The Steamboaters



North Umpqua River, Oregon


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Volume 51 Issue IISummer 2012
In This Issue
President's Message
Club News
Moose Hair Muddler
Steamboat Falls Ladder
Harry Lemire
Tioga Bridge Construction
South Umpqua Boat Launch
Summer steelhead arrival
Winter Steelhead counts


P.O. BOX 41266

Eugene, OR


Charter Member Club -

Federation of Fly Fishers

Member-Oregon Trout &

Pacific Rivers Council






(541) 673-2246



(541) 496-0077



(541) 496-0328 



(541) 953-4796



(541) 863-6213



(541) 496-4222



(541) 774-9577





(541) 688-4980

Fax (541) 607-3763



(541) 496-0493 



(541) 747-4917







An Excerpt from Roderick Haig-Brown 

"Along the Steelhead Rivers" 

The American Sportsman, spring 1970, p.90


"Variability within a species underlies natural selection-the survival and procreation of the fittest. Interbreeding might prove to be detrimental since hatchery fish have been artificially rather than naturally selected, bred for characteristics other than those which will make them fittest to survive in the wild. Restrictive timing, for instance, would reduce adaptability to natural disaster and perhaps favor early or late runners. There may be loss of resistance to natural diseases or parasites. The chances of artificial selection might even favor physiological changes, which could , in turn, reduce the ability to hold over to favorable spawning times. In any event, some modification of a stock of long-proven viability must be expected. In 1969 some 65% of North Umpqua summer run was made up of hatchery fish. The question is: how much damage will be done to the remaining natural stock by interbreeding, not only this year but in succeeding years as the hatchery stock becomes progressively more specialized? The answers that suggest themselves are not good."




This seems to be the summer for change within the Umpqua Basin: The South Fork is getting a new boat ramp, Tioga Bridge is being installed, Steamboat Falls ladder is being reconstructed, the planning process for the Coastal Native Fish Conservation Plan is in the works and Steamboaters membership has dropped below 200. This is the first time since the organizations involvement in the Winchester Hydro project. What is going on? Is it national politics, the near-depression era unemployment, or the cost of living rising through the roof. I doubt it's the cost of annual membership fee. You can't buy a year's subscription to your favorite fishing magazine or even take yourself out for a cheese burger and beer for any much less than that. In an effort to find out what is up with those who hadn't paid their 2012 dues, I phoned a majority of them. Some just forgot to pay. About an equal number have been actively involved in the past and are getting a little tired after being in the trenches over the years, or aren't visiting the river any longer.

My forty years dealing with organizations, both public and private, religious and secular, tells me if you aren't recruiting, the organization is on a downward slide to nonexistence. So we all need to talk with those we encounter on the river, or meet at the restaurant, or see at your favorite sporting goods store. They might be "gear guys" but they fish Umpqua water too, and without public input those who manage the natural resources for us tend to go their own way. Ever think why we even can fish for a winter or summer steelhead in the first place? They are here, in your favorite run, to reproduce. Maybe some of that mentality will rub off the next time you release them to do their thing. And if enough of us kept enough of them from "doing their thing", their population would head for extinction too.


Lenny Volland

Club News 

The annual River clean-up, picnic and Annual Meeting will be August 18, 2012.


To help with the clean-up, be at the large parking area across from Bogus Creek Campground by 9:30.


The picnic will be held at the Susan Creek Day Use Area and will begin at 12:00. It will again be catered by Dianne's Deli.


 The Annual meeting will begin between 1 - 1:30. 

 Moose Hair Muddler
Lee Spencer 
Moose Hair Muddler

Hook: light wire, #8-#2. If you remove the hook point, smooth it off so it won't catch and tear the skin.


The Perfect Hair: short, still, hollow moose hair 1-1.25 inches long. Note: moose mane is not spinnable hair. The best hair comes from the edge of the short patch below the moose's tail (thanks to Ty H. for helping me figure this out).


Antron: sienna, purple or any other color


Thread: black and strong so you can cinch down on this stiff hair.


Lay on thread foundation and tie in the Antron. Twisting the Antron gives a more segmented appearance, but is probably not necessary. Cover the end of the loop eye with the Antron just a millimeter or so and cinch down on the Antron.


