The Steamboater Whistle


      Winter 2018

               Volume 57, Issue 1


North Umpqua River, Oregon


Announcements and Club Events
The Steamboaters 2018 Member Banquet will be held on Saturday, March 3 from 5 to 10 
PM in the Lang Center at the Southern Oregon Wine Institute.

Guest speaker  John Shewey will be with us, presenting a
constantly evolving, beautifully photographed program of angling adventures on a variety of waters in many different places. Come along for the ride as John revisits some of his favorite travels and most cherished adventures, from famous places to little-known waters; from distant destinations to close-to-home fisheries. Enjoy the fish, the places they live, the beautiful surrounds, and the memorable stories. Notably, this program offers a celebration of fly-fishing in the Northwest, a region richly endowed with a wide array of fascinating fisheries and a region oft visited by anglers from across the continent. No matter where you live-here in the West or anywhere else in the country-this captivating presentation will keep you enthralled. 

Invitations with menu choices and RSVP coming soon by mail. Hope to see you there!

In This Issue


President's Message by Tim Goforth

Hello Steamboaters and wishing you all a happy new year. Our river is low, clear, 42.8 degrees, and 1160 cfs. measured at the Copeland Creek Gauge.
I have to admit to everyone that I have only been out fishing once after Thanksgiving. It was a beautiful late afternoon /evening, reminding me why I enjoy winter fishing due to no pressure, no car noise, and the sun not blazing into my face as I stare downstream trying to follow my fly across the river currents.
I was also reminded how much I don't enjoy casting the heavier sink tips.  I rarely fish weighted flies, so tips it is.  Some wise person once told me the only way to catch fish is to get away from the warm fireplace hearth and off the couch. I need to take that advice.
What has your board been up to? Lots of research to try to decipher what some of the effects proposed new legislation could have upon the North Umpqua Watershed. There are several BLM proposed logging sales in very sensitive areas. The least of the potential problems would be river access issues for fishermen.  
Many people forget that many spawning areas and rearing areas are located up small creeks at the head of the watershed.  Logging on private land doesn't require the wide riparian zones as does logging on federal properties. Warm water from streams on private logging sites has been shown not to cool sufficiently before reaching the main rivers, even after the water has passed through seemingly shaded stream sections. Please be sure to write or even better call  your Senator or Congressional Representative about the sale/leasing of Public Lands. The majority of United States citizens are against this, but were not listened to by our Representatives in D.C.
We have also been active in supporting other groups in their efforts to protect wild fish, watersheds, and research in steelhead genetics in the North Umpqua Watershed. An example is Umpqua Watersheds in their effort to secure  research related to chronic low summer flow hydrological issues in the pacific northwest, in general, and in Douglas and Coos counties, in particular. We have also been continuing our work to support Dr. Mike Miller's genetic study of North Umpqua Watershed Steelhead. The sampling is completed and he will continue sample analysis.
Please mark your calendars for the Steamboaters Banquet, Saturday March 3, 2018 at the Umpqua Community College's Lang Center, 5:00 PM. John Shewey will be our guest speaker and he has guaranteed a show that will appeal to all Steamboaters and family members. There will be more information to follow shortly.
Best regards and easy mends.


Readers' Comments

Let us here from you! Send comments on Whistle articles to:

