Nicholas’ Salmon Fisher’s Journal: Nestucca River, late September, 2010

Nicholas’ Salmon Fisher’s Journal:  Nestucca River, late September, 2010

No one fly fishes for Chinook on the Nestucca River. Period.  End of discussion.

So the story went, recently, when my friend Todd (attending a wedding) asked a coastal resident if anyone fly fished in the area.  Silvers – maybe someone fly fished for coho salmon, Todd asked.  Nope.  Chinook?  Not possible.   Steelhead, he wondered, could anyone be fly fishing for steelhead in Nestucca tidewater?

The answer was emphatic.

“Look Todd, I’ve been fishing here for more years than you’ve been alive, and I can tell you that no one – no one – fly fishes for salmon around here.”

Todd, an avid and accomplished fly angler, fly tyer, professional fly fishing guide and all around perceptive fellow, was pretty sure that he had, indeed, seen not just one but several people fly fishing in the Woods bridge area, and witnessed one fish, species unknown, being netted by a fly angler.

“Hey Jay”, our phone conversation began: “do you know if anyone fly fishes on the Nestucca around Woods?”  “Why do you ask”, I replied, keeping my options open for the moment.  Todd told me his end of the story.  I had to let it all sink in for a moment, then I told Todd my end of the story.

The world is a very small place.

By chance, we both took photos of of Ed’s Chinook at the same moment: me in the boat, and Todd, visiting from his home in Medford, from the bridge.

Is the world weird or what?

Take a second look at the lead photograph and see Todd’s maroon Land Rover on the Bridge, with Todd shooting the photo beside his rig.

Simultaneous photos, taken from different perspectives by friends who haven’t seen each other for a full year, were united on the Nestucca River by a Chinook, a fly rod, and a photograph.


7 thoughts on “Nicholas’ Salmon Fisher’s Journal: Nestucca River, late September, 2010

  1. Whoa. Same thing happened to us. Fished the Alsea, was told no one catches chinook on flies there; no one even tries; and my buddy was wasting his time chucking feathers. But, actually, for us there was no fish, no photo from the boat, and no photo from the bridge for us, so I guess it wasn’t exactly the same thing… all….not even close, actually. So the only way your incredibly cool incident occurred was due to the incredibly rare event of actually catching the non-fly-eating chinook on a fly. Improbability raised to the power of faith! Faith wins.

  2. Jay among some folks I know there is talk that those fish in that area may be late springers or even summer run Chinooks. Years ago there was a distinct run of chinook that showed in Sept. The chromers showed later. The chromers often don’t show till Oct/Nov. Any thoughts on that. Yes there have been people flyfishing for chinook down on the North coast Alsea, Siletz Tillamook area for 40 years. There used to be more of them but they come and go as you know. They came from N. California in the 70s.

    1. Curious: this question is a great one and deserves a full post, but dang i ain’t got the time, so here is a snippet of thought to ponder further. In Idaho there are what we call “spring Chinook”. These fish spend a winter in fresh water before migrating to the ocean, reside far offshore in the ocean, are rarely intercepted by near-shore ocean fishers, and have the energy stores and mojo (a scientific term, thank you very much) to make the trek from the ocean Back to Idaho. These fish are clearly different, from a genetic evolution perspective, from lower Columbia River Tule Chinook and even long migrating Upriver Bright Chinook that spawn in the mainstem in the Hanford reach of the Columbia.

      Now let’s look at a short coastal river like the Nestucca. There are Chinook that enter the estuary in virtually every month of the year. The noticable pulses of returning Chinook are often referred to as the spring, summer, and fall run. These names we apply to the runs imply that a clean distinction exists in the genetic character of the fish we see returning at these times of year, a distinction that could actually be far fuzzier than our name-tags imply.

      As far as I know, the vast majority of Nestucca Chinook migrate to the ocean in their first year of life, and have similar ocean distributions and vulnerability to ocean fishers. Yes, Chinok returning to the estuary in May will spawn earlier than Chinook entering from the Ocean in November. I presume that the date of return to the Nestucca estuary has a high level of heritability: spring returning fish produce spring returning offspring.

      Short cut – the several pulses of Chinook returning to short-reach Oregon Rivers may be more appropriately thought of as life history variants rather than cleanly distinct “species.”

      Many of the Chinook I have seen in September have had a bronze hue, with fresh sea lice, suggesting the possibility that they entered the estuary in an “already bronze” condition. Are these late springers, early fall run fish, or a distinct summer run? I am not aware of genetic analysis that addresses this question. You are indeed correct to note that Chinook enter the Nestucca In the August/September period. And yes, the larger pulse of chrome kings should be entering any day now, with the first two weeks of October holding great promise as what is usually the largest “run” of Chinook to enter the estuary. Side note: some “springers” may hang around in the estuary all summer and be fairly dark by now.

      As far as the legacy of fly fishing for Chinook in oregon Coastal Rivers goes, yeah, there were savvy people flinging feathers back in the 1970s, learning cool stuff that I missed because I was so focused on bobber and egg fishing. Wish I had a fly fishing mentor back than.

      Big sigh.



      1. Jay,
        As usual, a very nice read. I start working PC next week for salmon. Those pics are what it is all about. I just love that river. The only thing missing is my boat anchored in between your boat and Jack’s boat. That is a good spot.

        See you on the water!!


      2. Rich, it was so great to see you and your clients in the Rock Hole working the Sea Run cutthroat that day. Looking forward to seeing you on the water. Hope the kings come rolling in and are in a grabby mood next week. JN

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