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The Gearboat Chronicles

They’re he-e-e-ere . . . 2013 Grande Ronde steelhead

Just got back from a Grande Ronde steelhead expedition and boy are my arms tired. All that casting and setting the hook and playing fish and filling out the harvest tag and slicing lemons and heaving the fish on the grill and forking fresh-caught steelhead into my mandibles. Wears a guy out. But in the best way.

Here’s the after picture.


This is before.


Had a fine time floating and fishing with Justin Jones, local feller works for The Nature Conservancy out here in the WC. And his pals from up north, John and Audrey.


Little guy. The fish, I mean. John is six-foot-a-hundred or thereabouts.

Miss Audrey had just caught her first fish ever a week or so before this trip. That fish was a Coho salmon. Good start. And then, well . . . then she and John showed up for this Grande Ronde outing and they ran up numbers of fish hooked and landed that bordered on the obscene.

I favor the fly fishing approach. John leans toward gear fishing. We tried to debate the merits of each, but kept getting interrupted by the scream of John’s reel and he’d politely say that he’d be right back, and off he’d go to land a steelhead.

But Justin and I did just fine nymphing. Final tally for three days was something like 19 fish landed. 5 on the fly, maybe 2 on a jig and the rest spinners. The spinner approach seemed to be working. John builds his own rods and even makes his own spinners. Never met anyone that made their own spinners before. I forgot to ask if he weaves his own fishing line too.

Here’s a Rombach Special that came off my fly vise the night before this trip. The blueprints for this pattern were to grab whatever was laying out on the fly bench from the last time I tied a fly many months ago. I call it The Tungsten Beadhead Whatever. But it caught a few fish, so hey.


Here’s Justin coaxing one to shore.


Also caught a few smallmouth bass.


And this is interesting: Audrey noticed a red fish finning its way up the shallows. And, sure enough. What appeared to be a 6-inch kokanee was swimming along in the GR. Huh. Here’s a blurry Bigfoot-style photo to prove it. Look for the red smear in the middle.


Updates from the fish trackers indicate a stronger run that last year with Grande Ronde, Wallowa River and Imnaha steelhead for the most part completing the trip up and over Columbia River dams and in the home stretch.

Reports of fish caught up around Troy are coming in and it’s a great time to be on the water.

We’ve got steelhead master Tom Farnam secured in a sensory-deprivation chamber when he’s not on the river so as not to allow any distractions. That’s easy enough because he’s mainly focused on steelhead anyway.

You can set up day trips for guided steelhead fishing, or go the deluxe route with our fully catered trips down the Grande Ronde.