I want to first thank Karl Konecny for his well-written piece on fishing over spawning winter steelhead on the North Umpqua in the summer 2017 Whistle, and the invitation for members to comment. Karl did an excellent job on covering all the many aspects that make this an important topic for our thought and continued discussion.
As Karl mentioned, the Steamboaters board of directors has put effort into this multi-faceted issue.  When it comes to fly fishing the North Umpqua for steelhead we are again and again asked as anglers to balance fish science, fishing ethics, and the law in the form of fishing regulations.  We ask anglers not to fish on spawning beds in April, but the river is open for angling, so people do, some out of ignorance and some out of greed.  In response to an observed increase of fishing on redds in the fly water, the Steamboaters partnered with the local USFS recreation staff in 2015 to create and post signs alerting anglers to active winter spawning with a request not to disturb. 
Always curious about this subject, I've done some research. I've talked to fish biologists who say fishing to these spawning steelhead is not a factor in the overall health of the run. I get that, but as Karl mentions in his original article, there has been very little scientific study in this area.  There was a scientific telemetry study done on the behavior of wild steelhead after being hooked by an angler.  After being hooked, fought and released, the fish not only left the pool it was in, but was found to be over a mile down river. 
I've spent many hours watching wild steelhead on their spawning beds . . . the beautiful flashes of silver as the hen digs her nest; the bucks around her fighting for position, proving worthiness to spread their genes.  Putting this together I can't help but wonder about the human factor that angling pressure has on these spawning fish.  The biggest strongest buck that has fought hard to keep all competing fish away is targeted by an angler when he is most vulnerable.  Because he is in a possessive state protecting his chance to spawn, he may be more likely to take that swinging fly in his face.  Hooking this fish and forcing him to fight could affect his ability to spawn.  He may leave the pool.  He may even go a mile or more downriver, losing the position he rightly earned, too tired to complete his one and only mission of spreading his superior genes. 
True fish scientists may cringe at my "angler science" but without proof on either side of the issue, I don't understand why we wouldn't want to error on the side of caution for these noble creatures?  In particular, when it comes to the upper section of the fly water where the river narrows and fish are the most visible and accessible.  We all know that the entire North Fork of the Umpqua is spawning ground for these winter fish.  Although I'm not targeting them, it wouldn't be honest to say I'm not interfering with some spawning in the lower parts of the river at some point as I chase big bright winter steelhead up from the ocean.  Yet another reason this issue can get muddy . . . however, to me, true sportsmanship and ethics for the upper river are clear. I don't see anything wrong with taking a stand, and treating the Upper Section of the North Umpqua Fly Water more like a Sanctuary.  This is where our winter fish have traveled the farthest distance from the great Pacific, surviving a gauntlet of seals, bait, dam, gear, flies and photos.  Whether a wild steelhead is staging, on, or near its spawning bed in the Upper River, I believe it is simple; it is time to leave them alone.  Unless the regulations change to close the Upper River during winter spawning to protect these fish, we must continue to rely on each other as a community of river stewards and educate other anglers with good humor, kindness and humility.  And if that doesn't work, we can sick Jeanne Moore on them!     
Averi Wratney


First Steelhead Essay Contest

In the fall, we invited our members to submit an essay on the first steelhead they caught/hooked, with the best winning a copy of "Dan Callaghan's North Umpqua" generously donated to The Steamboaters by Mary Kay Callaghan.

Three of you responded, and we want to thank all of them for the wonderful essays that follow. The winner of the book is Dale Greenly with a look back at his beginning days fishing the river, and the fish that started his true steelhead fever.

First Steelhead Encounter by Dale Greenly

Standing atop the big rock in the North Umpqua that defines Mil Run, rod tip hanging dejectedly over the water, mouth agape, shaking like the proverbial quaking aspen, I realized that my trout fishing habits were forever changed.  About 3 years earlier, as high school sophomores, Joe Howell and I decided to take a quantum leap in our fishing goals.  We went from using spinning rods and worms for trout, to fly rods and flies for steelhead.  Three years were spent exploring every inch of the river and plying all types of water with a very motley collection of flies.  These crude flies were the result of a spin-off of our decision to start fly-fishing, the product of a new hobby, fly tying.  Our exploration of the river was greatly enhanced by Joe's dad.  He was a log truck driver, making 3 round trips a day along the North Umpqua.  He'd drop us off along the river with a rough schedule of his day and we'd head down to the river.  If we wanted to move, we'd go back up to the road and wait for him to pick us up and then drop us off somewhere else.  Since neither Joe nor I were old enough to drive yet, this really accelerated our learning curve of the river.

