The Steamboater Whistle


              Spring 2015

               Volume 54, Issue 2


North Umpqua River, Oregon


Announcements and Club Events


Please welcome the following new members:

Eric Bergstron, Yreka, California


Dillon Renton, Bend, Oregon 


Steamboaters' Highway Clean Up and Picnic 


Saturday, August 15th


Susan Creek Day Use Area


9:00 AM meet for Clean-up


12:00 PM Picnic

In This Issue

President's Message by Chuck Schnautz


With summer upon us, we are all looking forward to our annual membership meeting on August 15th at the Susan Creek wayside.  We usually have forty to fifty folks at this event and would like to see each of you there.  It's a time to see old friends, to make new ones, to hear what the board and others have done over the past year, and to be part of planning for the next one.


With lower flows and warmer water a distinct possibility, this promises to be a challenging summer for the North Umpqua.  We have seen consistently lower daily levels over the last three months. The Steamboaters are requesting funds from the PacificCorp Hydropower Mitigation Fund to continue to monitor the conditions in the North and its fish bearing tributaries in order to chronicle the effects on the health of the river and the fish that make it their home.  In October some of us will participate in a symposium where scientists from Oregon State University will discuss the expected impacts of climate change on streams and their fisheries.  The Douglas County Global Warming Coalition is sponsoring this free, public event in Roseburg and we encourage our membership to attend.

This past year your board, with the help of members, has continued to make the Steamboaters' voice heard in matters that affect wild fish on the North Umpqua River and beyond. We have participated in and helped fund studies that tell us what is changing in the river and its ecosystem.  We have made our voices heard on issues from regulatory revisions to planned timber sales in the North Umpqua watershed. We participated in budget discussions for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. We co-hosted, with Umpqua Watersheds and the North Umpqua Foundation, the screening of "Damnation", a documentary showing the effects of dams on native fish runs.


In August two slots will be opening on the Steamboaters board, and I encourage you to consider becoming a part of this organization's working directorate. Contact any of the folks listed at the end of this newsletter to discuss your interest.


Upper Mott by Frank Moore


It is not one of the best producers for me now, but Upper Mott used to be great.


At the run out from the Fighting hole and the ledge at the narrow place as

it opens up, is the stand for the Upper Mott. The whole pool can be fished

from that stand, but the lower  holding spot can also be fished from the

start of the Middle Mott slightly above the Middle Mott Rock by mending an

up stream cast, or fishing a dry along the edge of the current by casting

up stream. There are a series of rocks just off the edge of the current not

too far from the upper stand that USED to put out lots of fish. Can't figure

out why it does not produce as it did. With a long cast, let the fly swing

all the way across the bottom, but start by casting well to the north side

and mend several times to hold it in that place before it swings across. I

also used to pick up some fish by fishing the very upper part wading out

from the roadside right below the Fighting Hole. A VERY short cast is (was)

all that is required.


Forgotten Fly: The Old Mare by Joe Howell



The Old Mare is a pattern of Rogue River ancestry that made its way to the North Umpqua in the mid-1960s.  I found it to be a proven pattern for the low, clear waters in August and September.  The Old Mare is similar to another Rogue pattern, the Weatherwox Special.  The Weatherwox differs in that the fly was tied with a red tail only and had no ribbing on the body.  The rest of the fly was the same. 


The origins of the Old Mare and Weatherwox are unknown to me, but the patterns have similar colors as the Bucktail Royal Coachman.

I remember on one occasion I was at Coleman Pool late one August evening.  I was still in high school so it had to be either the summer of 1964 or 1965.  The Old Mare was a new pattern to me back then.  I remember that I hadn't hooked too many Steelhead in those early years.  The hatchery runs were still producing low numbers but just starting to increase.  I had just tied on an Old Mare, checked the knot, and made a couple of short casts.  As I watched the fly make a slow, holding swing in the current, a large shadow appeared under the fly.  Slowly, closer, closer I watched transfixed as the Steelhead unhurriedly, deliberately sucked in the fly.  Seconds passed before something in my brain said "SET THE HOOK"!  So I did ... HARD!  There was a brief flurry as dark green water turned white.  The Steelhead took off, taking a few feet of line and my fly!  Wow... broke him off!