Clip a single patch of hair as close to the skin as you can and stack it against the palm of your hand. Optimally, the hair should not be more than 1/8th inch longer than the bend of the hook. Comb wool from hair and after winding the moose hair on with two loose loops of thread, spin hair on, cinching it tightly to fully flare the moose hairs and put a maximal rotation on them. I don't trim it at all after tying it in nor do I ever use cement.


Leave an 1/8th of an inch behind the eye clear of anything but thread.


Burning the Hairs: do this at your discretion, of course. If you decide to burn the muddler - and I encourage you to try - dunk the fly completely in water to keep the fire from catching and crowning through the wing. My friend, Ed Kikumoto, calls this fly Burnt Toast.


Hair notes: tie this pattern very sparse so that there is plenty of space between the ends of the hairs in the head. Muddlers with tightly packed heads do not skate anywhere near as well as do those with sparse hair heads. Good hair will flare and separate easily and well.



Understand, I am a very lazy angler, one who is always looking for a way to simplify the choices circumstance foists on me . . . especially angling choices.


After landing a forty-inch steelhead from Kitchen during mid-July of 1996, I retired the Comet that had taken the big hen, never to fish it again. I stopped fishing the Camp Water too. The rest of that season was spent trying to come up with a new go-to fly and I ended the season fishing two flies, a bright-blue bucktail streamer and an ugly amorphous spun-deer hair thing. By this time skating flies was gathering my attention with the persistence of a black hole acting on a too-near star system.


During the next summer I began experimentally spinning moose hair, thinking it would deal with the turmoil of standing waves better than deer hair would. By early that season, I settled on a moose-hair muddler fished with a riffle-hitch that was pulled tight directly under the hook; this positioning of the hitch skates a fly equally well from either side of the river. I hitch the moose-hair muddler behind the spun-hair head.


The muddler was a simple pattern, an Antron body to which a single small bunch of moose hair is spun creating at one and the same time both the sparse head and wing of the fly. The next year, 1998, fishing solely this fly, I rose seventy-seven steelhead, landing about half of them. During the same season, I accidentally killed three steelhead and brought another steelhead's eyeball in on my hook. That winter was spent wondering if there was a way to fish without even occasional lethal consequences or causing this creature to suffer. Was fishing without a point on the hook the answer to my perplexity-i.e. pointless?


Before fishing the next season, 1999, I cut the points off all my flies and rounded the resultant jaggedness off with a ceramic hone. This was done in Frank and Jeanne Moore's kitchen when they were off gallivanting, I have a photo of the hook points at the bottom of a cigar box. Please note, I cut the hook point off just behind the barb. This leaves a bend that that can be used as a keeper to connect the fly to a rod guide, thus eliminating the need to reel in all the leader between runs. Yes, this vestigial bend means I very rarely land a steelhead (six over the last thirteen years).


Since settling on this fly, it's the only fly I fish . . . and since 1999 it has been fished pointless. My notes indicate that it has risen 246 steelhead since the 1997 season-110 steelhead while fishing the fly pointless. This has occurred even though I'm fishing about 90% less since moving to Big Bend Pool 13 years ago.  Perhaps the moose hair pattern is a resilient one. When I put down my good dog Sis in November of 2008, as a gesture to her, I continued to fish the last fly I had tied on while she was fishing with me. This was on September 14th, 2008. The following year at Tree, I finally lost Sis's fly on August 27th, 2009. For nearly eleven-and-a-half months, Sis's Fly had fished well and had risen nine steelhead.


I enjoy my pointless angling as much as I ever did fishing with barbless hooks. Discovering this was and is a great relief, much of it from having simplified the whole process of steelhead angling. Recently, I have been burning the very ends of wing hairs to make the fly skate better. Finally, I am sure that if I had used any other fly during this time-any other-I would very probably have raised a similar number of steelhead; however, I might not have had as much fun doing so.


My good friends Rob Arita-the most gifted angler I've met-Tony Kaltenberg, Matt Ramsey, Tod Ostenson, and Mike William's, indefatigable anglers all, helped me figure this pattern out. The inimitable Joe Howell helped me too as he has so often helped others. I have never really named this moose-hair muddler, calling it just that.


