To be honest our June Fish A Long for Shad started off a little rocky, but for the Clackamas Fly Fishers this was a first time exploratory shad mission so some difficulties were not totally unexpected. The Hamilton Island parking area was packed with cars and there was literally no place to fish, with bank anglers plunking for salmon every 10 feet as far as the eye could see, which was pretty discouraging. But, we persevered and found a good place to fly fish but it was a little over a mile hike downstream from the parking area (see updated map above). Fortunately we were able to walk on a flat, well kept trail.
Once we settled in to our spot we started catching shad right away. As shad migrate in waves, the action comes in waves. By lunchtime, everyone had caught fish and some of us did pretty well. Chris Brehm, who found “the spot” had particularly good luck and every time I looked upstream he had a fish on.
While rain was forecast, that didn’t happen and we were blessed with nearly perfect weather. The Columbia River was in good shape for fishing, with green tinted water that was 61 degrees, which made for comfortable wading. The water height was 18 feet at the Bonneville guage.
The current seam was just offshore so long casts were not needed, but you did need a sinking line or at minimum a sink tip line. The best presentation was to cast across the current, let the line sink for several seconds and then strip in the fly at it started to swing across the current. Most strikes came when the fly was about 45 degrees downstream swinging from the faster to slower water. When a wave of shad came thru it was not uncommon to hook fish on consecutive casts. A Red Bill Schaadt Shad Fly was the hot ticket. Fortunately we had plenty of them, as the bottom could be a little snaggy.
Special thanks to Chris Brehm for venturing downstream, finding a good place for us to fly fish and then coming back to get us. Also, thanks to Paul Brewer & his crew who went in search of easier to access water down by Beacon Rock. While they didn’t find good fishing, this was an exploratory day and they gave us good information. We’ll definitely do this trip again next year and will have a better idea what to expect.
Thanks to everyone that came out and made this fish a long a success!
May is a great fly fishing month and so we have lots of good reports to share. As always, pictures first with the report below.
From Brad Jonasson: In early May we Euro Nymphed the Deschutes Beautiful weather, good euronymphing, including a 16″ Redside. Stoneflies gradually finding their way ashore.
From Rhona Dallison: We had a great day at Lost Lake in the Coastal Range (near the Nehalem River). I had fished there with Sue and another friend in April and it was fairly slow, though our friend Kendrick did hook into and land one of the excess hatchery steelhead they stock in the lake. Today, May 2nd, Sue, Laura, Cheryl, Rhona, Kelly and Lane met up at Lost Lake around 9 and had a very productive day—all of us getting into double digit fish counts on 10-16” rainbows. Olive wooly buggers were hot on intermediate sinking and floating lines. Lane helped all the ladies gear up and hit the lake in assortment of pontoon boats, float tubes, inflatable kayaks and rafts. Fishing was productive all over the lake— it was a gorgeous spring day and there were a few other parties fishing from boats or the shore but plenty of room for everyone.
From Laura McGuill: A few of us made it spur of the moment to Lost Lake on coastal range this past weekend. The trout were very active and fun! I lost count after about 16 netted. One was a very nice size!
From Chris Foster: Three of us fished Crane Prairie using a combination of Sinking lines, Intermediate and Full Sink, slow trolling, casting nymphs (floating lines) and bobbers fishing with Chironomids. There was a massive hatch of Chironomids all day, they were small and only about 1/4 inch long. The lake was at full pool plus, the water was 50 degrees, a little on the cool side plus the fish were spread out and likely gorged with the massive Chironomid hatch and the full moon the night before. Had about 25 takes, landed 12 fish from 14″ to 19″. Used a firm wire hook releaser so we didn’t handle the fish. On the down side, a there have been a lot of thefts of fly rods, reels etc. at the Crane Prairie parking lots. Fortunately we were OK but one guy had several rods and reels stolen when his rig was broken into.
From Mike Siiki: Fishing report from the Molalla: My son and I hit it for the first time ever Saturday afternoon above the Glen Avon bridge, and had so much fun, we spent all day Sunday there again. We did well when we found “dropoffs” with fast water into deeper pools. Lots of nice size whitefish along couple trout in each pool. Most of the trout were right below the whitewater riffles, I’m assuming waiting for their snacks. Landed a few 12-14″ cutties, and some wild rainbows too. Did well euro nymphing, most on a size 14 frenchie nymph on the point, and a smaller perdigon above. Also note the Forest Service road is closed/gated not far upstream from Cedar Grove Campground due to the fire damage. I didn’t see any burned forestland, but was a little sad that’s as far as we could go.
From Dave Kilhefner: I’ve had this wooden landing net for just over 20 years. I recently replaced the original fabric mesh net with a fish-friendly rubber net. It was easy to do and the kit was reasonably priced at $14. If anyone wants to try this and has questions feel free to give me a call/email. Also, spey fished the Clackamas a couple times for summer steelhead, ended up hooking and losing a spring chinook. Dang!
From Chris Brehm: Hit the Deschutes a few times for Salmon Fly hatch. Picture of my biggest Deschutes fish ever caught on Chernobyl pattern. He took me all over the river before he was close enough for a quick photo. Didn’t get a measurement but you can see my size 14 boot in the lower left. My niece with a Palomino hybrid caught on a pond in Wyoming.
From Ed Rabinowe: a 165lb tarpon from Boco Grand Pass. Too much fish!
