August 31, 2013

A nice Oregon vacation with a little Tenkara time thrown in...

In a couple of weeks our youngest daughter will be heading off to college. So, before she goes, we wanted to go on a little vacation with her to Orgeon. We lived in Oregon years ago (about 25 years ago) and ever since we left it has been a common target of our vacation dollars. Since we have our second oldest daughter living close to us, we decided to take her and her husband along as well.

We did the standard road trip around Portland, you know: go into Portland, drive to the coast, drive back a different way from the coast, go to the Cascades, see Mt Hood, see the Gorge, back to Portland then home.

We visited many of our favorite haunts in the Portland metro area, but two are Meccas for us: Mike's Drive-in and Powell's Bookstore. Mike's Drive-in has a few locations but we like the Oregon City one the best. We've been eating here since 1990. Mike's has the best hamburger in the world, the Mike's Special. But what makes the place timeless and special are the people; they are always friendly and treat you like family.

Powell's Bookstore is a Portland landmark. It is one of the last, great independent bookstores in the US. The downtown store is so large, funky, and "Portlandish" that they provide you with a map as soon as you walk in the door so you wont get lost. In fact, it is so unique that it takes many visits to get past that "shock and awe" of your first time there. We, like million others, love it; it is one of our Portland traditions.

Mike's Special -- food of the gods (the cholesterol gods!)

Inside Powell's -- home to all book lovers

The next day, it was out to the coast. There are many beautiful spots on the Oregon coast that one can visit (we've been to them all) but we had to visit Mo's at Cannon Beach -- really, it's at Tolovana Park, just south of Cannon Beach. After a wonderful lunch overlooking the beach we walked up to Haystack rock. The tide was out so walking around and exploring the tide pools was in order. A group of school kids were on the beach and were divided into small groups. Their assignment was to make something out of the sand that was from the ocean. It was fun watching their creativity.

The walk up to Haystack
Tides out

Grey whale in the sand

I had brought some minimal tenkara gear with me on this trip, just in case I got a chance to work a stream or two. I didn't fish any of the coastal streams, but I did fish for a a few minutes when we were at Silver Falls State Park, near Silverton. This is another of our favorite locations in northern Oregon. Years ago, when the kids were young, we visited this state park a lot. Every time we go back we have to stop and do some of the hikes.

This time, we started near South Falls and walked down to the confluence of the north and south forks of Silver Creek. I was wearing my wading shoes, was using my collapsible wading staff as a walking stick, and had brought along some flies, a line, and a rod -- I was ready!

My travel gear: wading shoes,  Suntech Suikei 39, Simms wading staff, and small pouch.

My flies -- minus the one tied onto the line.

The water this time of year is very low and clear. Scaring fish is easy to do so slow wading and careful casting is important. After just a few casts I hooked my first fish, a small coastal cutthroat. A few casts later I took another. All in all, I took about 6 fish over the next 35 minutes, the largest being about 8 inches. My wife and kids were looking on, and I didn't want to keep them waiting, so after just this short time fishing we finished the hike.  Still, I had done what I wanted to do -- catch a native, wild fish in Silver Falls State Park.

Me at South Falls

Lower South Falls

On stream -- pushing up my glasses. Can you say "nerd". 

A little cutthroat

A small, but beautiful, Silver Creek coastal cutthroat.

Behind, looking out.

The next day was raining; a perfect day to drive into the Cascades and do some hiking. We drove up the Clackamas river road and found the trailhead to one of our favorite trails -- it goes through old growth forest. I dropped the crew off and then drove up to the Oak Grove Fork to try some more fishing.

The Oak Grove Fork above Harriet Lake is a beautiful stream. It doesn't look that large but that is deceiving. The day I fished it was running at 250 cfs; it often flows into the 400's. It can be a tough stream to wade, due to flow rate and slippery rocks. Anyway, I chose a spot near the road and worked my way down to the river. I entered the water and immediately knew that this water was much different than Silver Creek. First of all it was much swifter. Second, it was much deeper. Third, it was much, much colder. I was wet wading, and it wasn't long before I was shivering. Wading up to my crotch in this cold mountain stream made my feet go numb in record time; that in turn made wading more difficult since I could no longer feel the stream bed!!

I fished for about an hour; that is about how long I could stand the water temperature. In that time I caught a few really nice fish, 10-12 inch coastal cutthroats. Since the water was ripping along, I used the beadhead nymph I had brought with me. I caught fish both with a dead drift upstream cast and a down and across drift.

The 10 incher

It looks easy, but it's not!

Clear water makes the depth deceiving.

The 12 inch coastal cutthroat

Oregon coastal cutthroat are beautiful fish. They are heavily spotted, compared to Yellowstone or Bonneville cutthroat, and at first glance look like rainbows. They have a nice orange "slit" under the gills advertising their cutthroat heritage though. In coastal streams, these fish often go into the salt water and live off the continental shelf for a few years, then come into the stream to spawn. They may repeat this cycle many times over their lifetime. Unlike their steelhead and salmon cousins, anadromous coastal cutthroats don't get very large, 8-16 inches being common. Since I was fishing more inland streams, the fish I caught were riveriene or resident fish, not anadromous.

Another day we visited other tourist sites, like Timberline Lodge. We hiked around a little, rode the chair lift up the mountain to watch the skiers; stuff like that. We saw the Gorge and it's waterfalls; we were good little tourists!

It was a wonderful trip. Best of all, we were able to be with two of four children, and one son-in-law. I would have liked to have fished longer and to have explored more streams, but that will have to wait for another trip. It's a great reason to go back to Oregon!!


  1. I'm glad that I live so close to these beautiful places. Rivers everywhere. Great pictures. Thank you for sharing them!

  2. By the way, tomorrow I'm going to fish to the Kilches in the Oregon Coast. Always bring my Tenkara Ayu, Already have fished sea run trout.

    1. You live in a beautiful place. Go catch some Oregon trout for me!!


  3. Tom, is that net you used here commerciallly available?

    1. Sorry, I didn't have a net with me on this trip. I only carried my rod, line, pouch with flies, tippet and the Simms collapsible wading staff.