For all the time I’ve spent fishing in Southern Oregon, I haven’t once fished any part of the Umpqua River. It’s been on the to-do list, but I’ve just never ventured north over the Sexton Pass. When the opportunity presented itself this past Tuesday for winter steelhead I couldn’t pass it up.
Jeff and I met guide Ben Bansen of Fishin Oregon Guide Service at his house in Gold Hill early Tuesday morning. We made the hour drive north, and were the first boat on the water. The river had come up a bit and dirtied from the day before, but the water still looked decent.
It didn’t take us long to find fish. In one of Ben’s favorite holes Jeff and I started swinging and missing on bite after bite. We soon found out that all the action wasn’t from our intended quarry. When I finally got a solid hook set, up came an 8 inch trout. This continued for the rest of the morning, and we had yet to hook into a winter steelhead as we neared the end of our drift.
That’s when Ben took the extra step for us, and found out where the fish were. We made a quick float to the take out, loaded up the boat, and booked it upriver. Guide Charlie Brown was fishing near the put in, and let us know that a few steelhead were sitting in this very popular drift. Luckily for us there was only one other boat working the long run.
We side drifted it for awhile, before breaking off all our gear. At that point Ben decided to pull plugs to give us a chance to re-tie. As we were sitting on anchor we saw a few fish roll below us, and decided to back the plugs down to them. It didn’t take long before my rod got some action. It wasn’t your normal hard take down, but instead it just stopped the plug from working, and felt like a very soft tap. I reeled down to see what it was, and the fight was on.
|Persistence paid off for my first Umpqua steelhead thanks to our guide Ben Banson|
The fat winter steelhead bulldogged us for awhile, but soon found itself in our net. The chromer fell to a new Lindy River Rocker plug.
We continued to pull plugs for a little while longer, but didn’t get another sniff. At that point the one other boat had taken out, so we made the run back up to the top to side drift again. A 1/4 of the way through the very first drift my rod buried and it was game on once again.
|Another Umpqua chromer to the boat.|
After another spirited fight, and even a few aerial displays, we slid the chrome winter hen into the net. After a quick release, we got right back up to the top for another pass. This time it was Jeff’s turn, as hit set the hook on another chromer soon after our baits hit the water.
|Jeff’s first winter steelhead ever is pure chrome|
In two passes we had 2 fish to the boat, and 3 fish in less than an hour. The long fishless morning was completely forgotten, as it was nothing but high fives and smiles now. Soon after landing the third fish the afternoon crowd started to show up, so we called it a day.
Ben definitely fished us hard, and in the end it payed off big. Other guides may have called it a day after going fishless through the first float, but he was determined to put us on our first Umpqua steelhead. He also made the day very enjoyable, and stayed up beat, which can be very hard to do when you’re not having any luck.
If you’re looking for a guide for the Umpqua, Rogue, or Chetco I highly recommend giving Ben a call. You can contact him by phone at (541) 231-9993 or through his website at FishinOregon.com. He has plenty of open spots the next couple of months for winter steelhead.