Owyee River Oregon

April 12, 2012

I awoke to the song of the meadowlark at 6:20 AM in an incredibly beautiful place. I was crashed out in the back of my Explorer on the banks of the lower Snake River in Glenns Ferry, Idaho. The reason I was here was because last night I spoke to the Snake River Cutthroat Fly Fishing Club in Idaho Falls and tomorrow night I speak in Boise. It seemed logical to continue heading west after my show and get some fishing in today around the Boise area, a place I rarely get to fish.

Once to Boise I met up with friend Erik Moncada. Erik works for the Anglers fly shop in Boise and he is also the president of Boise Valley Fly Fishers Club. Erik’s knowledge of the local fishing is unbeatable and when he found out I’d never fished the famous Oregon section of the Owyhee River he said we’re going. Unfortunately the Owyhee River is a two hour drive from Boise. By the time I hooked up with Erik it was noon and he had a meeting at 7. Furthermore, the Owyhee isn’t even fishing well due to spring runoff. But none of this mattered. The Owyhee is one of Erik’s favorites and I’ve heard too much about this desert river not to take advantage of this opportunity to cast in it.

The drive was very relaxing. We weaved through farmland, rolling hills and pheasants before finally crossing into Oregon where the terrain turned to high desert. I bought a day license at a run down gas station and soon I got first glimpse of the Owyhee. It’s a pretty little river. Even though it’s up from its best conditions, the flow is only around 200 CFS. Its strange pea-green color is the norm. And most of the willows and trees have just popped their leaves. With the red desert cliffs above it was spectacular.

As I always do, I kicked back for starters and watched Erik’s plan of attack on a river he knows so well. He tied on a cicada looking dry fly but quickly switched to a smaller pattern. After he hit a few good looking spots without action I opted to tie on a streamer. It wasn’t more than five casts into my prowl that I hooked onto a decent brown trout. He shook my fly quick and I continued on. I thought the streamer was going to be the ticket but an hour later neither Erik nor I had seen another fish.

We drove up to another place towards the dam where Erik frequently sees risers even in tough conditions. Sure enough, on the far bank, two fish rose above a rock. Erik gave me a look like “go get em”, but I told him not a chance. Erik worked his way in place and I could see the battle of top angler vs smart brown trout was going to be good one. Meanwhile I spotted a bank feeder of my own and got myself in position for him.

I sat motionless for twenty minutes waiting for my target to rise again but nothing. I was worried I’d either spooked him or that I snuck up to the wrong spot. Just as I was about to toss a blind cast where I thought he was, he rose to a March Brown mayfly. Fishing the Owyhee was not something I was prepared for and I in fact had my lake fishing vest on. The only decent imitation of a March Brown I had was a size 14 parachute Adams. Even worse, the lightest form of tippet on me was 3X Fluorocarbon. I’m old fashion. I don’t use Fluoro for dry fly fishing and I’d have been more comfy fishing 4X standard tippet. But, you do the best with what you have and I went for it.

I made about a dozen decent casts with nothing. I was sure I scared the trout away. I changed flies a few times to totally weird lake flies and made a few more good casts. Still nothing. By now Erik had caught and released the trout he was after. He caught him on a tiny RS2. I have a few lake midges in my vest but after the struggle to affix one I went back to the Para Adams.


I never saw my fish rise again and before I knew it Erik was hinting we should leave so he could get back to his meeting on time. No problem I thought, just one more cast. For some stupid reason I had no faith in that last cast and I turned my head and started reeling in. Bad move, the trout I’d been after for an hour ate my fly. I only knew because I was looking at Erik while he was looking at my drifting Adams. When the fish ate, Erik’s eyes got huge. I knew why and turned only to see the brown trout spitting out my fly because I gave him time to chew on it and taste the metal.


That should have been the end but Erik and I kept making – “one more cast”. As you suspect, Erik was late to his meeting. Luckily it was the BVFF chapter meeting and as you should expect again, it was excusable.

The Owyhee was a little tough today but it was great to get on this remote little gem after all the years hearing of it. Even though I proved to be out of practice, Erik was able to avoid the skunk and land one fish for the team. Tomorrow Erik will be hosting a day of fishing again and along with us will be Phil Rowley and Pete Erikson. Erik says the best way to describe tomorrow is small lakes with big rainbows – gotta like that!

One Response to “Owyee River Oregon”

  1. Erik Moncada April 16, 2012 at 4:33 am #

    With all the hell I am getting for being over an hour late to the first meeting as President, I would do it all over again, and possibly stay later.

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