The Steamboater Whistle


             Summer 2016

               Volume 55, Issue 3


North Umpqua River, Oregon


Announcements and Club Events

Please welcome the following new members:

Stephen Devine, San Mateo, CA

Brian Jenning's. Bend, OR

Steamboaters' Annual Picnic and Highway  Clean-Up

Steamboaters' annual picnic and highway clean-up is coming up on August 20.

We will meet at the Bogus Creek raft launch at 9:00 AM to start the clean-up. 

The picnic will be at 12:00 noon at the Susan Creek Day Use area, followed by the annual meeting.

Annual North Umpqua Fly fishing and Tying Festival


In This Issue

President's Message by Tim Goforth

Hello fellow Steamboaters. I hope you have had the opportunity to come and enjoy the many aspects of the North Umpqua this summer. Here is to tight lines for the fisher folk, and great days hiking and swimming in our gorgeous river for everyone.
One thing I have known and really have come to understand is the importance of the Steamboaters working with other organizations to protect and enhance the North Umpqua River Basin. We have very experienced and knowledgeable people on our board, but our 190 members are a small voice and we do not have deep pockets to meet some of the challenges on our own. We need to team with other local groups and organizations to ensure healthy fish runs on the North Umpqua and other Oregon rivers. Legislation and legal actions and precedence on other rivers can have an effect on the North Umpqua.
I would like to update you on two issues that your board has been working on this year.
Douglas County placed the Swiftwater Park property up for bid. This property extends along both banks from the Swiftwater Bridge through Cable Crossing Park. The Steamboaters donated $8000.00 to the Western Rivers Conservancy to help with their purchase of this property. You can read about the details of this purchase in the article included in this Whistle.
Many of you, myself included, are concerned that Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is not taking 100% fish count data at Winchester Dam, which is included within the Coastal Management Plan as one of the key monitoring stations for determining the health of anadromous fish on the west coast.
I have seen what the Roseburg ODFW is up against; they have inadequate equipment and software, and inadequate staffing numbers to do the job.  I am working with the office to investigate modern technology in line with that used at Soda Springs Dam and a variety of other counting stations throughout the northwest.
The Oregon State Department of Fish and Wildlife Commissioners need to hear from our membership that this is a priority. Please take a moment and write a letter expressing your concern and support for their efforts to provide accurate counts of our precious anadromous fish.
ODFW Commission Members
Michael Finley
1521 Nottingham Circle
Medford, OR 97504 Chair of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission
Holly Akenson
72531 Farmers Ln
Enterprise, OR 97828
Eastern Oregon
Bruce Buckmaster
PO Box 238
Astoria, OR 97103
Jason Atkinson
PO Box 1931
Jacksonville, OR 97530
Gregory J. Wolley
City of Portland
1120 SW Fifth Avenue, Room 750
Portland, OR 97201
Bob Webber
PO Box 257
Port Orford, OR  97465
Laura Anderson
P.O. Box 1957
Newport, Oregon 97365
I hope to see you all at the Steamboaters' annual picnic and road cleanup on August 20 th.  Road cleanup starts at 9:00 AM at the Bogus Creek Raft Launch Pullout. The picnic, which begins at 12:00 noon, is at Susan Creek Day Use Area.
Hope to see you all there!
Tim Goforth, President


Swiftwater Park Purchase Update by Danny Palmaree

Few rivers capture the imagination of fly anglers like Oregon's North Umpqua. With its runs of wild steelhead, spectacular setting, and 33 miles of fly-fishing-only water, the river looms large in the minds of anglers from around the globe. Increasingly, the river resides on the bucket lists of non-anglers, too. Traced by the North Umpqua National Recreational Trail for 79 miles, the river has become a haven for hikers, mountain bikers, backpackers and boaters as well. 