In those beginning years, the early '60's, we had no clue about what good steelhead water was, and what wasn't.  We spent a lot of time in the big, deep, dark, mysterious water. After all, isn't that where the big, mysterious fish would be found?  Needless to say, we didn't catch any steelhead and often our patience would be tried when we saw a good piece of trout water.  Off went the steelhead fly and on went a trout fly.  Some days, a steelhead fly failed to find its way back to the end of our lines.  With time, and a quite a bit of spying on the "old timers" from behind trees and road side rip-rap, we began to get a better idea of what we needed to do to catch a steelhead.  We didn't have much luck in our feeble attempts to get a mentor.  Neither of our dads fished and the old-timers on the river seemed to give us a wide berth.  At the time, we were too bashful to ask questions of anyone, but hoped someone would volunteer some information, or even a peek inside their fly box.  Time and perspective have exonerated the old timers from our early feeling that they were secretive or snobs.  After all, what would you think today if you saw some kid in a swimming suit and a ratty pair of tennis shoes, slipping and sliding all over the river, wildly thrashing the water to a froth?  Wouldn't you give him a wide berth, too?

Three years had passed, and I now fished the river with my motorcycle when Joe and his '54 Ford were unavailable, but still no waders or a vest to proudly wear.  The summer of '65 had been a good one, Joe and I had spent many days on the river and things were beginning to come together.  Joe had already landed two steelhead and I'd experienced two strikes, but no hook-ups. One afternoon, Joe was tied up with his job as a log pond monkey, so I strapped my rod to the little Honda 90 and headed up the river alone.  Late afternoon found me atop the rock in Mil Run.  Even if I'd have known it should be fished from above the rock, it wouldn't have done me any good, it would have been too long a cast for me and the ancient fiberglass trout rod I fished with. 

About 15 feet upstream, a big sea run cutthroat was lazily fining in 5 or 6 feet of water.  They were our favorite eating fish and I wanted to take it home for dinner, so thoughts of steelhead were put aside.  In those days, we often caught the sea runs while steelhead fishing, so no change of gear or fly was necessary.  Being late summer in low water, I was using a six-lb. tippet and over a half hour period had tried several different flies over the fish with no success.  I finally decided to go to a four-pound tippet, but when I pulled it off the spool, I ended up with about 5 inches of tippet in one hand and an empty spool in the other hand.  "No problem", I thought, "I can land a big sea run on my three-lb. trout tippet".  After adding two feet of the three-lb. tippet and a # 8 Black Prince to my leader, I made a cast about six feet above the fish and let it drift back down over him.  As the fly approached his lie, his fining motion altered, it went from slow and relaxed to jerky and tensed.  "That's interesting" I thought, "You didn't act like that for the first 50 or so casts I put over you".  As the fly drifted toward him on the next cast, he slowly elevated through the water column and my heartbeat elevated with him.  The problem was, that the more he rose, all in slow motion, the bigger he got.  By the time he tipped over the fly and headed back down with it, he had morphed from an 18-inch sea run into a 28-inch steelhead!  Fortunately, I was too stunned to over react, and he set the little hook himself.  When he felt the hook, he exploded into 3 successive, thrashing, water-clearing leaps, then bolted for the rapids heading into Swamp Creek.  That was just too much for the old, dragless Ocean City reel and three-lb. tippet.  It was over in less time that it takes to tell about it.

I stood atop that rock for a long time, shaking too hard to even think about moving.  Rod drooping down, flyless line still trailing off down the rapids, mouth agape with awe, I realized that steelhead wasn't hooked for very long, but I was hooked for life.

Here is the story of my first steelhead by Frank(ie) Moore.

My dad gave me my first fly rod when I was 14 months old. One day, my Dad was fishing for trout on the upper Rogue River not far from Diamond Lake, when he saw me trying to emulate him casting with a stick and a string. He decided that it was time to get me my own fly rod. 

I remember catching my first trout with my dad at Lower Takahashi when I was 2. We were fishing where the water comes in to Lower Takashi from the trailside. My daughter, Svetlana, and granddaughter, Allaire, both caught their first trout at the same place as well. I carried the little trout all the way back up the Mott Trail to show it to Clarence Gordon. He was in his little hamburger shack where the Steamboat Creek road now meets Highway 138. I was sure proud of that little fish. 