Take care, go well, Lee Spencer


Construction Of Steamboat Falls Ladder


The fish ladder at Steamboat Falls is undergoing reconstruction this summer. Caldwell Construction of Roseburg was awarded the contract. The company will begin work on July 9th with plans to dewater the ladder between August 3 and the 6th and reinitiate water flow by September 5th. Their work will be complete by mid-September. The campground and access to the swimming hole will be closed to public use after July 8th. This year ODFW personnel found the ladder plugged on May 29th, did some cleaning so the ladder scoured itself out by June 4th. Lee Spencer observed a few summer steelhead in Big Bend Pool by third week of June.


Harry Lemire


Hello All,
It is with great sadness that I report the passing of Harry Lemire. I was told that he passed away in his sleep last night due to complications from leukemia.

Harry was an amazing person. A world-class tier and angler if ever there was one, yet he never tooted his own horn. To say that he will be deeply missed is an understatement.

There's been a disturbance in the force.


Jon Harrang
Redmond, OR




Thank you for letting me know. A number of years ago Harry came to the North Umpqua two different times for a month each time. He found it a difficult and challenging river, but he did catch fish each time he was here. On one occasion he and I were fishing the Camp water on a low water year in March. We had been fishing sink tips and weighted flies most of the day due to the cold water conditions. I was fishing above him and had just caught and released a small, bright hen of about five pounds. Harry was standing on a submerged reef fishing Lower Boat. I noticed he was wading back to shore, so I walked down to find out what was up. He said "That piece of water just cries out for a muddler, so I am switching to a floating line." He tied on his Mottled Marabou Muddler. The afternoon was bright and sunny when he waded back out to the reef and began casting. He made a number of casts over the submerged ledges. The fly was near the end of a drift as the line bellied and the fly began to speed up a bit. There was a flash and a steelhead chased off downstream and pounced on his muddler... FISH ON! Harry was fast to his first North Umpqua steelhead! After skillfully playing it, he eventually released a bright North Umpqua winter hen of about eight pounds. I actually saw Harry Lemire smile then, and he said "I saw the whole thing! I saw the flash and the fish chase the fly downstream. There was a boil and she was on! I'll take one caught like that to a hundred on a sink tip!" When I think of Harry I will remember that day on that bright, sunny afternoon for we all tend to forget the cold, wet, blustery days.


Joe Howell




A pedestrian bridge over the North Umpqua River will be constructed this summer just downriver from the Susan Creek day use facility. A deck will be added to the old Young's Bay Bridge piers at mile post 28 and renamed the Toga Bridge. The ODOT and Bureau of Land management are partners in the project. Improvements to the adjacent North Umpqua trail and the Susan Creek wayside are also planned. The BLM will build picnic shelters and a .83-mile trail from the day use area to the bridge. Construction will be completed by the end of summer.

Originally the plan for this site was to provide an extensive parking lot to accommodate recreation vehicles and horse trailers with access to the proposed bridge. Submitted comments from local environmental groups, including the Steamboaters, caused the BLM to reconsider. The new bridge will be available to horses but on an intermittent basis since loading and unloading facilities are not conveniently located near the bridge.

South Umpqua River to Have Another Boat Launch


For those who enjoy fishing winter steelhead on the South Fork, a new boat ramp and picnic facility is being developed adjacent to Highway 42 and Looking Glass Creek just west of downtown Winston. Three decades of planning and lots of cooperation between several organizations made the project a reality. The facility will be called Nichols Park after the Nichols family who donated the land. Bev Merchep, daughter of Harold Nichols and niece of Sid Nichols, with her brother, Dick Nichols, took part in the groundbreaking ceremony on June 21, 2012. The Umpqua Fisherman's Association, Cow Creek Umpqua Tribe, ODFW, Oregon Marine Board and city of Winston came together to provide the $395,000 required to develop the site. The nearest boat ramps are Weigle Landing, 11 miles upriver, and Happy Valley Road in Green, four miles downriver. The launch will be available for the winter 2012-2013 season


Predicting the arrival of summer steelhead on the

North Umpqua River


The reentry timing of anadromous rainbows from the immensity of the North Pacific to various headwaters of the North Umpqua Basin varies from year to year. This annual variation is mostly based on temperature and precipitation events as well as on the successful journeys of previous populations.