The Old Mare has produced a number of Steelhead over the years for me.  It is a good, durable pattern to have in your box.


Hook:  Size 4 - 6


Tail:  A two-part tail; a few dyed red hackle fibers with natural pearl mallard flank           over the top   


Ribbing:  Fine silver oval tinsel


Butt:  2 or 3 turns of medium dark olive chenille


Body:  Red floss


Hackle: Natural brown saddle


Wing:  White bucktail or white polar bear


Shoulder:  Jungle cock feathers on each side (optional) 


In Memory: Mike Rodgers



Mike was one of the original members of The North Umpqua Rusty Rats. Here he is holding a Rusty Rat fly plate, and the mascot himself.


Susan Rodgers, Mike's wife, writes:


Mike Rodgers and wife Susan have been coming to the North Umpqua for 26 years, spending time camping at either Susan Creek or Bogus Creek campgrounds. Fishing for summer steelhead quickly became Mike's favorite pastime. He loved the beauty and healing power of the river itself. They have met many friends over the years and have made many life time friends. Mike passed away on June 9 in Klamath Falls.


Sending love to our many friends.


Steelhead Hooked by Dale Greenley

Standing atop the big rock that defines *Mil Run, rod tip hanging dejectedly over the water, and shaking like the proverbial quaking aspen, I realized that my trout fishing habits were now permanently changed.  About 3 years earlier, as high school sophomores, Joe Howell and I took a quantum leap in our fishing goals.  We decided to give up trout fishing with spinning rods and worms and start fishing with fly rods and flies for steelhead.  Subsequently, a few years were spent exploring every inch of the river and plying all types of water with a very motley collection of crude, self-tied flies.

In those beginning years, the early '60's, we had no clue about what was good steelhead water.  We spent a lot of time in the deep, dark, mysterious water.  After all, isn't that where the big, mysterious fish would be found?  Needless to say, we didn't catch any steelhead and often our patience would be tried when we saw a good piece of trout water.  Off came the steelhead fly and on went a trout fly.  Some days, a steelhead fly failed to find its way back to the end of our lines. 

With time, and a quite a bit of spying on the "old timers" from behind trees and road side rip-rap, we began to get a better idea of what we needed to do to catch a steelhead.  We didn't have much luck in our feeble attempts to get a mentor.  Neither of our dads fished and the old-timers on the river seemed to give us a wide berth.  At the time, we were too bashful to ask questions of anyone, but hoped someone would volunteer information, or even a peek inside their fly box.  Time and perspective have exonerated the old timers from our early feeling that they were secretive or snobs.  After all, what would you think today if you saw some kid in a swimming suit and a ratty pair of tennis shoes, slipping and sliding all over the river, whipping the water to a froth?  Wouldn't you give him a wide berth, too?


The summer of '65 had been a good one.  Joe and I had spent many days on the river and things were beginning to come together.  Joe had already landed two steelhead and I'd experienced two strikes, but no hook-ups. One afternoon in late August, I strapped my rod to my Honda 90 motorcycle and headed up the river.  Early evening found me atop the rock in Mil Run.  About 15 feet upstream, I spotted a big sea run Cutthroat lazily fining in three or four feet of water.  Cutthroats were our favorite eating fish and I wanted to take it home for dinner, so thoughts of steelhead were put aside. Being late summer with low water, I was using a 6 pound tippet and over a half hour period had drifted several different flies over the fish with no success.  A decision was made to switch to a four pound tippet, but when I pulled it off the spool, I ended up with about 5 inches of tippet in one hand and an empty spool in the other hand.  "No problem", I thought, "I can land a big sea run on my 3 lb. trout tippet".  After adding two feet of 3 pound tippet and a # 8 Black Prince to my leader, I made a cast about six feet above the fish and let it drift back down over him.  As the fly approached the fish, his fining motion altered.  It went from being slow and relaxed to jerky and tense.  "That's interesting" I thought, "You didn't act like that for the first 50 or so casts I put over you".  As the fly drifted toward him on the next cast, he slowly elevated through the water column and my heart beat elevated with him.  The problem was, that the higher he rose, all in slow motion, the bigger he got.  By the time he tipped over the fly and headed back down with it, he had morphed from an 18 inch Cutthroat into a 28 inch steelhead!  Fortunately, I was too stunned to over react, and he set the little hook himself.  When he felt the barb, he exploded into three thrashing, water-clearing leaps, then bolted for the rapids heading into Swamp Creek.  That was too much for the old, dragless Ocean City reel and 3 pound tippet.  It was over in less time that it takes to tell about it.