While the North Umpqua makes an exceptional playground, what really sets it apart is its clean, cold water that sustains an extraordinary fishery. The North Umpqua is one of only two coastal streams in Oregon that rise in the Cascade Range rather than the Coast Range. Fed by Cascade snowmelt, the North Umpqua flows cold and clear year-round, sustaining healthy runs of spring Chinook, coho salmon and steelhead.
Thanks to efforts by anglers and other conservationists, the river is protected along much of its length by multiple designations, including the North Umpqua Wild and Scenic River. Despite its protections, parts of the North Umpqua remain at risk.
In summer 2015, Western Rivers Conservancy committed to purchase 211 acres along a mile of the North Umpqua, at the head of the North Umpqua Trail and the gateway to the fly-fishing-only section. The need arose when Douglas County concluded it had to dispose of Swiftwater County Park, which protects crucial river access, a key trailhead and a largely unbroken stand of old-growth forest along the river. Rather than see the parcel logged or developed, WRC acted to acquire and conserve the property.
The project will keep a key reach of the National Recreation Trail in public ownership and conserve large stands of ancient forest, which provide vital shade for the river and harbor diverse wildlife, including northern spotted owl, bald eagle, Roosevelt elk, black bear and river otter. The project will also protect crucial spawning habitat for anadromous fish, including nearly a mile of Critical Habitat for threatened Oregon coast coho. Our goal is to convey the lands to the BL M for inclusion and protection within the Wild and Scenic River corridor.
Current Status
Western Rivers Conservancy is currently working with the BLM to convey the Swiftwater property to the agency for protection within the Wild and Scenic River corridor. We anticipate completion of the project in Fall 2016. Once the property is in BLM hands, it will be managed as a component of the Wild & Scenic River: for the sake of low-impact public access and for the benefit of the river's incredible fish, wildlife and old growth forest habitat.
"Once you see and spend some time on the North Umpqua, it's in your heart forever. I feel incredibly lucky to have fished this river when it was relatively unknown. WRC's work at Swiftwater will help ensure future generations are as blessed as I've been since I first discovered the secrets and remarkable beauty of this great river over 70 years ago."
- Frank Moore North Umpqua River Guardian & Legendary Fly Fisherman

Steelhead Genetics by Jeff Dose

The North Umpqua River contains fairly large populations of both winter-run and summer-run steelhead.  While it is possible to distinguish the two based on run-timing of adults over Winchester Dam (with some overlap), there is little known about where in the watershed they spawn and where juveniles rear for up to 3 years (usually 2 years) before out-migrating to the ocean.  Up until now, juveniles were simply identified as generic "steelhead".  This has been a conundrum for fish biologists in effectively managing these fish.
That may change in the near future with an exciting new project.  Dr. Mike Miller, a professor of Genetics at the University of California, Davis, has identified the genes that determine run-timing.  He has proposed a project, using that technique, to determine the relative distribution of both of these races of steelhead.  The project would collect samples of juveniles from about 30 sites, primarily in tributaries, throughout the basin.  He would then run the genetic analysis.  Based on the site locations, he should be able to determine if there are "strong-holds" for one or the other, or alternatively, they have an over-lapping distribution.
In addition to run-timing, he can genetically determine parentage.  He can determine if these fish are wild X wild, wild X hatchery hybrids, or of hatchery X hatchery origin.  This information would improve understanding of population dynamics and lead to better informed management decisions.
Many agencies and interest groups have demonstrated support for the project.  These include the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Umpqua National Forest, Roseburg Bureau of Land Management, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and Pacificorp.  Additionally, Steamboaters and The North Umpqua Foundation, and perhaps other groups, are also supportive.  Sampling is expected to occur in the fall of 2017.  Permitting requirements will prevent sampling this year.

Perfect Moose Hair by Lee Spencer

One thing leads to another thing.  I keep learning this about the ramifying rings of actions and reactions.  Nothing stands alone.  Look at what happened when I released a big wild fish back into the waters of the North Umpqua River twenty years ago now.  Did this steelhead, intentionally or unintentionally, gift me with the knowledge that perfect moose hair does exist as well as the warning this gift entails?