Back then, dad would carry me on his shoulders to fish for steelhead. He would take me everywhere like that including the Station Hole, Kitchen Hole, Fighting Hole, and the Mott. My favorite place to fish with him was Takahashi. He would wade out with me from the lower part of the Takahashi island, and I would cast into the pocket just above the break. I have many memories fishing with my dad, but that might be for another time.

Now to tell about my first steelhead: I was 5 years old, and dad took me out to the Kitchen on his shoulders. Think about that, how many of you have trouble wading on those ledges on your own. Can you imagine doing it with a 5 year old on your shoulders? I know I couldn't do it. I cast from his shoulders holding the rod with both hands with the line between my hand and the cork grip. I hooked a steelhead in the upper part of the Lower Kitchen just below the Kitchen Rock. The problem for dad was that I held the reel on the left side of his head so that the reel handle hit his ear with every turn of the spool when the fish made a run, thus giving him a cauliflower ear. Dad carefully waded into the shore opposite where the ledges are exposed in the middle of the river when the water is low. Back then, there was a pile of sticks stuck in the sand on the little beach at the edge of the river. When we got the fish, a nice 9-pound hen, to the shore, it flipped over, caught the leader on one of the sticks and broke off. It quickly flipped back into the river, and as it was swimming away, I told mom "That's ok, I will catch another one." I can still see the fish lying on the beach in the sticks, and then swimming away. That was in 1952. Back then, there was a Kitchen above the Kitchen Hole. The great thing about it being there was that I could stop at the back door, and the cooks would give me a cookie, usually fresh baked. Many years later, my daughter Brianna caught her first steelhead in the exact same place as I caught mine. Thanks for bringing back the great memory! 

 Takahashi Pool

Allaire and FaFa with her first trout

Allaire's First Trout

My first steelhead by Terry Gordon, Member #44
I hooked my first steelhead on the North Umpqua in the Takahashi pool in the summer of 1962 while working at Steamboat Inn as summer help. I was 16. I lost the fish. I didn't land my first steelhead until fish #36, a 5 pounder, in the upper boat pool. It was the only fish I ever kept. All fish were wild back then. My second landed fish was fish #52. After that I finally got the hang of it and landed about one-third of the several hundred fish I hooked between 1962 and 1982.


The Rosebud by Joe Howell


OK! So you have seen the picture of a younger version of myself sitting in the snow. If you look closely, I'm not really kissing that fish!

It was New Year's Day, 1971. Dale Greenley and I, as became the habit for many years after, started the New Year out trying to hook into the first steelhead of the year. We had been fishing from pool to pool, attempting to entice a steelhead on one of several of our favorite fly patterns. Nothing was working in the frigid winter flows. 

Dale and I were at the Lower Charcoal Point pool, with Dale fishing through the middle and lower section. I started very high in some fairly fast water at the top of the run. Rummaging through my over-stuffed fly box, I looked for a new creation, the Rose-Bud, that I had hooked a couple of fish on the previous summer on a #4 hook. I found one tied on a #2 heavy wire Allcock hook. The steelhead took the fly at the bottom of the first run, just as the current began to spread and slow. I can't say it was much of a fight as steelhead go, but it was the first one of the New Year.

Now back to the photo. Dale came running up just as I was landing the fish I had decided to take home for dinner. He wanted to take a picture. So there I am, sitting in the cold snow holding the fish, in my thin, rubber Seal Dri Waders, while he's fiddling with the camera.  "Hurry up, Dale! My butt's getting cold!" ...Then I hear a click. He chuckled a little. "You didn't! You did! You rat!"

It still remains one of my fondest memories.

