Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: WA rivers that start with S
Let me begin with two comments:
(1) this is the most beautiful steelhead river in the NW (my apologies to others who hold a different viewpoint);
(2) my apologies to all who will trash me as they think the N Umpqua is the absolutely best steelhead river around (and my admiration, as everyone should be so lucky as to have a river they feel that way about).
That said, here goes.
Historic: 10. Duh...
Access: 10+. This may be the most accessible steelhead river to the wading angler in the NW. Between the road on one side, with it's dozens of pull outs, and the N Umpqua Trail on the other, and a number of bridges thrown in, it's a delightful change from the deadly mix of private property and limited fly water on many rivers.
Wading: Hard to give a number to as it will vary based upon experience and skill, but as everyone has said before me, it's not easy wading. I found wading required that I constantly pay attention to each step...and at the same time, I've been in slimier places with more awkward boulders; nonetheless, there are plenty of significant drops and the ledgerock is slick, angled, sloping, folded--hell, it's tricky. I got to wade in clear water so it was all very managable. Wading the same water with 3' viz. as a first timer I probably would have drowned. I wore studded boots and brought a staff--but never used the staff. Many holes had a rock, or a few, that served as casting stations, after solving the puzzle of getting to them. It was a fun challenge to cover as much water as possible, as well as possible, while so constrained.
Comraderie: 10. With water limited to flyfishers and etiquette (mostly) adhered to it was a most enyoyable experience.
Variety: 10+. The N Umpqua requires that you think through each hole and how to fish it. You don't just wade in at the top, cast, and step down swinging a fly through the hole. Each hole is a delightful puzzle requiring flexibility and a variety of approaches.
Return On Investment: 5. This was my only disappointment--and I put it here simply as a piece of information to inform the expectations of others who are going to visit for the first time as I did. I read some articles and Shewey's book ahead of time. They were filled with history, admonitions about difficult wading, maps of Camp Water etc. I've never fished another river where the runs were so short. I could usually cover a hole well in 20-30 minutes (even a few up to 50 minutes). Mostly this was due to contraints in casting stations. I had local knowledge to guide me after I arrived so I knew it wasn't my newness (i.e. I was missing some hidden casting station that would have extended my fishing in a hole). No doubt a local would get more from each run (my ego isn't so big that I think I can figure it all out the first time on a river, or even close) but probably not way more. I'm more accustomed to 1-1 1/2 hrs to swing a fly through a hole and the result was spending more time getting to holes and driving than fishing--but as I said, the good news was there were many holes to move to.
All said, this was a fabulous river to visit and I'm glad after all of these years I finally did. And for those of you who are locals--you are very lucky: thanks for sharing.
"You can trust me with the women...I've been speyed."