Lunker Quest: Gorgeous waters yield few fish

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In his self-published book The Meanderings of A Fisherman, the late financier Dean Witter mused how one very popular Oregon stream looked like a flyfisher's paradise when, in fact, it was quite the opposite.

Now I know the "looks good but isn't" Witter spoke of, as this past Sunday's flyfishing expedition turned out to be one of beautiful but unproductive waters.

The waters in question were the south fork of the McKenzie River and the north fork of the middle fork of the Willamette River. Both feature crystal-clear waters, long pools, short but often difficult access and hope springing eternal as the waters of both are easily viewing from you car window as you drive along the Auderheide Memorial Highway.

First to the south fork of the McKenzie, which I'd kayaked in the past and after one whitewater trip spent the evening flyfishing a run above the French Pete campground. I did well enough then hooking six good rainbow trout in an hour.

This past Sunday we fished four locations from French Pete upstream with a total of zero trout hooked.

Trust me, we tried everything when it came to tempting trout -- dries with bead-head nymph droppers, big weighted nymphs, streamers. Nothing worked and not once did we see a fish scurry off as we walked along the riverbank or waded into a run.

Skunked, we headed off to the north fork of the middle fork of the Willamette where the waters were even better looking and some long runs appeared about as fishy as one could want. After four stops, the total score was three dinky fry and one decent adult of, say, 10 inches.

But the day wasn't entirely lost. At our next to last stop we had the pleasure of watching two turkey vultures circling about thirty feet above us just across the river. Despite their reputation for being wary, the vultures stayed in the air for several minutes, disappeared and then returned to hover overhead once again as we moved on.

Fishing done, we repaired to the Brewer's Union Local 180 pub in downtown Oakridge.

Fans of beer rejoice. This is a real deal pub not a modernized/sanitized/upwardly mobilized version of same. It looks and feels like a typical British pub from room temperature beer to dart board, comfortable seating and no television sets.

So if the fish don't bite and the vultures don't appear, the beer at the end of the day is good, very good.


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