The Rosebud Pattern:

Thread - black
Hook - #2 or #4 heavy wire
Tail - red hackle fibers
Ribbing - med. Silver oval tinsel
Butt - med. #2 fl. red (hot pink) chenille, 2 or 3 turns
Body - large #3 brown chenille, 3 or 4 turns for the remainder of the body
Hackle - dark brown or furnace saddle hackle
Wing - white bucktail or arctic fox, bleached white


From the Archives: Standpipe


North Umpqua River Etiquette by Lee Spencer

North Umpqua River Etiquette
Fly Angler              Fly Angler
to                             to
      Fly Angler             Wild Steelhead 
Somewhere around five decades ago on the North Umpqua River, a code of angler etiquette was put together by the Steamboaters in an attempt mainly to clarify what constitutes good manners when two or more anglers with an interest in fishing the same water encounter each other at a run.  Is it time that we expand our etiquette to substantively include the way in which we angle for these wild sea-run rainbows?
Some, possibly many Steamboaters, may have little patience with this change and may argue that a code of manners cannot and should not be wrenched about to take into account any species other than Homo sapiens.  For a variety of reasons which include the potentially lethal consequences of fly angling for wild Oncorhynchus mykiss, I believe it is timely and appropriate to allow steelhead the benefits of at least tacit inclusion in our code of ethics. 
I am proposing this because it seems to me that, better than anything else, how we interact with this magnificent fish comes closest to fundamental ground for our organization.  How we treat this creature certainly takes precedence over any of the ways in which we treat each other on the river no matter how impolite that treatment is.  
I am tackling this expansion of human ethical concerns because I don't think it can safely be avoided any longer.  I believe that this ethical expansion is essential and will remain so regardless-truly-of the run size of wild steelhead or whether the ODFW continues to pump out their criminally maladaptive artificial fish into the North Umpqua or not.
Please bear in mind that even 10,000 years ago the numbers of wild summer steelhead returning from the ocean have always and naturally fluctuated from year to year, and sometimes strongly.  I can see no evidence that our society has ever known or ever will know how to "manage" wild fish numbers.  
Given what we don't know, is there some fundamental principle or principles that will help us to include-and simply and understandably to include-wild steelhead in our etiquette?  I believe there is.
As Steamboaters, shouldn't we be trying to the best of our ability to understand how our behavior as anglers influences wild populations of steelhead?  At its simplest, certainly, a hook lodging somewhere in a steelhead's mouth is a negative thing.  Let's not argue about how negative a hook is, it is so.  Accepting the conundrum that we want to be as gentle and kind as we can be to wild steelhead, yet we also want to hook and land them, let's move on.
It is when wild steelhead take our artificial flies that most of our ethics concerning them will come into play.  Perhaps at its simplest, we should try to minimize the amount of time we are hooked to a steelhead.  This is done by understanding our intent, by setting the drag on our reels high, by using strong terminal tippet, and certainly by our understanding of the dynamics of hooking, playing, and releasing these large, active, and non-aggressive fish.  
We all come to the river with intentions concerning what to do when we have hooked a steelhead.  I know I am not standing on an ivory pedestal when I say that, despite the thrill of having a steelhead on the other end of our line, our intention should not be to stay hooked to the fish for as long as possible.  It should be the opposite.
After the intentions that we carry around the North Umpqua with us, the drag settings on our reels and terminal tippet strength are probably the simplest way to limit how long our connection to a steelhead will last.  Set your drag high.  If the reel you use for steelhead does not have a drag then you should be able to palm it. Using a reel that doesn't have a drag or that cannot be palmed will greatly increase the harm of our encounters with these ocean-run rainbows.
The tippet we use should be as strong as possible.  The stronger the tippet, potentially the faster we will be able to get a wild steelhead in to release it.  An assumption behind this statement is that an angler who has a steelhead on the end of her or his line would naturally prefer to land this fish.  Well, the stronger the terminal tippet, the quicker a wild steelhead can be brought to us.  Sure, an eight-pound steelhead can be landed using six or eight-pound tippet-or even two-pound tippet-but in general I believe that light tippet means increased pussy footing around on the part of the angler and a greater chance of lethally fatiguing a fish before we have it to hand.
