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The Gearboat Chronicles

Wallowa River Steelhead Summon a Rainstorm Diversion

It rained so hard on the Wallowa last Sunday the fish were trying to stay dry. I was feeling good about our steelhead expedition as we floated past a traffic jam of fishermen on the bank and some asked for us to take them with us. Sorry, lads, not enough hot cocoa to go around.

The weather predicter said it would begin precipitating after 4 o’clock. At 4:24 and 28 seconds that soothsayer was correct. Stray drops becoming pitter-patter, then a downpour. Then a pouring down. Finally, a deluge.

But not before Fargo landed a beauty of a steelhead with some bold fish-playing skills. He’d hooked up with the steelhead while drifting a nymph out from the boat. This was twenty yards above a riffle with one sizeable boulder at the top. I was rowing at the time and couldn’t see how to help the situation, other than get the boat over as soon as possible.

“You’ll be all right as long as the fish doesn’t wrap around that . . .”

The fish wrapped around that boulder and I gave my condolences over my shoulder, saying, “Too bad, Fargo, I don’t see how you’re going to land that . . . Fargo? Hello?”

He’d jumped off the boat in thigh-high water, rod tip up high and wading back against the current. I kept waiting for his line to go slack after the steelhead sawed his leader off against that rock, but I’ll be darned if he didn’t wade back up to that rock, turn the corner and bring the fish in. I would have kissed that fish goodbye, but Fargo ended up kissing it for good luck.

We boogied to the camp at Sheep Creek to ride out the rainstorm, which put us on the Grande Ronde River and had us scooting by some of our fishing guide Tom’s favorite water. Hated to do it, but my main concern by then was putting up our rain fly and getting my hands around a coffee cup with steam coming off the top.

The Grande Ronde was running murky and we did manage to catch a few fish on our way to Troy, but we got more and more nostalgic for the clearer water back up on the Wallowa.

Naturally, the Grande Ronde was showing signs of clearing as we wound up our trip. Ah well, that’s spring fishing, I reckon.

….And speaking of fishing, follow this here link to see the profile of our fishing czar Tom Farnum in the La Grande Observer. Make sure to read the paragraph that reveals Morgan’s conclusions about water after a guiding career of over 20 years. I have to say, I’ve seen water apparently work with him in some situations and can’t dispute that he and it seem to have an understanding between themselves.