John Day River Steelhead

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John Day River Steelhead
Fly Tying Party
Christmas Special
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Metal Head Christmas

John Day River Steelhead
By: Roger Shearer

The John Day River, located in the north central part of Oregon, is
 the second-longest free-flowing river in the continental United States.  Beginning in the Blue Mountains and flowing north to the Columbia, the John
Day is managed exclusively for wild anadromous fish, and is protected as a “Wild and Scenic”


My introduction to the John Day River was a sizzling story: that November day Bill Bakke, Director of Native Fish Society,  hooked and released 47 steelhead….


The fall rains pounding the Oregon coast had blown-out the west slope Oregon rivers.  Mike Owens and I packed up our camp and fly fishing gear, we drove east on I-84 to the Blalock Canyon exit:  we continued on Blalock Canyon Road taking a right turn on Rock Creek Road, and then a second right on Lower Rock Creek Lane to the east shore of the John Day River.  Mike slipped on his Simms waders, rigged his Thomas and Thomas 1307 spey rod, and headed down river.  The basalt formations and bluffs are impressive with cliffs, Indian petroglyphs, and palisades high above the river.  The afternoon was gray and cold, and the wind was quiet for the moment.  I reached into my gear bag for my mid-weight capilene, polartec pants, and Simms vest and jacket to prepare for the harsh elements.  Stuffing my pockets with a couple Wheatley fly boxes, I was off, and quickly reached Mike who was already firing off single speys down a small “run”.  As I walked along the river I noticed a steelhead flashing just upstream from Mike.  Before I could step in the river, suddenly, Mike yells:  “I’ve hooked one.”  Mike begins working the steelhead to the shallows and then hands me the camera.  We are both grinning as I tail and photograph Mike’s first John Day River steelhead.  These are summer run fish that have been holding in the Columbia River all summer, waiting for the water temperate to drop so they can enter the John Day River to hold over the winter and spawn in the spring.  We returned back to camp as dusk begins to close in.  I started a campfire to warm us as we discussed tomorrow’s fishing plan over dinner.


Steelheading on the John Day River has limited access: Rock Creek, Cottonwood Canyon on Hwy 206, Clarno on Hwy 218, and Service Creek on Hwy 19 all provide the fly fisher with a starting point. For walk in access you would need to stay below the high water mark..  The John Day River is a navigable and tidal waterway that fly fishers have the right to float, wade, and walk up to the ordinary high watermark of the river.  The courteous angler should respect the farms and ranch lands of the John Day valley, only walking along the river below the high water mark.   Dry lines and classic steelhead flies work great in November, December, and January.   Some of my favorite patterns are Gold Demon, Prism, Comet, Boss, Big Black Bunny, and Conehead String leeches.  Don’t overlook fishing those big, slow moving pools. Travis Johnson's recent John Day river Steelhead is pictured below.


December and January steelheading on the John Day River can be cold, windy, and a physical challenge (make sure you go prepared with the right clothing for the conditions).  Mike and I both agreed that this was our last cold weather camp-out for the season, but not our last trip to the John Day River this winter. We are planning our next John Day steelhead trip with Little Creek Outfitters and staying at the Condon Hotel, which has been recently renovated into a gorgeous 18 room hotel with modern amenities, and provides the best place to eat in town.  Nothing beats a warm room and a hot meal after spending the day out in the weather fly fishing for steelhead.  The Condon Hotel provides a  warm comfortable area for sipping  drinks and relaxing  while discussing the day’s fishing events. 

 Marty Sheppard, guide and owner of  Little Creek Outfitters has leased private fishing access from the surrounding ranches, and he can be reached at 503-819-4035.  The big fish arrive in December according to Marty




Free Fly Tying Party
Dec. 3 -  3:00 pm to 6:00 pm Saturday Afternoon.
Tying Basic Nymphs
(achieving traditional proportions).
This program is for new tiers and experienced tiers alike.
Instructional demonstrations with big-screen TV,
and all tying materials & hooks are free.
A custom made fly tying room with perfect lighting
and special teaching aides are provided.
You get to keep all the flies you tie.  
Please bring your own tools & tying thread if you have them.
If you don't have them, we will provide them.
Try ANY VISE we have in stock FOR FREE !!!
Refreshments will be served.  Bring snacks if you want to.
Everyone is welcome!

