Posted December 22, 2008 -
During the warm months of summer, Ryan McRobert and Ricky Gonzales spend their long days guiding for celebrities and business folk up in Ketchikan, Alaska. A long way from home, yes. Rewarding, yes. Their passion, no. Ryan's and Ricky's real outdoor passion remains back home in Oregon, where they guide on the familiar rivers, estuaries, bays and coastal waters of the Tillamook basin, a place where they forged their world-class angling skills over many years as young fishermen.
"Tillamook" is the name of the coastal Indian tribe that inhabited the region. The guides' favorite time of year comes each fall when the densely forested slopes of the northern Oregon coast range squeeze several inches of rain out of the first of the autumn Pacific storm fronts. These storm fronts prime the river ways of the Tillamook basin for fall and winter fishing action. The northern Oregon coast is part of the Pacific storm super highway. Often times, the eye of those storms swing up the coast and make landfall just north at the Columbia River delta, some packing hurricane force winds and torrential rains.
Rain waters from those first storm fronts of the season make their way through saturated fir rain forest canopies, down moss and fern covered slopes, steeping along the way like tea as they percolate through an ancient, primordial recipe mix of plant and mineral mash.
Further on, this pristine brew pours into smaller streams and creeks, some with names and some without, carrying trace amounts of soil, leaf litter and sediments, pungent with the scent of each acre's unique blend of earths. Fair weather anglers rarely get to watch the rivers rise. It's usually really bad weather out and most valley fishermen don't bother to brave it. For experienced fishermen like Ryan and Ricky, it's never a matter of bad weather, just bad clothing.
Watching a river rise with it's parade of leaf flotsam gives one a sense of excitement and anticipation. It heralds the first signs that life within the river system is about to dramatically change, again, as it has for millennia.
Within just a few hours of the storm, rain waters swell the rivers and estuaries of this world renowned fishery. As the current strengthens, the deeper green pools give up their summer secrets, marching through whitewater canyons and swirling eddies. Foliage that once announced the coming of spring and the promise of warmer days is now set adrift on the river, meandering around boulders and mysteriously deep, dark holes, over gravel bars and under leaning forest canopies of fir, cedar, hemlock and alder, announcing colder days ahead. Pushed or pulled along by the tide, the waters slip past rich, perma-green pasture lands that produce some of the world's finest cheeses. From there, the waters of the Tillamook basin coalesce into the bay from their various river mouths and churn past the Tillamook spit.
Fish schooling just outside the bay catch the scent of the fresh water brew and quicken, spurned on in their final leg of the spawning journey, turning the bay into an aquatic stampede. Chinook "King" salmon, Coho "Silver" salmon, and Steelhead trout, begin a rhythm of activity in cadence with the rise and fall of the tides. Fish stack up in the deeper holes inside the bay and into the tidewaters of the lower rivers. Angling action shifts from the ocean swells to the surging tidewaters of the bay. Each high tide heralds the next wave of lunkers into the bay, like stealth, underwater air-raids at carefully scheduled intervals. When the tide rises once again, the rivers of the Tillamook basin explode to life with trophy fish, providing another great season of fishing.
Like most seasoned guides, Ryan and Ricky read the fishing conditions with a sixth sense. Until that first of many fall tempests blows
through the basin, the rivers lay clear and relatively dormant with little to angle for. Fisherman
and guides watch with anticipation for favorable river conditions as they gear up for a another season.
The elusive, "catch and release only" sea-run cutthroat trout or occasional rainbow, or summer steelhead
can be found holding up in the deeper pools in late summer or early fall, stalking the tail-outs of the
faster moving white water for prey. Pound for pound, sea-runs are formidable, especially on 4 or 6 pound
tippet terminated with a caddis nymph or reverse spider. Best time for cuts is during the early fall days
when the air is still warm and full of insect life. Wading the lower river waters, just above the tidewater
and along the overhanging brush, can yield a fish on almost every cast. Some are fairly small. Yet a six
inch "cutt" will hit your line like a 14 inch rainbow.
In comparison, cutts are nothing like the 20-40 lbs
of thunder you get on your line when the big fish come rolling in and are on the bite. Once those first
rains pass through and flush out the bay, the coastal schools of salmon and steelhead catch scent of their
old spawning grounds, triggering their charge up their rivers of origin. Knowing when, where and how
the fish will bite from that point on remains for most anglers a hit or miss proposition. Not so for the Best Weigh team.
Both Ryan and Ricky are consistent producers. Water height, clarity, tidal influence, temperature, whether the river
is dropping or rising, all play into the mix. Some rivers clear faster than others after storms,
some get earlier runs, some later.
When you read it right, as they do so well, the Tillamook river
basin produces some of the finest steelhead and salmon trophy fish of anywhere in the lower 48 states.
Join the Best Weigh team this season as they guide you and your associates into some of the best Pacific Northwest angling.
To book a trip with Ryan or Ricky, check out www.bestweighfishing.com
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