It can be argued that the lighter the terminal tippet is, the faster we can break it ... however, every time that using lighter tippet has come up in any conversation I have been part of, it is clear that the angler in question has had no intention of pressuring any fish strongly.  I have never heard an angler say that it is their intention to use light tippet so that they can break a steelhead off more quickly and easily.  During the final years before I began to cut the points off of my hooks, I used fourteen to twenty-five-pound terminal tippet*. I was hooking between fifty and seventy-five steelhead a season, and I never saw any reason to conclude that my use of strong tippet had any effect on the number of steelhead I brought to my waking flies.
For Pete's sake, the steelhead we are fishing for have just spent two years in the ocean, not in a spring creek.
How long do we fight a fish?  I don't know.  
I do know that because the average size of wild North Umpqua steelhead is twenty-eight inches and eight pounds, I would not fight a steelhead more than four or five minutes.  I guess if we know that we have hooked one of the giant North Umpqua steelhead we could fight the fish for a bit longer.  There is absolutely no reason an angler who knows what he or she is doing should ever ever ever have a wild steelhead on for ten minutes or longer.  Doing so is either utter stupidity or arrant naivety.
What happens when the release time has come and a steelhead still has all your tippet beyond the guide at the top of your rod?  Simple.  Point our rod at the fish, make a couple of quick wraps of fly line around our hand, swing your arm about a foot or so toward the steelhead, and jerk your line back sharply.  This will easily break the strongest tippet.
The temperature of the water we struggle with a steelhead in is very important.  The comfort zone of wild steelhead is 47° to 57°.  It is my opinion that angling should be curtailed more and more as the water an angler is casting to rises above 57°.  Bear in mind, when the water a steelhead is holding in reaches 70°, there is a metabolic cost to the fish just holding in place and breathing.  In the absence of more concrete data, I think it may be argued that when the water temperature is somewhere at most midway between 57° and 70°-say 64°-an angler should probably consider, if not terminating his or her angling, then taking the point off her or his hook. 
Without question, purposely raising a steelhead out of the water should be avoided.  No photograph will ever justify this.  Perfectly satisfactory photos can be taken with a fish in the water.
It can probably reasonably be argued that it is better to fish in such a way that we are bringing steelhead to our flies and not our flies to steelhead.  My time up here at the pool shows me clearly that the more tired a steelhead is, the deeper in the water column it will hold.  I have watched as a steelhead that is holding more than ten feet deep closes its mouth on a leaf that has drifted near its head and then turns its head to the side and releases that leaf.  
So, yes, fatigued wild steelhead will at times take a fly or a leaf that has moved into proximity to it.  And, no, I do not think that fishing weighted flies deep is a good thing to do.  I believe that doing so raises real ethical concerns.  I am sorry winter steelhead anglers, but I think that we need to consider this.  I do, however, believe that fishing a weighted fly with a quartering downstream cast and on the swing-so long as we are not mending our line upstream, say, more than once-will probably make it unnecessary to consider the ethics of our presentation.
Don't fish near redds or near spawning fish, or where spawning fish are likely to rest during the time they are spawning.  I will not bother to explain this.  If you are casting flies to steelhead during the time they spawn-mid-January through the middle of May-and you fail to understand this point you should probably not be angling at all or ever.
Don't be a game hog.  If you are having a good day and desire to continue to fish, you can always cut the point off the fly you're using.
Finally, consider the complex and confusing issue of making artificial, or hatchery, salmon.  The only thing that anyone knows about the consequences of mixing hatchery fish with wild fish is that hatcheries and hatchery fish always have a negative effect on wild fish productivity in any and every way that any effect has ever been measured.  

Yes, I have used twenty-five-pound tippet.  The reason I did this was to see if it would cause a steelhead to avoid my fly.  It did not seem to do so.


A Winter Beauty: Photo by Averi Wratney

Tony's Wrist with a Beautiful Fish
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.

Board of Directors
               Tim Goforth, President               
541 496 0780
Jeff Dose, Vice President
541 673 2665

Karl Konecy, Secretary
Lee Lashway, Treasurer
541 953 4796
Averi Wratney, Board Member

Josh Voynick, Board Member
541 496 0077 
Dillon Renton, Board Member

Associate Directors

Chuck Schnautz

  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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