I brought this steelhead in to a quick release-without a photo-a steelhead longer than my leg.  It was mid-July, a bit past noon, in bright sun, with the up-canyon breezes coming at a good clip.  I cast my Comet slightly upstream . . . and something had happened, and-for some unremembered reason-I looked down at my feet and saw a great shadowy form laying on a narrow ledge there about six feet down directly underneath me.  I lifted my rod, putting a setting jerk into the motion and at one and the same time, the dim shape at my feet disappeared while the water fifteen-feet away erupted a steelhead that spent more time in the air than in the water as it cartwheeled end-to-end and across the small pool, the small pool that it never left.


Less than ten minutes later, I held it briefly to see which guide on my rod it was closest to and how close, saw the fish was quite fat and a female, and she was gone.  My last blinking glimpse of her was through a profuse showering of water that had me jerking my face out of the way and downstream.

The immediate consequences of this large fish for me were that I retired the Comet pattern, never to fish it again, and I never again fished the Camp Water runs with a point on my hook.  Neither the pattern nor the water would again give me such a fish and, truly, these Camp Water fish get hammered.

It took me a while to realize I was finally rid of a finny monkey on my back.  I could now do what I wanted to do without any real concern for hooking steelhead.
The pivotal effect of this steelhead coming to my fly was that I needed to come up with a new go-to pattern.  I should say here that there was nothing I hated more than opening my fly box and having to choose among the patterns.  The only thing I find nearly as troublesome is to fish through a run more than once.  During that single pass I am moving quickly.  If I raise a fish, I will usually cast to it no more than three or four times before moving on. 

Besides the beauty of this, our river; palaver with friends and acquaintances; and, now and then, pie and coffee at the Inn; trying to interest a steelhead in my fly for me amounts to finding that rare steelhead that rolled off the curious side of the bed that morning.  Thus it seems to me that the faster I move, the more water I will be able to cover, and the greater the number of potentially inquisitive steelhead will see my fly.

Blue Ducktail Streamer

Initially, in my search for a new go-to fly, my mind moved to the concept of bucktail streamers and I was particularly interested in learning how to tie a streamer with a small elegant head that did not crowd the eye of the hook.  With the help of the river, I ended up deciding that, for me, a bright blue streamer was just right.

At the same time I was experimenting with the various kinds of hollow hair, spinning them as part of a wide variety of ephemeral patterns that came and went like afternoon winds and some times a lot more quickly.[1]

One of these patterns brought a smile to my good friend Joe Howell's face.  I had just hooked and landed my first steelhead on a waking fly and the pattern looked more like a centipede that had been regurgitated by a duck than any thing else.  I tossed it on the glass counter between us and Joe said, "My Lee, THAT is an ugly fly." 

Then he realized he might have hurt my feelings and apologized.  With a smile of my own, I said,  "It is an ugly fly, Joe.  You're right."

I was camped at William's Creek with my good friends Rob Arita, Tony Kaltenberg, Matt Ramsey, Tod Ostenson, Mike Williams, Bod Carroll, and others who came and went (the young Clay Kinsel) and all these friends knew that I was to some degree struggling to give birth to another primary steelhead pattern.
By a year and a month after the large fish, with Tod's feed back, I had settled on moose hair as my optimal spinning medium.  I knew I wanted to wake flies in much faster water than most of the anglers on this river do and the stiffness of the moose hair seemed like it would make this more possible.

So concerned with their behavior in standing waves was I that I was applying copious amounts of cement to the heads of my flies.  My good dog, Sis, and I were camped by ourselves in the small upcreek camp at William's Creek after crossing the foot bridge, while the rest of my buddies were in the larger camp just downstream along the William's Creek terrace.

One sunny bright and hot afternoon Tony came to visit, immediately bursting out with:  "Whooee, Lee, are you getting high back here?"