From Greg O’Brien: Hugo and I fished the Deschutes a couple of times, once early in the month focused on trout Spey to swing up trout on sculpin patterns and once later in the month we went with Colby who works with Spin The Handle on the Warm Springs side. All sorts of stonefly patterns worked well. Hugo will hopefully send info too, as he caught some really nice ones. The Willamette was productive using dark olive/black/gold clousers on a sinking line.
From George Coutts: Made a one day and a three day trip to the Deschutes. Didn’t hit the Salmon Fly hatch like I hoped but managed one rainbow on a dry fly. Spent most of my time Euro Nymphing. Caught several Rainbows in the 12″ range, at Harpam Flat on my one day trip. Had two mediocre two fish days and one 10 fish day on my three day trip to North Junction. Largest fish brought to hand was 14″. I did hook up two large rainbows but never saw them after the first violent tug – one that turned my fly line into a birds nest. I want those fish! Highlight was hooking up a rainbow in front of a guide with his two customers as they passed by in front of me and pulled in below me. I hooked up and landed two more in quick succession and they left. They should have stayed as the bite was just getting going.
From Adrian Choate: Just spent two weeks camping on the Deschutes at Oak Springs and the D didn’t disappoint! Fishing was mostly good and really improved when the weather cooled off. The fish were larger than I usually encounter and I lost a number of big fish several of which really took me to the cleaners. Fished mostly large stone fly patterns. When those cooled off switching to small yellow sallies and green drakes picked up the slack. Weekends were busy, but it still remained busy during the week also.
From Richard Harvey: On the Deschutes the stone flies are hatching pretty consistently along with hordes of caddis and some of those nice fat red sides are keyed in on dry flies.
From Darryl Huff: We fished the Deschutes 5 or 6 times during May. Best success with stone dry flies was in early morning and late evening.
From Carson Taylor: Pat Miller and I enjoyed three days of guided fishing on the Bighorn River in Montana. The first day, Mother’s Day, was epic with 25–30 trout landed, with most in the 18–20-inch range; the three miles from the Yellowtail Dam were uncrowded that day. The next two days were not as great, but several 22-inch rainbows and browns were caught. The fishing was shot and indicator nymphing with most fish caught on size 18 black Baetis nymphs.
From David Doble: Only fly fished 2 days this month, the Clear Lake Fish A Long then another day with my daughter and future son in law. We fished Clear Lake in the morning, then Frog a bit later. A number of fish hooked, many lost, at Clear. Olive, Yellow, and Olive with blue flash buggers. Nothing to speak of at Frog.
I see that Dave Kilhefner has organized a shad fishing (hopefully, a shad catching) Fish-A-Long for June 12th. That could truly be a memorable day in the history of Clackamas Fly Fishers Fish-A-Long outings in terms of numbers of fish caught.
Although Nick Wheeler is no longer at The Royal Treatment fly shop, he is still fondly remembered for the expertise he added to local anglers’ knowledge about flyfishing for shad. Nick spoke to our club on the topic and also was on hand to lead us during an evening of tying up shad flies. Despite the good natured banter he suffered from others in the fly shop, Nick’s enthusiasm for the previously overlooked shad was infectious.
Click here to read an article on Bill Schaadt and his shad fly that is being reprised from the Clackamas Fly Fishers blog from 2018. Much of the information in the article was gathered from an interview I did with Nick, as well as his evening presentation to the club.
Below you can find the Recipe and Tying Instructions for Nick Wheeler’s version of Bill Schaadt’s Shad Fly… RECIPE: Hook: Tiemco 3761 #6 ; or Fulling Mill F35085 #8; or similar Thread: anything hot orange; Nick Wheeler recommends Danville’s Fire Orange flat waxed 210 denier thread (covers well with fewer wraps); a second color of choice would be fluorescent green Tail: pearlescent krystal flash Body: silver mylar; size 12 or 10 Eyes: medium size silver bead chain Head: thread; tapered behind and front of the eyes Coating: head cement (or Sally Hansen’s or UV resin) INSTRUCTIONS: ~Lay down a thread base. ~Tie in a tail of about 10-12 strands of krystal flash; trim the tail strands fairly short, about 1/4 to 3/8 inch long. ~Tie in a strand of mylar at the base of the tail. Tie it down with the gold side facing up so that when you wrap it the silver side will be facing up. Move your bobbin forward. ~Spiral wrap the mylar forward to about the mid-point of the hook, overlapping each wrap onto the previous one so there are no gaps. Tie it off and remove the excess mylar. ~Use a few figure-8 wraps to tie in the bead chain eyes, at a distance about 1/3 of the hook length back from the hook eye. That should put the eyes at a position slightly more than halfway back from the eye to the mylar. See the drawing below. (Although not essential, anchoring the eyes in with a drop of super glue may be helpful because these flies can take a hammering during your multi-fish day of fishing! ) ~Continue wrapping the thread to form the head which will extend from the mylar to the eye of the hook. Taper the head both behind and forward of the bead chain eyes so that the head is thickest at the eyes and then tapers to the front and back. Because of the way you positioned the eyes in Step 5 the taper in front of the eyes will be slightly longer than the taper behind the eyes. Whip finish the head right behind the eye. ~For added durability give the finished fly two coats of head cement over the entire body and head (but not the tail!). ~The bead chain eyes are not centered on the head. The taper of the head in front of the eyes should be longer than the taper behind the eyes.