Christmas Special !!!
Buy a TFO Series One Fly Rod and Rio Selective Trout Fly Line and Get a TFO Reel for $10.
Get a Lefty Kreh Signature Temple Fork Outfitters Series One Rod.
Match it with a premium quality Rio Selective Trout Fly Line.
Get a Temple Fork Outfitters Mayfly or Midge Cassette Reel for $10.
This high grade aluminum, disc drag reel comes with an extra cassette.
In case you decide to get a second fly line no extra spool is necessary.
The reel normally sells for $59.95.  Save $49.95 on these outfits.
Very limited supply.  Act now!
Click for information on fly line. 

Click to see reel.

Item Description Price To Top
TFO-SP-3 TFO Series One 7' 6" 3-weight Rod , Rio Selective Trout WF3F, Midge Reel, backing, extra cassette $157.95

TFO-SP-4 TFO Series One 8' 6" 4-weight Rod , Rio Selective Trout WF4F, Midge Reel, backing, extra cassette $157.95

TFO-SP-5 TFO Series One 9' 5-weight Rod , Rio Selective Trout WF5F, Midge Reel, backing, extra cassette $157.95

TFO-SP-8 TFO Series One 9' 8-weight Rod , Rio Selective Trout WF8F, Mayfly Reel, backing, extra cassette $167.95


2 Nautilus Fly Reels

Feather Weight 3, 5, 7 Feather Weight PLUS 3, 5, 7 CFF 8, 10, 12

CFF 12T, 12S

It started this way: Kevin Thompson, the Nautilus rep, stopped by the shop one afternoon with a bag full of shiny new reels.  He said, "These are the greatest fly fishing reels in the world, bar none."  Well of course he did. He's a rep. It's his job.

I said, "I already have a house full of reels and I don't need more inventory to keep track of.  The reels we have are selling fine."  He said, "These Nautius Reels have a completely waterproof drag system."  I said, "I have heard that song and dance before."  He said, "What does it take to convince you?"  I said, "Score me a big spey reel and then come back and see me next year."
So he did.  "Well here it is.  A year has past and the Nautilus #12 he gave me has landed many steelhead without the slightest malfunction.  Yup, we are now Nautilus dealers.  We still have too much inventory, but it looks like the Nautilus Reels are here to stay.  Something else is probably going away.  "Oh, yes I realize that the fish I'm holding at left is dark.  But, it was caught 09/05/05.  Notice the rays in the center of the tail are bright.  It hasn't been away from the 

Ocean very long.  This steelhead likely spawned the year before and is back from the Ocean a second time. She recovered well and swam away healthy, hopefully to spawn next spring. 
Steelhead fishing is hard on reels.  Deep wading with a reel often submerged may be harder on a reel than fishing for big ocean fish with is usually done from a boat.  At any rate keeping water off the drag surfaces has to be a plus for smooth operation.

December 10, Saturday, 9:00am-4:00pm
Metal Head Christmas Party &
Annual Winter Steelhead Clinic
A new winter steelhead season is here for celebration!
Meet These Guys (plus more - below):

Mark Bachmann

Brian Silvey

George Cook

Marty Sheppard

Ron Lauzon

Leroy Teeple

Hawkeye Hawkins

Jon Covich

Come meet the Company Reps:

George Cook: Sage Tibor, Rio, Simms
Jon Covich: Winston, Patagonia
Mike Perusse: G. Loomis
Kerry Burkheimer: C.F. Burheimer
Come meet the Guides:
Mark Bachmann
Brian Silvey
Pete Gadd
Marty Sheppard
Hawkeye Hawkins
Ron Lauzon
Leroy Teeple
Fly Tying
Fly Casting
On-the-water Demonstrations
Slide Programs

Come, See, Try !!!
Sage's Amazing New Casting Analyzer Machine.
This machine will diagnose the strong and weak points of your cast.
Try it for free, this weekend only.

Fly Tying Demonstrations By: 
Mark Bachmann, Brian Silvey, Pete Gadd, Josh Linn, Marty Sheppard,
George Cook and Hawkeye Hawkins. 
Each of these experienced guides will tie their favorite winter steelhead fly.

Back Yard Casting Contest:
Win Big Prizes.

Report and slide show about Mark & Patty's 11/25-12/05 trip
to Barra De Navidad, Mexico.

Barbeque will be served: 11:30-1:00.

The Fly Fishing Shop HOME. The Fly Fishing Shop, Welches, OR

1(800) 266-3971

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Fish long & prosper, Mark Bachmann, Patty Barnes


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