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Mark Stangeland - NUFlyGuide
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You can't get there from here

Posted by Mark Friday, July 8, 2011

I spent a brief few hours on the river and it was awesome as always. The water is still unseasonably high and it appears it will be that way for a while. We are probably about a month off our normal snow melt schedule and as frustrating as it is for wading and fishing, it is a good thing. Water level is close to a 1000 cfs above normal for this time of year. That's a lot of water folks.

I want to be swinging a fly right out there beyond that second boil so bad

A likely looking spot

Looking longingly at favorite runs in the ledge rock that are no doubt holding fish and not being able to reach the casting position was a humbling experience. I am comfortable wading on this river and get to many places before anyone else tries, but I had to admit I was beat.No mater how hard I looked at a spot and rationalized how I could make it to the casting station, the river said "Nice try Skippy, not today!" A little later,as I was trying to get to a spot I had no business going, I fought with the river,I challenged the river to a duel. My passion to get to where I knew fish were holding was clouding my better judgement. I ignored the voice in the back of my mind that said " You're pushing it dude" The river again said "I don't think so" and to emphasize the point, a powerful surge almost took my legs out from under me as I foolishly exceeded my wading limits. I moon walked out of danger and sheepishly headed for the bank. Things can happen so quick in this water and I realized that as much as I wanted to be in control, I was not. There were hidden dangers and forces under this seemingly tranquil surface.I was reminded once again that the river demands respect, no matter how well you know it. It was a good gut check, I should have been swimming, I DESERVED to be swimming.

After looking at,and fishing many of my usual early high water spots, I decided to fish a more popular spot. In fact one of the few places you could wade without swimming, thus the popularity. I watched as 5 or 6 people filtered through the run. Finally, the run was mine, in fact a series of runs were all mine as the groups of anglers that seemed to be everywhere were suddenly gone. It was 7 pm July 7 and the river was mine. I love it when that happens! Even though this particular run had been fished multiple times, I was confident that no one had actually made the proper drift to elicit a grab.I started in at the top of this very tricky run that has no less that 4 different speeds of water. Very fast water at your feet, medium current speed just out from that, a slow almost dead middle seam and a very fast outside current. The trick here is to get your fly to swing in the slower middle current where the fish hold without letting the line get yanked out of there by the close fast current. You need to use the fast speed of the outside current to help straighten things out, then hold line up over the close fast current and raise the the rod, lean and grit your teeth to get a long drift before the inside current catches things and rips it out of there. Line manipulation and management are crucial or you never get a drift anywhere slow enough for a fish to eat it. I start busting some string out and am now casting in the 80ft range. The drifts are sweet. The fly swims slowly in the middle section in perfect drifts and everything feels good. The line tightens agonizingly slow as the head shakes of a very lively summer steelhead start to transfer their wave lengths up the line and through the rod. The rod suddenly corks as the fish turns into the fast water and heads out the back end of the run, getting ready to show me some kite string. As the reel sizzles and my mind fizzles, I try to comprehend what has just happened in the last 30 seconds. The first fish of the year is always a surprise and this was no different. I let the reel spin, not comprehending that I could palm it to slow the fish down. Total mind meltdown as my instincts are not fine tuned like later in the year.And then without warning and as fast as it was on, it was off. It just inexplicably came unpinned. Why does this happen? Who knows and who cares! I just hooked a North Umpqua wild summer run that cleaned my clock and left me shaking and I was loving every second of it,about 45 seconds to be exact. I cranked in my line and looked around. Deserted. No one anywhere in one of the most storied sections of water in all of steelheading. I let out a small whoop as I let the excitement of what just happened wash over me. That feeling will never get old. The feeling of being tethered to a wild swimming creature that you just fooled with a hunk of feathers, with nothing more than a flimsy buggy whip and some string is something you can't describe to people.

The water is high, and the fish are few but if you get out there you just might have an experience that will soothe your soul.

Tight lines and smoking reels



  1. Nice report Mark, I could feel the adrenaline rush as I read! Your expert knowledge of the river is amazing. I hope I continue to become more familiar with the river as I fish the NU each year. I'm taking my first trip over there tomorrow afternoon so I'll anticpate the high water and hope for the best.


  2. Mark Says:
  3. Thanks for reading Todd. It was a hoot to be in the groove again.

  4. Ken Campbell Says:
  5. Word!


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