I stood atop that rock for a quite some time, shaking too hard to even think about moving.  Rod drooping, flyless line trailing off down the rapids, and mouth agape with awe, I realized the steelhead hadn't been hooked for long, but I had been hooked for life.


* Dale reports that the pool is named after Mildred Young, the long ago owner of the old Circle H Lodge once located a short way up Susan Creek, hence the name Mil Run.

June 2006: Unrealistic Expectations by Pat McRae


The following is an excerpt from "The North Umpqua Chronicles" published in 2009 by Patrick McRae. Excerpts will appear in The Whistle from time to time.


Finally the spring run-off has abated and summer is just around the corner. The dark days of winter and soggy unpredictable weather are evaporating like steam off a cedar shake roof in the warm sunshine. Now it is reasonable to look forward to blue-sky days. But, for all its promise, June is a transitional month, and often disappoints us. River levels linger higher than remembered, and sunny mornings fade into blustery overcast afternoons. A bright weather forecast dissolves into a dank overcast day and days of fishing produce nothing because only a few of the summer run fish have arrived this early. 


Nevertheless, this is the beginning of my fishing year. June is a slow month, but that does not mean it is a waste of time, there is always the chance of something interesting happening, like the time a few years sago when I was at the "Famous", fishing from the lower stand on a pleasant spring day. After no more than half dozen casts there, a huge fish, at least 20 pounds, came porpoising through the pool like a whale. With majestic head and tail rises it passed no more than 15 yards out from absolutely gorgeous bright fish with a faint pink stripe along its broad flank.. It set me off on a period of what was perhaps the most frantically insane fishing episode of my life. I was Captain Ahab wildly pursuing Moby Dick!  For days I relentlessly fished everything upstream, madly racing between the pools, clambering up and down the banks, flogging the water, hoping to intercept it somewhere. I never saw it again, but I can see that fish clearly in my mind's eye even yet. I am sure a few of these huge fish enter the river every year, but we seldom have the chance to see them. Nevertheless, I know they are there.


Slow fishing is not June's fault, we expect too much of it, too early, and I have to remind myself to be patient; the summer solstice of June 20 is the real turning point.  After that I can reliably expect sunny summer weather, and can count on the vanguard of the summer steelhead to begin entering the fly water and filling the pools.


Knowing all this I still jump the gun and start early in June, because it has been too long and I simply need to fish. Of course there is always the chance that a few fish may have come early and I might find one up in the Camp Water...old hands say there is always a there fish somewhere, no matter what the time of the year.


Water level is nearly always a factor in June, with flows still near winter levels, perhaps as high as 3,000 cfs at the beginning of the month, and tapering down fairly rapidly as the days fly by.


By this time I have usually had enough of the long, unwieldy 14 foot spey rod with the heavy fast sinking shooting heads returned to pleasure of the 9 foot single-hand rod, floating line, and summer methods. I won't catch many fish, but don't blame June; it is what it is, and the tradeoff is worth it...the long graceful double haul casts gliding out over the river and settling gently on the far side is as a breath of fresh air.


And from time to time I get a nice surprise...a fish recently in from the sea, so bright as to be nearly transparent, and with explosive energy that is astonishing, like one at Upper Baker a few years back. The river was still high, but I strung up my recently purchased 9 foot Winston rod, with a floating line and put on an old Scottish fly pattern that I had never used, with no particular expectation. With some difficulty in the heavy flow, I managed to wade out on to the ledge at the upper end of the run and began casting down and across, simply getting the feel of the new rod and letting the fly swing into the soft water below.  After hooking a couple small trout that managed to free themselves, there was yet another grab...this one hit with authority. The fish screamed down to the lower end of the run and then came back up at me so fast I had to strip in line to keep up with it.  It paused near me for a second or two in about 2 feet of water and I could see it was 28 to 30 inches and so transparent it looked like a bonefish. It ran on upstream perhaps 60 feet, taking line and then, turning around and gathering itself, came streaking back downstream on my other side at unbelievable speed ...I knew the outcome before it happened. When the slack was gone the rod tip jerked sharply down to the water and the 12 lb. leader popped audibly.