There are two ways to determine the entry timing of the wild populations of summer steelhead native to the North Umpqua. First are the ODFW's historic monthly and bi-monthly counts at Winchester Dam, available on their website: /fish/fish_counts/winchester/2012


Second is the anecdotal information provided by old-timers like Frank Moore or Joe Howell as to the way the run use to be compared to the way it is now. Then there are the younger fly fishing generation, both men and women, who may share anecdotal information when approached in a decent manner. During May and June, as a rule, very few anglers are out looking for steelhead on the largely empty runs of this river . . . that is, the runs are empty of other anglers, but not necessarily a few fish.  


The entry and timing of wild summer steelhead into Big Bend Pool would be a pretty good index if the fish weren't blocked almost every season from making it to the pool by the ladder at Steamboat Falls. This ladder was put in during the late 1950's and it has been an early-season migration barrier ever since.

This leaves one other source of information that everyone has access to: when the fish are jumping at Steamboat Falls on Steamboat Creek. In those years when the ladder is blocked by debris a person can go to Steamboat Falls regularly and look for jumping steelhead. However, if the water pouring over Steamboat Falls has not climbed to 57 and above, the steelhead holding below the falls do not jump and, thus, are not visible . . . unless you know where to look and the light is right for doing so. The top of the adult summer steelhead's temperature comfort zone is reputed to be at or about 57.


There is a further problem with looking for jumping fish at Steamboat Falls: if humans or dogs are in the water at or within several hundred yards upstream from the falls, the

steelhead do not jump and, again, you can't see them.


Nevertheless, over the last fourteen years, a few steelhead are often jumping during the latter half of May. Significant numbers of steelhead, say forty or fifty steelhead in a five-minute period, are usually jumping by the middle of the month of June if water temperature, ladder accessibility or recreational use at the Falls are not significant deterrents.


It seems to take your average wild summer steelhead about a week to make it from the mouth of the Steamboat Creek to Big Bend Pool. This observation is based on the arrival of steelhead into the pool from the North Umpqua River when their movement is brought about by a strong, creek-raising autumn rain event. It is possible that early season steelhead, those in May through mid-July, may be moving faster than late season fish.


For my own angling experience, middle June is when casting over my favorite runs on the river begins to be accompanied by some sort of vague impression that there may be a steelhead that will become curious about my fly.   



Without question though, fresh-run wild summer steelhead will be entering the Camp Water in good numbers by mid-July. Having said all of the above, there is a final proviso to bear in mind. If the season is a cold one-like 1999, 2010 and 2011-most of the fish that enter the lower end of the Camp Water, will move through these famous runs, and mosey on into and up through Steamboat Creek, leaving these runs empty of steelhead. Under these conditions, steelhead will not begin to stop in these runs until the mouth of Steamboat Creek becomes uncomfortably warm to them. The reason for this is that most of the wild summer steelhead that hold during the season in the Camp Water holes appear to be fish bound for the middle and upper reaches of the Steamboat Creek Basin.  




Lee Spencer



Winter Steelhead at Winchester Dam

(December 1 to April 30)



The Winter Steelhead counts are now available from ODF&W:


ODF&W under Historical Counts.



Hatchery fish were released directly into the North Umpqua from 1960 through 1981. Since 1982 any hatchery fish in the North Umpqua are strays from the South Umpqua planting program. Currently there is about a 5% stray rate from the South Umpqua, about half of what is allowed under current ODFW guidelines. These fish are raised two years at Rock Creek hatchery, moved to the Cole Creek hatchery for a year, than released after the third year at the Canyonville acclamation site.  

 Mission Statement
 To preserve, perpetuate and promote the traditions and art of fly fishing on all waters and especially on the North Umpqua River in Oregon.
To work for the conservation of all of our natural resources with emphasis on the conservation and protection of clean and pure angling waters; and, in particular the North Umpqua Steelhead fishery.
To promote, support and assist in research on trout and anadromous fish, with special emphasis on the steelhead.
To promote good sportsmanship and a code of ethics among all anglers.
To develop, maintain, strengthen and perpetuate a society of fly fishermen in this generation and incoming generations by encouragement, advice and instruction to others and especially to the young.
To support those organizations which have purposes in common with this organization.