courses sizes like that rarely come in decent numbers and this was no exception. On the best days fish are few and far between and it is rare for an angler to average better than a fish every couple days. We were no exception our selves and struggled to find any Salmon we got some nice Sea trout (Brook Trout).

BR and I hired a guide through the Motel Restigouche, named Ricky Gray. Rick's father had guided the Restigouche and the Matapedia and in due course Rick and his brother both followed the path of occupational inheritance and began guiding as well. Rick had spent a summer guiding for Loomis on the Ponoi River in Russia. It sounded as though the process of becoming a guide on the Restigouche and or the Matapedia was a long and tiring process.
Despite all of Ricks years of experience, I did find the a familiar problem arise. The problem being that rick wanted to fish BR and I out of the boat, a Gaspe Canoe, one at a time, slowly down the run. The first run we pulled up to was perfect for us to fish from shore, yet he dropped anchor about 50ft from shore. It took a fair bit of conversation to get him to let one of us out to fish from shore but we were able to get that done in the end.

We spent our first day and a half fishing some water a few miles up from the town of Matapedia which is where the Restigouche is joined by the water of the Matapedia. The water we fished was a giant run, very similar to the Mixer on the Skagit. A small river entered the Restigouche on the south side of the river, just below was a big riffle which created the run's head. The run it's self could be fished on either side the north side was the inside of the the rivers curve and had a soft current that went on for several hundred yards over a rock bar. The south shore was the outside of the immense bend and also went one form several hundred yards, but this water was deep and while the current nearer to shore was softer the main current was really pushing near close. The water look so perfect, and we had some great grabs, but no fish, with the exception of two trout that billy caught.

Our first day was marred by heavy rains nearly all day, luckily Rick was able to get a decent fire going on the immense rock bar on the rivers north side, that and a great flock of swallows eating the largest mayfly hatch I had ever seen made that after noon a blast. There were lots of memorable moments, many including birds. A small brood of abou 4-5 baby mergansers mistaking my body waste deep in river as their missed mother and swimming to with in a couple feet before realising there sad predicament. A pilliated woodpecker and then another. twenty ruby-throated hummingbirds all gather together at the Motel Restigouche competing for feeder time, or as I said before a thousand or more swallows so close on all side hovering dipping and skimming for a feast of BWOs.
On the afternoon of our second day we head down river to fish the Restigouche below Matapedia. A lot of the water on the Restigouche, Maybe even most of the water belongs to a group of the US's and Canada's Richest people, all of them belonging to the Restigouche Salmon Club which was started in the 1880's. Because of the Salmon Clubs vast holdings, it can be a pain to find good fishing water, and a lot of time is spent running the boat across private water just to find water that can be fished. To get to fishable water below town took a bout a mile and a half run down stream to the InterProvincial Bridge.

We fished the water immediately below the bridge while one of fished from shore. I had a few soft grabs fishing from the boat but no fish. We then headed down river to a big bar that we fished out our evening on, me from shore, BR from the boat. Rick showed us a down river spot where powerlines cross the river and there was a great run there where fresh from the sea Atlantics were known to stop and aclimate to fresh water. We barely beat a big storm in as we headed to Matapedia. A black wall of cloud and showers came rollong down the Matapedia valley as we turned up it, and as the boat was being landed the sky opened and lightening came with it, we cracked opened a few beers and hunkered under the bridge until the worst of it passed.

That night as on the night before BR and I grabbed our dinner at the small store in the Village of Matapedia. We ate at the Hotel the first night but the prices were alittle high for us to make a habit out of it and the hours of operation were not condusive to fishing the best times of the day.

We started our last day on the Restigouche fishing one of the lowest runs on the river, right where some major power lines cross the river between Campbellton and Matapedia. The towers are red and white and this is good info to have as this part of the river can be fished with out a river pass up until the 1st of June. The run was great and there was plenty of good water for a few hours of fishing, but our time was limited as BR and I had to get back to the Hotel to meet Rick for a day of fishing on the Matapedia.