As the days pass and the river drops and clears, more fish can be seen in the pools. Back in 2001, on June 5th the river level slipped below 1,000 cfs. for the first timeand we began to see fish in the pools, but weren't having any luck with them.   Nine days later, after a long warm spell, a cold front moved through and it rained off and on all day. The next day it was still cool with a few light showers and the flow had dropped further, to 911 cfs. On the way up river I saw fish in Upper Huckleberry and the Bridge Abutments but neither would take. When I came to the Oakie there was a large bright fish lying along the ledge on the other side. I tied on a 3/0 Captain Nemo, a fly of my own design, and after swinging the fly in the vicinity of the fish several times it finally boiled savagely near the fly as I begin to strip in. It hammered it the very next cast immediately and launched into a long searing run, and commenced jumping. I counted 8 jumps in all, at least 5 of them head high twisting leaps, each time smacking down thunderously on the smooth surface of the glide like a boulder dropped from the sky. It was one of the most spectacular fish I have ever fought. It took me down through Lower Oakie and into the long, deep channel below before I finally landed it, a 33" buck so bright in the sunlight that it hurt my eyes. What a fish!


In June 2002 I switched to a skater after consulting the magic 8-ball that makes many of my decisions for me. Probably not many fish around anyway, so why not fish the fun way, with a skater on the surface. As expected I hooked no fish as the early days of the month wore on, but I was having fun. Then on June 19th,one day before the Summer solstice, with the water flow at 1,495 cfs, as I was waking a Green Butt Skater down the channel at Caretakers, there was a showy rise and a fish was on, right where it should have been, in shallow water holding lie on the far side of the channel that has been good to me. The fish was on but the rest was anti-climatic; it wasn't one of those great June fighters, instead only a bright 30" hatchery buck. I released it anyway. 


Mixed weather is the norm early on...nice days interrupted by blustery, quick moving storms. By mid-month the deciduous trees and streamside vegetation are fully leafed out from the spring rains, obscuring the views of the river and overgrowing the trails down to the pools. High above in the lofty firs, pine, and hemlock, the light green new growth can be seen, and all up and down the river ospreys fish feverously to feed their fledglings, who complain loudly from the big nests high up on the tallest broken tops.


By the middle of the month fish will be pouring over the ladder down at Winchester Dam and, fishermen will begin stopping at Overlook to glass the tail out below, looking for evidence the fish are in.  Water conditions permitting, the front-runners could be in the Camp Water 10 days later, and all will be right with the world.


Luck and Raising a Summer Steelhead to A Fly by Lee Spencer



A male and a female kingfisher take advantage of some sunlight.  Catching steelhead is probably more skill than luck with these birds because they don't require the steelhead to take their flies at the beginning of the encounter.


For what it is worth, I believe I can prove that luck plays a gigantic seven-fingered hand virtually every time a steelhead comes to our fly.  Sure, it is experience that will teach us to cast the requisite fifty feet or so, what the appropriate knots are, where we have previously risen steelhead, and how not to drown, but consider the following points.

With every cast any fly angler makes into a run holding fish that are aware of the angler's fly, there may be at least six things going on with the angler and the line, tippet, and fly that the fish is aware of but that the angler may not be paying attention to and may not be able to pay attention to.  They probably commonly include-but are not limited to-the  (1)sounds the angler makes; (2) seeing the angler; (3) the sight of the angler's shadow; (4) the angler's interference with the currents of the river; (5) the affect the angler's fly may have on other creatures in the flow; and (6) the smell of the angler.  Other things may include (7) the twitch in the fly that a line mend often makes and the auditory and visual effect of (8) ripping a line off the water for a back cast or false cast that has loaded the rod by being allowed to fall to the water.  It is also likely that (9) the side of the bed an angler got up on and his/her (10) confidence level influence fishing success.  And luck.

Please note that perception of many or all of these things may attract or repel a wild summer steelhead or a steelhead may ignore these things.

