I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve neglected many of our trout fisheries in the area. Entering this slower period in our steelhead runs, I decided I’d take the opportunity to explore some of our excellent trout rivers in Southern Oregon and Northern California. This week I floated the Williamson River for the first time with guide Paul McDonald from Grizzly Peak Fly Fishing.I made the drive over on Monday night and stayed at his cabin just outside of Chiloquin. His property is right along the water – it's truly an exceptional lodging experience. I grew up taking fishing trips with my dad in Montana and Idaho that often consisted of small motel rooms, diner food and cheap beer. Paul’s cabin on the river was a step above that in every way.
We set out alarms for 4:30 in the morning so we could be the first on the water. I stepped outside the door and was greeted by the incredible view featured below.
The Williamson and the Klamath Basin in general has a such a different feel to it than anything here in the Rogue Valley. It was a welcome change of scenery. We launched his drift boat around five in the morning and I my line was tight on the first trout of the day in minutes.
We were anchored and I was casting my Winston BIIIX 6wt with a RIO 10ft 7ips sink tip and a stinger hook smolt pattern we recently started carrying in the shop. I threw the fly upstream in noticeable holding water below a small boulder. On the third strip back toward me this fish attacked the fly in a mad fury. He immediately ran downstream and sought protection under a hard riffle. But the feeling of me pulling against him jolted him from the run and nearly into my backing. After a good battle and few worn-out muscles in my forearm, the fish was in the net, full of color and energy.
It wasn’t long before Paul found his first fish of the day – a nice rainbow of about twenty inches (a bit larger than mine) that also put up one hell of a fight. We stayed in that same piece of water for another hour after Paul landed his fish, but the fishing was noticeably slower than when we first arrived. So we started the slow-going float downstream. Fishing the Williamson reminded me very much of winter steelhead fishing. In most of the runs we anchored the boat and casted toward the banks, throwing big mends early and letting the fly swing as low and slow as we could without hitting the bottom. Like Paul told me at the beginning of the day, these fish often eat at the very end on the swing when the fly is just pulsating in the soft current. I actually hooked a nice sixteen inch rainbow when my line was downstream dangling there and I was seated telling Paul some half-forgotten fishing stories.
All in all it was a fairly slow day for fishing. We landed three nice fish, with some smaller ones thrown in there. I missed the largest fish of the day that attacked a streamer stripped right off the bank and then immediately spit the fly from his mouth. Even on a slower fishing day, one can look back and feel grateful for experiencing such a beautiful fishery filled with such wild and brutish fish.
If you’re interested in booking Paul on the Williamson for fishing and/or lodging, give us a call at 541.488.6454 and we can make it happen. And as always, call us if you have any questions before your next fishing adventure.
AFS Staffer, Marcus Mattioli
p.s. we had one great Eagle sighting, see below