I hadn't realized how bad the fumes were, and, after talking this over with Tony, I decided to tie up some Muddlers without glue-stiffened heads to test whether the head cement was necessary.  To easily distinguish these unglued heads, I tied them with colorful Antron bodies.  This was the only reason for the Antron and I gave these flies to my friends to try out with instructions to riffle hitch them.
Almost immediately they were coming back with stories of fish investigating this pattern, lots of fish.  While, truly, a Muddler is a Muddler; I am as certain as I can be that-at that time and on this spiral arm of the Milky any Way-North Umpqua steelhead had never seen anything quite like this simple moose hair and Antron pattern.  With the help of my friends-and after I had verified that this Antron Muddler waked superlatively in fast water-I had my new go-to fly.  I called it a Moose Antron Muddler (MAM for short) and it was absurdly easy to tie.  All that is necessary is strong black thread to deal with spinning this tough hair; Antron for the body; and a sparse, Ticonderoga pencil's size pinch of moose hair, which I spin on, and whip finish.  It was a fly that could be tied in around two minutes.  Since that realization that this MAM was the fly I wanted, I have not fished any other fly in the last twenty years.

For what it's worth, I don't pop this waking fly, but prefer a relatively smooth swing.

I am a bit of a perfectionist or perhaps I should say more truthfully that I like to frustrate myself.  For instance, for my comet, I was always on the lookout for perfect peacock neck-feather hackle; for the blue bucktail streamer, I was always looking for perfect bucktail hairs a perfect hue of royal blue.  Shortly, I was constantly seeking perfect moose hair. 

This is the reason I am writing this article for The Whistle:  to describe the extreme and I mean extremely extreme difficulty I had determining where this perfect hair was located on the moose as well as some of the interesting discoveries I made about moose hair and waking flies along the way . . . and of course the warning.

Now, you don't really search for something very effectively until you have learned you need it.  In an example of genuine serendipity, I already had a piece of not perfect but still very good moose hair and gave what remained of this sample to Mike Williams who was making a run to Eugene to visit The Caddis Fly.  With the help of Doc (may he be blessed), who worked there, Mike found a two-by-four-inch piece of perfect moose hair.

The hairs of this patch of moose that Doc and Mike dug up allowed me to ascertain that they were about an inch in length with white bases and dark brown tips.  This was progress, initial progress, but progress nonetheless.
This patch of moose hair amazed my friends and me.  Rob, Tony, and I were using up the last of it about a month later when I realized the hair required some kind of a ceremonial recognition.  The three of us filed down to William's Creek and standing in the center of the flow, I clipped the remaining pinch of hair free and sprinkled it into the flow of that oh-so-cold creek.  I didn't realize it then, but it would be almost a decade and a half before I encountered another patch of perfect moose.

In the interim, I learned that body hair, if short enough, would work, but not particularly well.  I also found out that the closer to the skin you remove the hair, the better the hair will spin and, thus, wake.  This is because, the closer to the skin, the broader the tapering hollow center of the hair is and the easier the hair spreads around the hook when spinning it.

Then, within three or four years of starting this search, I stumbled onto the fact that burning the very tips of the wing hairs on a MAM would allow the fly to wake twice as well as it otherwise would.  When I'd tried to shorten mediocre moose hairs by trimming their distal ends with scissors, the resulting fly was unsatisfactory, reminding me more of a whiskbroom than anything else.  I preferred the look of wing hairs that are slightly uneven in length.  

I can't tell you, reader, why this disappointment with the whisk-broom-like look made me consider burning the hair tips but it did, though I resisted this apparent foolishness for while.  Also, if you want to see an ugly fly, burn your first Muddler and look at the result.  However, once a burnt MAM brings your third or fourth steelhead to you, its ugliness begins to take on a certain charm.  I learned that it is important to soak the fly before burning the ends of the hairs; otherwise the fire might catch and burn the fly's wing down to nothing.

Another thing I learned was that the literature of riffle hitching was not so much wrong as it was unnecessarily complex.  This literature often suggests that the angler seize off the tippet to one or the other side of the fly, depending on the side of a river you're on.  Preferring fool-proofable simplicity to all else when angling-despite a tendency to search for grails-I experimentally seized the tippet off at the bottom of the fly and behind the spun head.  I was interested to see that this allowed the fly to wake better and equally well from either bank of the river.
I also learned that if you left the front 5.0 millimeters of the hook behind the eye bare, but for the whip finish, it will also wake much better.  This is because the half hitches come off the fly closer to its center, canting the fly in the water especially well for waking.