Further, there may be at least sixteen additional things going on with the stream and the fish which may influence the attitude of the fish to the fly and that are out of the angler's ken or control.  These things will include:  (11) water temperature; (12) river level; (13) stream velocity; (14) sun or shadow on the run; (15) lunar period; (16) previous angler behavior or previous otter, merganser, osprey behavior that has influenced the fish-to name only four creatures that potentially spook steelhead [and I have watched an ovipositing caddis spook a whole pod of steelhead]-(17) the mood of an individual steelhead or of the local steelhead group; (18) whether the fish is an artificial fish; (19) whether the fish has been disturbed by an artificial fish; (20) the behavior of other local steelhead or chinook or cutthroat and so on; (21) wind; (22) what items and the number of them that are on or in the flow at that time; (23) water clarity; (24) the affects of upstream environmental stimuli like fires, spawning salmon, nitrogen spikes during thunder storms, dead salmon, other smells or sounds; (25) whether a fish or a local fish group have just entered a run or have been there a while; (26) the personal history of individual steelhead with anglers or a variety of other environmental stimuli; (27) where in its individual reproductive/metabolic cycle a particular steelhead may be; and (28) the individual psychology of a particular fish.

So . . . catching steelhead is at least as much luck as skill . . . if luck is an appropriate term for serendipity that is encountered amongst an interdependency of so many variables, variables that are beyond our ability to comprehend fully in the first place.  And our comprehension, or awareness, is not and cannot be a steelhead's awareness.

And . . . angler mood or personality may well influence how a steelhead behaves in relation to that angler . . . again, if pool behavior translates to steelhead behaviors in the fly-water stretch of the river.  Over the past fifteen seasons at the pool, not often, but often enough, I have watched the pod of steelhead apparently spook at particular visitors to the pool who appear to be doing nothing out of the ordinary. 

In the fall a few seasons ago, my good friend Bryan D. came down the trail to the viewing area in his waders and every one of the steelhead suddenly and audibly was instantly looking in a different direction.  I had never seen the steelhead carry out this behavior before and I haven't seen this reaction since.  The fish apparently relaxed almost immediately and they settled into their previous upstream orientation.

Bryan and his family had been visiting the pool for at the last fourteen years and I had never seen the steelhead respond to him in any way.  The fish appeared to have startled and Bryan, sharp person that he is, had noticed it too.

Then Bryan told me what had happened just before he and his son drove up to the pool.  They had finished fishing the Surveyor Run and decided to sit on the side of the road and have lunch.  While they ate their sandwiches, a tractor-trailer rig came around the sharp turn on Highway 138 and lost its rear trailer.  This trailer had tipped over onto its side and slid toward Bryan and Wyatt, stopping about half a lane away from them.

Bryan confessed to me that he was still shook up and we both thought that the steelhead had reacted to this emotional state.

I consider it possible therefore that our attitude may influence the steelhead too.

When I consider all of these things, I believe that whether a steelhead makes a pass at or takes our fly is virtually completely up to the steelhead.  All we can do is to get our fly into the sensory range of the fish.  I think the corollary of all this is that anyone who says there is no luck in raising steelhead to a fly is just a fool and might just benefit from a session with an ass-kicking machine . . . if they could find one.



About Us
PO Box 41266
Eugene, Oregon 97404

The mission of the Steamboaters is to preserve, promote, and restore the unique aesthetic values, the natural production of wild fish populations, and the habitat that sustains these fish on the North Umpqua River.
The Steamboaters is a charter member of the Federation of Fly Fishers.

Board of Directors


               Chuck Schnautz, President               

541 496 0328


Jeff Dose, Vice President

541 673 2665


Josh Voynick, Secretary

541 496 0077 


Lee Lashway, Treasurer

541 953 4796


Peter Tronquet

      541 774 9577


Tim Goforth

541 496 0780


Averi Willow

541 498 2248



 Associate Directors


                                                                       Dick Bauer

541 688 4980


Joe Ferguson

541 747 4917


Dale Greenly

541 863 6213


Pat McRae

541 496 4222


Charles Spooner

541 496 0493


Lenny Volland

541 673 2246



PO Box 41266
Eugene, Oregon 97404



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