There are 46 named fishing holes along a section of the North Umpqua river that is home to a summer steelhead run that puts it in the TU Top 100 trout streams. The fishing here starts at dawn and our guide, Tony Wratney from Summer Run Guide Service had me in the water at 6:30am. And I do mean “IN” the water. My third step into the North Umpqua found one of its infamous slippery rocks and down I went. I started the day soaked from head to toe. Yes,I was wearing waders but when you face plant into the river, unfortunately your waders don’t do you much good as the fast moving water streams inside. However, that wasn’t a deterrent. We waded out into the first named hole of the day, “Station”.
They say that the first hole is the best because it’s early, no one has fished it and the light hasn’t hit the water yet. I can now vouch for this as we had several fish flirting with the dry fly I was skating across the water, hoping to entice a strike. While a mammoth 10+ pound steelhead hit at it, a really nice 7 lb. hen took my fly and the battle was on. She jumped, ran, jumped, ran… well, you get the idea. About 10-15 minutes later, Tony had her in his gentle hold and we got a picture of her in the water. We moved on to the “Pot of Gold” hole and landed another gorgeous steelhead. This steelhead didn’t fight as hard, which prompted Tony to postulate that the first hen hadn’t been caught before because of the fight she put up. All I can say is ANY 7-8 lb. fish is a load to bring in.
As the sun was coming up higher in the sky, we had time for one more hole and hit a spot Tony called his “100%” hole. I will call it the “Nunya” hole because we caught two more steelies of a similar size in this spot. They hit a “Bitch Creek” nymph that was dead drifted below my fly line. I say this because you cannot use any split shot or weighted flies on this river. This means you have to position the end of your fly line directly over the fly to get it to sink down to the level of the fish. To make matters even harder to catch fish, the “take” on the fly is very subtle and you have to set the hook immediately to hook the fish. As Tony says, “it’s technical fishing”.
Our home along the North Umpqua was at the Umpqua Last Resort. It’s not just the “Last Resort” for RV’s but the ONLY spot for RVs that has electricity and water. While there are many campgrounds along the North Umpqua, they are all “primitive” which is code for no services. We always choose “services” when we can find them. The resort was home to a group of turkeys who were seen each morning sampling the wild berries in the bushes around the campground.
The only other “commercial” spot on the river was the Steamboat Inn located just below where Steamboat Creek enters the North Umpqua. This is a beautiful Inn and restaurant nestled on the banks of the river. We’d highly recommend it for those not wanting to camp along the stream. The Inn has great food, an incredibly friendly and helpful staff as well as a good selection of flies (and loaner spey rods) for steelhead fishing. Our 9’ 5wt. rods we use for rainbows, browns and brookies would be no match for North Umpqua steelhead.
There are amazing tall trees dotting the canyon that runs the entire 31 miles of the river as well as spectacular waterfalls. We hiked to Toketee Falls and saw the incredible hydroelectric project constructed here in the 50’s. Its a flow of the river through a pipe made from redwood staves. Barb even tried to stem the flow from a leak in the pipe ?
The North Umpqua Trail follows along, and, mostly above the river the entire length as well. It hooks up with the Pacific Crest Trail near Crater Lake. If you’re a hiker, this is not to be missed. The trees, waterfalls and vegetation you see along this trek are gorgeous.
We hope you enjoy this music video of our highlights along the North Umpqua River in Oregon.
Note: The opening video in this highlights reel was shot from the Mott Bridge you see in the closing video.