I also discovered that mending your fly line upstream took tension off the fly and a waking fly won't wake unless it is under tension.  It seems a good thing have somewhat of a belly in your line if you are waking flies.

I have not used head cement on any of my flies since I began using Antron.  Rather, I whip finish the fly head tightly using strong black thread. When my sweet dog Sis died eleven years after I learned to tie MAMs, to honor her, I continued to fish the last fly I tied on when she and I were fishing together.  I fished this particular MAM for seven months, raising nine steelhead to it, and it never came apart.  I lost it in the branches behind me at the top of the Tree Run. 
Why put head cement on a fly when you don't need too?

As I gradually learned all these particulars, I also managed to look for perfect moose hair in fly shops all over the western U. S. and in the personal collections of hollow hair all over the same region.  Judging by its absence, I realized I was probably the only fly tier who knew about it.  Either that or this info was a preternaturally well kept secret-humans don't keep secrets this well . . .  steelhead might, but people can't or, anyway, don't.

It took a visit to the pool by my good friend Ty Holloway to ultimately solve this mystery of the perfect moose hair that had befuddled me for more than a decade.  With no real expectations, I described the perfect moose hair to Ty at his request.  Well, by God, you could have knocked me over with a single moose hair, when he returned with not just perfect moose hair, but a lot of it.  The person Ty knew who gave him this hair (may he also be blessed) later told me he would prefer it if he wasn't identified as the source.  There is not very much of it on your average moose.  Furthermore, there is no market for it, despite my saying to Ty and this other person that it was worth its weight in gold to me.



Now for the place on a moose where this hair is to be found and the warning. Confronted with a moose or moose hide, the quintessential hair will be found in an inch-and-a-half wide ring that circles the white patch below the moose's tail and above its privates.  Check the hair length and make sure the base of the hair is white to ensure you have gotten the perfect hair.
The Warning:  be sure the moose is dead and not just dozing . . . after all, waking a moose is an altogether different proposition from waking a moose-hair muddler.

[1] Caribou, elk, deer, and moose all have hollow spinnable hair.  Note:  deer are the closest evolutionarily to moose and this shows in the hair.

Return of the Spey Fly by Dave McNeese

Kenny Gleason's Silver Hilton by Kenny Gleason

Advantageous of the Barbless Fly by J.C. Decius

Those of you who were privileged to know Jack Decius know what a great fisherman and gentleman he was. To see him picking up 80 feet of fly line and laying it expertly back down with no false cast in the Camp Water was a beautiful sight to behold. Here are his thoughts on barbless flies and the release of wild fish.

Fishing the Station Photo by Avery Wratney

It's a 13 foot 8 weight spey rod; what do you use?

About Us
PO Box 41266
Eugene, Oregon 97404

The mission of the Steamboaters is to preserve, promote, and restore the unique aesthetic values, the natural production of wild fish populations, and the habitat that sustains these fish on the North Umpqua River.
The Steamboaters is a charter member of the Federation of Fly Fishers.

Board of Directors


               Tim Goforth, President               

541 496 0780


Jeff Dose, Vice President

541 673 2665

Averi Wratney, Secretary

 541 496 2248


Lee Lashway, Treasurer

541 953 4796

Josh Voynick, Board Member

541 496 0077 


Dillon Renton, Board Member


Chuck Schnautz, Board Member


Associate Directors


Peter Tronquet

      541 261-5041


                                                                       Dick Bauer

541 688 4980


Joe Ferguson

541 747 4917


Dale Greenly

541 863 6213


Pat McRae

541 496 4222


Charles Spooner

541 496 0493


Lenny Volland

541 673 2246



PO Box 41266
Eugene, Oregon 97404



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