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The Gearboat Chronicles

Lower Salmon 5-day cast & blast

Anyone who’s fished for steelhead knows the frustration of finding a promising stretch of water, only to think: I don’t have time for this. I’ve got to scoot along to camp and ready the melted chocolate fondu for dessert after preparing the fresh pear reduction with brown sugar and a touch of cinnamon to accompany grilled porkchops for tonight’s dinner.

Classic winter steelhead fishing scenario.

Friends, I’m here to tell you there’s a better way. Introducing the Winding Waters River Expeditions steelhead support camp program. The most helpful fishing innovation since loop connectors.

You concentrate on hooking the fish of a thousand casts with a fewer number of casts while a team of commandos from Winding Waters forges ahead to establish comfort amongst the wilds. A heated wall tent appears when you row around the bend at each campsite. Hell, we even heat the outdoors for you with a cheery fire outside the heated wall tent. There’s chairs to sit on and everything. Deluxe open-air restroom facilities await, and if the fishing isn’t quite perfect right from camp we get an intern to swim out with a snorkel to rearrange rocks and create holding water to match your casting approach. It’s the little touches that make all the difference.

Last week we dispatched crews to both the steelhead mecca of the Grande Ronde River in eastern Oregon and the Lower Salmon in Idaho. Here’s the view from one of our Lower Salmon camps, with yonder hills touched up by Nature’s photoshop.


A fine group of gents were in this posse, organized by Spencer Beebe, founder of Portland-based Ecotrust. Some of these fishers had been on Grande Ronde trips with us in the past, though Bobcat here, pictured below, was a new acquaintance.



Ed and Spencer in Blue Canyon.

These guys taught Paul and I a card game known as “Oh Hell,” which is a little racy compared to the names for card games I played growing up. Although I did learn a somewhat similar game in Tijuana years ago which translates something like, “&*^%$#ing @#${&%-da.” Similar rules, but in the other version the loser has to cut a finger off.

These guys were nice enough to spot Paul and I some points and let us win the occasional hand. Here they are, either plotting game strategy or looking at new fly patterns to try out. Same thing, essentially.


“I call this one The Visiting Mother-In-Law. It triggers a response to lash out.”

About that heated wall tent. The tent we were using belongs to Wallowa County outdoorsman Dave Yost. The stove jack appeared to have been recently installed. That’s the part where the pipe from a wood stove passes through the fabric. In theory, this is made of material that withstands high temperature. In practice, Dave Yost should probably skip ahead and not read this next part because the stove jack material on his tent had more of a melting reaction to heat, rather than a withstanding tendency. Hmm. It was also stinky. Pee-yeww.

But this is the West. Where ingenuity, crumpled beer cans and a roll of tin foil can get you through virtually any difficult situation. So we engineered a heat-diffusing coupler bearing and got back to the business of playing cards.


You can start reading again, Dave.

Here’s the view fishing from the confluence of the Salmon and Snake rivers.



Paul gets flippant.

And the scene from Skeleton Creek on the Lower Salmon, with Spencer’s boat in the foreground.


Great to see that stretch of lovely river with all those colors perking things up.

Get yourself down on the Grande Ronde right now and get after some steelhead. They’re moving up and we’ll also be fishing the Wallowa River before long. Contact Winding Waters for guided trips.

See you on the river.