Sunday, September 6, 2015

A John Day recap.....

Our intrepid adventurer and outing leader has provided us with a bit of a recap of the adventure to the John Day last month....unfortunately, he was the only TVTU member with desires for an expedition and adventure. That means there is no proof of anything he writes...and with only one blurry photo as evidence of catching anything, we'll never know for sure!

Forty Casts and Forty Fish
By Andy Andrews

I arrived to Cottonwood Canyon State park on Friday about 2 pm, set up camp, strung a rod and started to explore the river. I expected to see a river similar to the Crooked but was surprised to see a stream far more clear than I had thought. The year being what is,  water depth was wadable in most of the river near the park. There were expanses of river that were wide (a hundred yards or more) and there were areas that were easy to cast completely across with a little effort. It was not hard to tell that the river was down far from it usually high point. I ventured downstream from the campground.........
I did not see any surface action so I tied on a lime green woolly bugger (#6) and started to fish a decent sized hole. Second or third cast and fish on! A bass of 8 inches or so came to shore. I also used about a number 6 yellow foam ant pattern that had never seen water before...on the surface...and had some good times with that fly. But there was  slight problem with this success - the small fish kept beating out my larger targets and regardless of what I used all the bass caught seemed to run between 6 and 8 inches. Most of Friday was exploring; I gave in about 6 pm and returned to camp to fix dinner. Friday night was a little different from the usual campfire outing. I ended up laying on the picnic bench and watched the stars come out. Other for the occasional coyote, it was clear and quite with lots of stars showing overhead.
Be on the lookout......
Saturday and a physical attack:

In the morning I awoke to a wind blowing from the southwest. It was a very brisk wind and had the tranquil river of Saturday now turned into rough river. I pounded the same water with the same gear as I had on Saturday and never touched a fish. After several hours of trying a number of other flies and techniques, I returned to camp and lunch. The wind had now kicked up to a steady 30 mph (approx.) with gusts much higher.

As I waited for the wind to die down, I dozed while lying on the table bench. I was awakened when someone hit me hard on the head. I responded with two left jabs and a solid right hook. Whoever I hit moved off and when I gained my senses I realized that I had tied my tent fly to my Coleman water jug as an anchor. A big gust of wind lifted the rain fly and water jug off the table and it hit me in the head. As I was hit in the head, no damage was done. I heard later that wind gusts of just over 60 mph were recorded.

I finally decided to put my Patagonia fishing experience to use and just go fishing, wind or no wind. I walked for 40 minutes reading the signs warning me that 'Rattlesnakes Live Here'. I'm one of the biggest snake magnets around. I could find a snake in the Arctic, but on this day I never saw, or heard, a snake. I found an area where the river ran tight against the steep, far bank and was just 25 - 30 feet across. After my fifth cast and fifth fish, I believed I really had this all figured out. By the tenth cast and tenth fish, I began to ask "Where are the big fish"? Everything I had caught was 8 with none being larger than 10 inches. I than started to be very selective with my casts and tried to target areas where I thought larger bass might be found. But by cast 20 and fish 20, I was frustrated and starting to get bored. By cast 30, I was trying to LDR (Long Distance Release) the fish so I didn't have to mess with them. If I did knock one off, a second fish would climb on my fly before I could make another cast, making it 2 fish on one cast. By cast forty, I had not seen fish larger than 10 inches. 

One of many we are led to believe!
I returned to camp, only to hear of really, really big fish jumping just down river from camp, the hole I had fished the day before. Some said the fish were 5 pounds, some said 15 pounds. Some said big shoulders, some said steelhead for sure. I never saw a bug hatch but I was told the fish were coming completely out of the water for damsels, or some sort of big fly - though these were the same people who were telling me about catching 14 inch bass.


Overall, I would say if you've never been to the John Day, or Cottonwood Canyon, make the trip. I think if I did it again, I would go in October when there's a chance of steelhead being in the river. Fall just might be a good time of year to visit the area. If nothing else, you can always play with the bass and set your own personal catch and release record! See if you can beat my 40/40 mark….

Getting there:

Drive to Biggs Junction on highway 84 and turn onto 97 towards Bend. After traveling 9 miles, turn onto highway 206 towards Wasco. At Wasco, continue on 206 for 15 miles reaching the Cottonwood Canyon State Park on the John Day River.
This area is set in the bottom of a canyon with zero cell phone reception

The campground:

The campground has green grass that is still growing and in the process of taking the small patches of dirt that are here and there The 21 back- in sites (three pull through included) are well graveled, with patches of green grass that is still growing and in the process of filling in the small patches of dirt that are here and there. Almost all spots have a seven foot high by ten foot long wind break fence, picnic tables and steel fire ring. Potable water is available. Bathroom facilities are the usual pit toilets. Volunteer workers live near the campground and make sure the entire area is keep is safe, clean and in good repair.

What's next?
September 16-21 - Fall River at the Fall River Campground Back to familiar territory and cold water fishes - please join us! Contact Andy for more information.