As 2021 gets underway, we all reflect on the past year as the disturbed child of an otherwise normal and happy family. This delinquent child brought wrath down on us all. Even those of us who just wanted to go fishing.
Winter steelhead fishing on the coastal rivers has become more of an early spring event with a policy of releasing very few earlier returning hatchery fish in favor of relying on wild stock that generally return from the ocean in late February and into April. This noble, yet flawed policy has resulted in fewer fish, almost none in many small rivers, and concentrating all the fishermen in a few large rivers over a shorter period of time. Not an optimal situation.
Making this situation impossible, the coastal counties closed all public county boat ramps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, rendering most rivers unavailable, leaving only the smaller rivers with very few fish available. This did enhance the ability of most fishermen to complain and make excuses for poor catch rates, a virtue we excel at in spades.
For those of us who fish for trout, there were opportunities, but campgrounds were closed most everywhere until early summer. This disadvantage for us was overcome in late May by traveling eight hours to fish the Owyhee River where rough camping and no facilities were available.
In June we made our annual trip to Klamath Lake for big rainbows. Apparently these fish were social distancing as few were interested in our flies.
August was a bit more generous. We made two trips to fish the lower Deschutes River but the steelhead were scarce. A two-day trip to Crane Prairie Reservoir was fun and productive, but crowded. We had thought of new strategies to try there this year.
As the pandemic continued on, September greeted us with epic wildfires. We were able to find our way through the smoke to travel to Nehalem Bay to fish for Chinook. We had good and and luck: all the fish we caught were large Coho salmon, which by law had to be released. At least we caught fish.
The remainder of the year was sprinkled with a few canceled salmon trips. Various reasons caused these cancellations, but in truth, I think we were worn out with the whole experience of all the restrictions and hassles. But now the “Year of the Brat” is behind us and with the vaccine, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. May we all have a better 2021! I have fish to catch.