Columbia River double

       The Columbia River is truly one of the great rivers of the world. Running through two countries, three states and draining a huge portion of the western United States, it refuses to be fully tamed. The fisheries of this river have been nearly decimated and only recently have they shown significant life. This year more than a million Chinook, or "king" salmon returned to their home waters. And this is only one of the salmonids that return to spawn, die and continue a cycle of life that is nearly as old as the land itself.       

 As a boy growing up in Heppner, a small town in Eastern Oregon, my brother and I would spend our summers fishing for trout in Willow Creek, the small stream that ran through the tiny farming and ranching town. On a typical hot summer day, we were fishing near the confluence of Willow and Rea Creek. We could nearly have jumped across either creek but the confluence was deeper and wider than any other area on the stream and one of our favorite holes. Using a single action fishing reel and long bamboo rod straight out of a 1920s fishing portrait, my brother was drifiting a worm through the hole when it exploded and discovered he had a steelhead on the end of the line. This excitement was short lived but the memory has lasted decades.

A few years later my the family moved to La Grande and I would again have memories of seeing big salmonids plying small streams way up in the Blue Mountains. I didn't fully understand the breadth of their journey until one day I was looking at the map and followed the Columbia inland to the mouth of the Snake, up the Snake to the mouth of the Grande Ronde, up the Grande Ronde and finally to the small streams I fished as a kid. All that way to die.

This August while dealing with the mechanical and insurance issues surrounding the Escape, I returned to a favorite creek inlet of the Columbia. It was a go-to fly fishing spot for summer steelhead and salmon but in recent years the fishing was slow, the anglers combative and the whole experience was anything but fun. I called my friend Steve a couple days before and we both decided to give it try with the fly rods. The day proved great as I hooked and landed a small Chinook, and landed one of two steelhead I hooked. I was able to get some decent footage on my Drift camera, which is included on this post and on my Youtube Channel. Although hooking and catching the fish was exciting, it brought home again the power of these fish and I felt blessed to touch these great creatures.

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