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August 25, 2003

North Santiam River Report

Fishermen’s Bend is indeed a good place to fish for summer steelhead. One of the campers there caught 2 silver beauties the other day, and we watched him carrying them back to camp. Water temperatures there are ideal some of the day, and that angler found the right combination of time, temperature, lure selection, and technique.

Packsaddle and Minto Parks still have more steelhead, but the temperature range is more difficult to find. Afternoons and evenings are good at Packsaddle, and Fishermen’s Bend has a longer time frame for the good fish bite.

Pontoon boats are proliferating on the North Santiam. Many have been running Mehama to Stayton, and some have been between Fishermen’s Bend and Mehama. Some adventurous boaters have been taking them up to Packsaddle. I have been asked several times if it is safe for the pontoons in Mill City Falls, Spencer’s Hole, and the other big rapids up there. On Learn the River Trips, we have had 4 pontoon boats on Packsaddle trips, and 3 of them made it successfully. Of course, they were able to follow experienced boaters through the best channels. The one mishap was that a very experienced pontoon boater got flipped upside down in Spencer’s. The new boaters got turned around and bumped into rocks, but they came out ok. An important fact is that the experienced boater had the shortest pontoon boat and ran the biggest wave. The lesson to be learned is that short pontoons need to run a specific channel and also that longer pontoons are helpful. Mill City Falls has one safe, narrow channel. Other channels look navigable, but rocks under water just below the Falls cause boats to sink. Sometimes, the occupants are able to swim out safely. Sometimes, they drown. Learning the exact channel is critically important, and some people are able to figure that out on their own. It helps to have someone show new boaters where the channel is and how to run it.

Steelhead fishing will be improving with the warmer water temperatures, and the North Santiam will be an excellent place to be fishing for the rest of August and September. A big variable is the river level. Detroit Lake is now about 10 feet below full summer level, and it always drops in September to make room for flood control. The river rises during that process, and it is important to know when the increases will occur. The Army Engineer Corps is working out the plans this week, and we expect to have the revised river estimates before next week. We are sure that the river will be very fishable most of September, and are anxious to find out which sections will be best. That will be determined by the level, temperature, and recycling plans. More info will be available next week.

Deer, osprey, herons, geese, and fish have been active and abundant here recently. The salmon are now starting to lay around the spawning beds, and the fish are preparing to spawn. A few have already laid eggs, but the process is just barely starting. Trout and steelhead will both lay in the riffles below the spawning beds, and there is some exciting fishing to be had. Orange colored lures and flies work very well.

Scenic trips are really enjoyable this time of year, and the Fall colors really increased last week. The vine maple is turning red and pink, and some of the big leaf maple is turning yellow and gold. With the wildlife, the colors make photography the best of the year. Since the river is still fairly low and clear, it is easy to see most of the rocks and rapids that make this such an interesting river to run.

Fishermen’s Bend to Mehama has lots of medium whitewater thrills and plenty of steelhead. It certainly is a good section right now. Mehama to Stayton is also very productive, but the water is shallow just above Stayton and some dragging of the boats is necessary. The steelhead are living in the shallow, fast riffles. There is very little boat traffic on the North Santiam this time of year, so plenty of solitude is available.

Big orange Fall Caddis bugs are starting to hatch. There will be a flurry of fish activity as steelhead and trout go back and forth between the caddis beds and the salmon spawning beds. With the similarity of colors between salmon eggs and orange caddis flies, it is easy to figure out which colors to fish with. Some of the crawdads are also molting and the new shells are orange.

Bill Sanderson
 

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:cheers:

Always nice to get your weekly report, Bill!!

Thanks for your hard work!

Jason :cheers:
 
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